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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 01.10.12] USA drama arthouse

Year: 2010
Director: Julie Taymor
Writers: Julie Taymor, William Shakespeare
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Amazon: link
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 4.5 out of 10

There's a little part of me that always looks forward to adaptations of the classics. I don't doubt part of it is my years of toiling away reading classics and when those that I didn't care for come up in film form, I can't help but perk up. The thought that something I didn't like could be made more enjoyable by a movie version is always a hope in the back of my mind and sometimes, even when they don't work, the movies do bring a glimmer of further understanding to the source material unfortunately, such is not the case in Julie Taymor's The Tempest.

In honesty, it doesn't come as much of a surprise that Taymor's film doesn't work. Good things rarely come from features that are essentially buried by studios after unsuccessful festival runs and though the Taymor name, along with a stellar cast, would generally be considered enough for a limited theatrical release and a hasty DVD outing, and in this case someone dropped the ball on The Tempest which has been sitting on a shelf for nearly a year.

It's not all bad. Taymor's adaptation of what is now considered one of Shakespeare's best works brings a few interesting things to the table. Most of them are visual; Taymor is known for the beautiful look of her films and this, with its minimalist sets and gorgeous costumes feels more like a stage play caught on film than any of Taymor's other projects, but the director also makes an interesting choice turning the usurped Duke of Milan Prospero into a woman, giving the already layered story an added angle of persecution.

The tale that unfolds has Prospera grounding a ship which carries the men responsible for her banishment and with a convoluted set of plans and the help of Ariel, played here by a very androgynous Ben Whishaw, she manages to extract her revenge, marry off her daughter and free the people she has been using to her own ends. It's a tale of self realization and romance played out in a tragicomedy but Taymor's take is no less dry than the original material.

I find adaptations of Shakespeare need to transcend the language in order to hit home with modern audiences and The Tempest doesn't manage to get there. The performances are all notable, hard to be otherwise with a cast that includes David Strathairn, Chris Cooper, Helen Mirren, Djimon Hounsou, Alfred Molina and the great Alan Cumming (along with Felicity Jones and Russell Brand who fare quite well with the difficult language), but they're not enough to move the story along in an interesting fashion. It certainly doesn't help that I lost interest early on and the film didn't manage to draw me in again beyond marvelling at the visuals of a few of the scenes. Taymor certainly has a touch for the ocular and like Tarsem, seems incapable of shooting an ugly scene, but it's not enough to bring the story to life. And rather surprisingly, the visuals aren't all fantastic; some of the effects look like they belong in a made for TV movie - how some of the low-rent Ariel animation made it past Taymor's critical eye is beyond me.

Considering I've enjoyed all of Taymor's films to date, some more than others, I had high hopes that The Tempest would manage to entertain me for 90 minutes but sadly, that's not the case and for the first time ever with Taymor, I found myself hoping the movie would just skip ahead and end already.

The Tempest is available on DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday, January 10th, 2012.

Disc Extras: Los Angeles rehersal with the comic relief Djimon Hounsou,
Russell Brand and Alfred Molina (this extra is only available on blu-ray), a documentary about the making of the film, director's commentary, a feature titled "Anotated Shakespeare" featuring noted Shakespeare experts Virginia Vaughan and Jonathan Bate, Russell Brand's very funny rehearsal riff and a music video for the movie's theme song.

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trogen (10 years ago) Reply

turned it off after 30mins. utter trollop

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