THE TEMPEST
DIRECTOR: PAUL MAZURSKY
USA 1982
SUPER FEATURES: The Script.
MUSIC: Stomu Yamash'ta
CAST: John Cassavetes, Gena Rowlands, Susan Sarandon, Molly Ringwald, Raul Julia, Vittorio Gassman.

I like what the modern theater and film has done with Shakespeare. Instead of being traditional, it takes chances and expands the scope of the stories into something more akin to our own experiences, and sometimes it might even give us a bit of a lesson in what might have been history that isn't. That said, the poetry is so well known that you will fall asleep listening to it, so hearing it done in another context, without the rigidity of the English Department at your local University, is something that is wonderful and has been the history of the 20th century in theater. No matter that the purists in the academic world do not like this or enjoy seeing someone use the name and characters of the Gods and show them in the morning washing their faces or hands!
And this film is just such an example.

It isn't real Shakespeare. It isn't theatrical in any sense, and the story is actually rather distant from Willie's setting.

A man is tired of the New York scene, pace, life, and people. And he decides, he wants to quit the world and go live in an isolated island in Greece. There, he is forced to move to an obscure, and smaller island, because the mother is
trying to get the 15 year old daughter back to New York.

And while this man, a writer, can survive off his vision, dreams, and inner abilities, his new girlfriend, and daughter are not happy. They are trapped in an island all alone, with only a servant, goat keeper, who has a lecherous eye for the teenager. They only eat what they can grow and find. That means, all of the goat's milk, is made into one hundred different types of cheese, and drinks. For meat, they eat the goats. The writer, before he left New York, noticed on a specially bad night with thunder and lightning, that he could talk to the dragons of nature, and get them to perform. " Once more, and with feeling this time ... " and the thunder and lightning crash one more time with harder vigor than before.

He leaves his wife, and goes with his daughter off to Greece. It is summer and the girl is out of school and she doesn't want to be with mom. There he meets a cabaret singer, whom he invites to live with him. All is fine with them, until one day, six months into being on the isolated island, she admits to the younger girl, they haven't had sex for six months. This writer only lives his dreams, and does not connect with reality.

On one fine day, a boat is touring the straits, and one of its members is a young boy, who goes scuba diving, only to meet the young girl. And the goat keeper is gone nuts, for he can sell his erotic art, which he is passing off as historical stuff. And the writer does not like the intrusion. When he pulls out his telescope, and sees who it is, he gets glum. And he whips up a storm. The storm turns over the boat. His ex-wife is in it, and a dream he had at the start of the film is now true. Luckily, they were close enough to shore to make it, and no one dies. But they are all trapped in the island, the writer now having his retreat, now disturbed by unwelcome visitors. But, as in Willie, all's well that will end well, and this Tempest is no different. He patches up things with his wife, the girlfriend meets a matey she likes, the daughter loses her virginity, the goat keeper finds an oversexed American blonde who likes his style, and the rest are forced to dance with themselves. When the ex-wife asks for them all to forgive each other, they do. When she asks him to make a sacrifice and return to New York with his wife, he responds that in his island they celebrate miracles with a sacrifice. He kills a goat, and that's dinner.

And the film ends with the group leaving for home, the blonde didn't even give her address and phone number to the goat keeper, etc, etc.

The best part of this film is the combination of John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands, who are married in real life, and seem to thrive on film as a pair experimenting what with ideas of how they would react if situations came up. Well, they must have something solid going, because it shows. Susan Sarandon is the young singer, who stays with the writer for nine months. Raul Julia is the decrepit goat keeper, with a lecherous eye. And Vittorio Gassman, a real life legendary Italian actor of many art films (Fellini, Antonioni, De Sica) is the writer's boss, who really wants to have his best friend and creative person back in New York.

The film has very nice visuals, accompanied by great music centered around percussion instruments.

A FILM FOR THE WILLIE BIBLIOPHILES. Good, also, if you are a New Yorker with a talky, and quasi intellectual aspirations.

Very nice interpretation of Shakespeare in the hands of a highly under-rated American director, who has given us so much film. He does one for the money, and the next for his spirit. This is one for his spirit.

Worth seeing.

4 GIBLOONS

 

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