We were looking forward with interest to the new film of Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice." Although it has awkward bits, "Merchant" is a particular favorite of mine, and I once wrote a paper in college arguing that if you could only keep one Shakespeare play, "Merchant" should be the one, combining as it does his tragedy and his comedy. Although the production was in many ways beautiful, I found it very keenly disappointing. Most upsetting was Al Pacino's portrayal of Shylock. He concentrated very much on creating a believable portrait of an aging Jew driven to the point of turning upon his oppressors, but made it seem more out of desperation than wounded pride and rage. His Shylock lacked fire. Jeremy Irons added to the enervated tone with his worn-out, depressed Antonio, who seems to welcome Shylock's murderous intention as a way of comitting suicide. These famous actors are totally overshadowed by Joseph Fiennes as Bassanio and Lynn Collins as Portia, for whom the accolade "fair" in its classical sense is well-suited (I have a weakness for pale women with red hair--). The Lexoumburg Gardens are beautiful as Belmont, but Venice is dark, dreary and crowded, with the sound of the crowded scenes being confused and difficult to hear. I see many critics rating it a "B" and I have to agree.