A celebrity in his last twenty years of life, courtesy of Bilbo Baggins (the keepcase to this King Lear DVD bills him as "of the Lord of the Rings"), the late Ian Holm was a great actor long before he was Bilbo. On this DVD he delivers a Lear on a par with the twentieth century's greatest, including Olivier's. But the excellence of this version results not just from one bravura performance, but from an intelligently conceived approach to the play, seamlessly executed by a competent, superbly chosen cast. Of innovative productions there is no end, but what a rarity, and what a joy, when innovation comes across as deeply authentic, rooted in the text and the humanity of the play, as if the new take had always been there, concealed in the text, waiting for centuries to be discovered. One can argue whether Lear should be presented as a "psychological" drama of broken family relationships, and I have mixed feelings about the approach; but if, as our leading Shakespeare critic maintains, Shakespeare "invented" our understanding of human nature, then surely this approach should be tried. And it works to perfection here. Goneril and Regan, the "bad daughters," evolve into monsters of pure evil, but along the way we see, via some remarkable facial expressions that play particularly well on the small screen, flashes of the agonizing pain and hurt that their overbearing father has inflicted on them. This is true also of Cordelia, the "good" daughter; all these daughters are visibly tormented in the presence of their father, though Cordelia overcomes her past through love and forgiveness. What keeps this from being the greatest Lear on video is that the text is heavily abridged. Those who know the play will have trouble escaping the occasional feeling that they are trapped in a "60 Second Lear" from Tom Stoppard or the Reduced Shakespeare Company. The greatest of Shakespeare's lines remain, but how much greater they are when they emerge from his larger linguistic context. At points the cutting even confuses the plot. One gets no hint from this version that the "bedlam" Edgar is only feigning madness; for awhile you would think he's actually gone bonkers.