English speakers have two similar-sounding idioms at their disposal in describing situations such as Kurosawa's revision of Macbeth: "take liberties " and "take the liberty of." Evidently, the implicit level of disapproval is much higher in the former idiom than in the latter. Here are the entries for both expressions in Christine Ammer, The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, second edition (2013):
take liberties 1. Behave improperly or disrespectfully; also, make unwanted sexual advances. For example, He doesn't allow staff members to take liberties, such as calling clients by their first names, or She decided that if Jack tried to take liberties with her she would go straight home. This idiom uses liberties in the sense of "an overstepping of propriety," and thus differ markedly from TAKE THE LIBERTY OF. 2. Make a statement or take an action not warranted by the facts or circumstances, as in Their book takes liberties with the historical record.
take the liberty of Act on one's own authority without permission from another, as in I took the liberty of forwarding the mail to his summer address. It is also put as take the liberty to, as in He took the liberty to address the Governor by her first name. This rather formal locution was first recorded in 1625 and does not imply the opprobrium of the similar-sounding TAKE LIBERTIES.
It might be more accurate to say that "take the liberty of [or to]" less often implies opprobrium than "take liberties" does. Certainly there is very little distance between Ammer's examples He doesn't allow staff members to take liberties, such as calling clients by their first names and He took the liberty to address the Governor by her first name (as Ammer was undoubtedly aware).
But it seems to me that, on the other hand, one might say, with equal absence of opprobrium, "Kurosawa was audacious enough to take liberties with Shakespeare's Macbeth and set the story in feudal Japan" and "Kurosawa was audacious enough to take the liberty of altering elements of Shakespeare's Macbeth and setting it in feudal Japan." In my view, although disapproval is an extremely common implication of the wording "take liberties," it it isn't an inevitable one.
Consider this excerpt from Glenn Phillips, Philipp Kaiser & Doris Chon, Harald Szeemann: Museum of Obsessions (2018):
DC: He exhibited La Nona Ora in this new context.
AR: The same piece, but he showed it in a very specific way. At the time, the Arsenale was not in good shape. There were some oily machines and abandoned oil barrels, which gave off a bad smell. And Cattelan's installation was in the middle of that. It was so impressive. No red carpet in an empty room, just the figure of the fallen pope installed in this abandoned, forgotten place. This was very, very interesting. I think Harald's second Biennale, in 2001, was better than in 1999. He was much freer, and he took liberties with the space because he was familiar with it; he had learned how to improve it.
And from the Translator's Preface to a 1999 translation of Oedipus at Colonus:
What am I saying? That I took liberties freely in the hope that I could translate some of the meaning for a reader in our curious culture where the existence of the word itself is often sorely threatened. That I obviously took liberties with the text while, at the same time, trying my best, as someone stuck in the late twentieth century, to be faithful to the original. Most likely more freedom, the liberty and license of adaptation would have served me and the great original (which, in any case, cannot be injured or improved by me or anyone else) better. Bu the game was not free and easy adaptation. It was, rather, somewhere in the vaguely defined precincts of translation.
And from Phil Vettel, Good Eating's Fine Dining in Chicago (2013):
When dishes arrive, a captain provides historic background, explaining, for instance, how the sole Daumont is actually a pastiche of Escoffier presentations, or how the kitchen took liberties with its sauternes sorbet, freezing the dessert wine in liquid nitrogen to eliminate the need for added sugar or thickeners, and so that, as it melts in the dish, the sorbet returns to its original state—a glass of wine.
In none of these three instances does the wording "took liberties with" indicate condemnation by the speaker or writer of the conduct thus described; rather, it acknowledges that the conduct breaks with precedent or expectation, or strict adherence to formal rules, while leaving open the possibility that the action was justified and perhaps even, on balance, beneficial.