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The Tempest

tn_tempestTHE TEMPEST is the story of this wizard lady named Prospera (Helen Mirren) who lives on a small island with only her cutie daughter Miranda (Felicity Jones) and her monster slave Caliban (Djimon Hounsou). Also she has a slave named Ariel (Ben Whishaw) who’s like a naked sprite guy (with boobs?) who flits around and does her magical bidding.

She’s got some books and beakers and shit but this is an island made up mostly of volcanic rocks. There’s not much of a night life or anything, it’s gotta be kinda lonely. Her daughter’s never even seen a human man before, what’re they gonna talk about? Rocks? Trees? Beakers?

Of course it’s worse for poor Caliban, ’cause he’s a slave. The bitch makes him carry logs across the island all day, I’m not even sure why. What’s she gonna do with all those? Build something to do, I guess. He has some words written upside down on his lower torso, I learned from the making-of deal that they’re Victorian curse words that he carved into himself. So he must not be too happy, is my guess. It’s the Shakespearean version of drawing anarchy symbols and pentagrams all over your notebook.

mp_tempestAnyway everybody’s luck changes when Prospera stands on a cliff with her magic staff and makes a storm. The storm causes a shipwreck that brings visitors to the island: a boy for Miranda to fall in love with (Reeve Carney), two drunks (Russell Brand and Alfred Molina) who impress Caliban by feeding him booze, some guys that Ariel messes with to get revenge for Prospera (David Strathairn, Chris Cooper, Alan Cumming, one or two other guys). It’s sort of these three separate stories all connected to Prospera and the shipwreck she caused. Or four if you count Ariel trying to get his freedom as its own story. I guess that would make Helen Mirren the Crypt Keeper in a way, since she’s the host of all this. But she’s prettier and more dignified than the Crypt Keeper in my opinion. Not to be mean but that guy has kind of a lame sense of humor if you ask me.

This is from a play by William Shakespeare and to be honest I’m not that up on my Shakespeare. But I still went and saw TITUS for some reason and I loved that shit. This reunites Shakespeare with TITUS director Julie Taymor, and Taymor brings Cumming from TITUS and Molina from FRIDA and the stars of the remake of ARTHUR which she didn’t direct but maybe is just a huge fan of.

You may notice that the wizard was originally a man named Prospero, they changed it to a woman and this is an outrage, etc. Well I say lighten up pal, it’s not supposed to be Transformers, it’s just Shakespeare. It turns out Taymor wasn’t out looking to change it up (when she did the play on stage it was still a dude) but she happened to run into Mirren while she was casting and Mirren suggested the idea. Then she just tried to make sure it could be adapted without being a gimmick. So she wasn’t trying to say anything by changing it to a woman, but I like how it makes it seem sort of autobiographical. She’s a woman who’s off in her own world, who’s very good at powerful arts, she even scares people, and in my opinion she kinda got screwed over like Prospera did.

I know she’s gonna keep getting made fun of for this Spider-man musical debacle. It seems clear that she had alot of ambitious ideas that they were having trouble pulling off, and since they involved acrobats swinging around on ropes it was dangerous (and people actually were hurt). And she may very well bear responsibility for that, I don’t know the details. But I still think it was bullshit the way they hung her out to dry after some bad reviews. The one thing that the people who hired her forgot is that they were the people who fucking hired her. And since I have an idea what kind of stuff Julie Taymor does I got a good hunch that the Broadway musical producers do also, and knew what they were in for. It was a brilliantly insane idea to do it, and they put millions of dollars and years into it, and then when it was almost done they said “wait a minute, what is this brilliantly insane thing? When we hired a crazy director of highly stylized operas to try to figure out some fucking way to turn Spider-man into a Broadway musical/circus extravaganza and by the way money is no object, we didn’t know it was gonna be weird.”

And the funny part is that most of the reviews I saw actually said that you should see it and it was an amazing spectacle. But that somehow it turned out that Spider-man was kind of silly as a rock musical. Huh. Go figure. Must be Julie Taymor’s fault.

It’s kind of like this hypothetical scenario:

Look, Mr. Jodorowsky. You know how we hired you to direct a movie based on the board game Candyland? Well, we appreciate all your hard work, but we have two problems with what you’ve done here. #1, it seems like one of your movies that you direct. #2, it’s based on the board game Candyland. So we’re gonna have to bring somebody in to try to salvage this thing.

I mean, you either want to see the crazy fuckin Julie Taymor Spider-man musical or you don’t. You don’t want to see a watered down version of that. Pull the trigger or put the gun back in the drawer. Don’t take out a bullet and try to throw it into me.

I figure that whole mess will probly hurt her career. Luckily she still has this possibility of independently financed movies. This one is smaller scale than TITUS (less characters, less locations, no crowds, no gore, no motorcycles) but clearly comes from the same visionary mind. I love how she keeps the original language but makes the plays accessible to numbskulls like me by telling the story through the visuals and the acting. It’s not the same as on stage, they can whisper. They can have a look in their eye that’s only picked up in a close-up. To me they kind of seem more “real” than alot of times when you see Shakespeare performed and yet the visual world is more unreal.

The actors in this are great. I was kind of amazed at how much Russell Brand could seem just like himself but speaking the lines from the play. It sounds so natural. But Hounsou is the guy that steals the show. He’s so physical and weird. He’s kinda like Gollum but without the benefit of computerized monster features, he just has pain-in-the-ass-to-apply fake mud skin. I like that guy but I had no idea he was capable of playing a character like this.

It’s kind of weird that the one black actor has to play the slave. I looked it up and it’s not traditionally a black actor, so that’s not on Shakespeare. But fuck it, it’s the best character. He’s referred to as a “mooncalf” and the son of a witch named Sycorax. He was on the island before Prospera, so he says he owns the place. But because of the makeup I kind of felt like he was born out of the earth. He doesn’t just own the island, he is the island. So quit making him move sticks around.

Kyle Cooper is credited as the effects supervisor. That’s the guy that got famous for doing the SEVEN credits sequence, and he did those “penny arcade” scenes in TITUS. I like the effects here because they’re going for style and not realism. The way Ariel is superimposed flying around is goofy looking but it almost seems like how Taymor would’ve projected him on stage. (actually she used a puppet when she did it on stage which would’ve also been cool in the movie.) There is a little part with a human crow monster that I guess is a harpy, it’s apparently done live with a human head and puppet body and looks absolutely incredible. It’s not a big enough part of the movie to recommend you see it just for that, but it’s one of the best monsters I’ve seen in a long time. The CGI hellhounds on the other hand are pretty crappy looking.

I didn’t get a chance to watch all of the extras before I was done with the rental, but from what I did watch I gotta say that like TITUS the making-of stuff is almost as good as the movie. Taymor knows these plays inside and out from doing them on stage and she has a long rehearsal period where she goes through line-by-line with all of the actors and she’s just so much more involved than a movie director normally is. Her process with Brand is especially interesting because she lets him improvise and paraphrase all his dialogue in modern speak and then go back to the original text once he really understands it. There’s a clip where she asks him to tell her about his character and he goes on a rapid-fire in-character non-stop riff for several minutes. Even if you find him annoying, which is understandable, you can see that his brain lives life a quarter mile at a time and you can understand why she would like him. I bet he shows up in her next movie too (hopefully as spider-man or green giant or whoever).

Somebody who has opinions on this play might have more to say about Taymor’s particular interpretation of it, but just from the perspective of the Shakespeareless this is a good one. Personally I might prefer TITUS because it’s more elaborate and crazy, more Michael-Jackson-video-esque, but this has the same quality of a beautiful and surreal visual experience and great acting that makes the play very accessible. In fact a little more accessible than TITUS because it’s 52 minutes shorter. Also it doesn’t have a bunch of chopped off limbs or cannibalism so that makes it either more or less accessible depending on the person I guess.

It’s a good story well told, great characters well acted, and one of the year’s best harpies.

According to an important new expose by the director of INDEPENDENCE DAY and GHOST CHASERS, “Shakespeare never wrote a single word.” Not even “fart.” I guess judging from the trailer Shakespeare was just some nitwit that the powers that be chose to use as a patsy in some kind of conspiracy that had to be kept so secret not even Nic Cage knew about it in NATIONAL TREASURE. Some other guy wrote those plays, if they were even written at all, which frankly I’m starting to doubt. This review will probly seem silly and naive after ANONYMOUS comes out, but I enjoyed THE TEMPEST. I’m glad I was able to see one last “Shakespeare” movie before Roland Emmerich proved it didn’t exist.

THE TEMPEST is currently available on blu-ray but for some reason the DVD doesn’t come out until December 20th, when it will already be too late.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Friday, September 23rd, 2011 at 10:54 am and is filed under Fantasy/Swords, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

53 Responses to “The Tempest”

  1. Ok… if anyone is wondering why the hell I’m still alive at this time in the morning… I’m waiting for some video production software to finish doing its stuff (“rendering”, apparently. Hell, I never claimed to be an expert on movies or anything, I dunno what the hell it’s supposed to do.) Don’t want to go to sleep until it has. So apologies if I snore.

    I saw a trailer for “Anonymous” before “Tinker Tailer” yesterday. I sorta got the impression that the concept was interesting but it didn’t look as though they did very much with it. Another trailer was “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, which looks as though it would be interesting even if it wasn’t Finscher. Since it IS Finscher, I’m expecting great things from that one.

    Anyway… a “Tempest” review with a spirited defence of Julie Taymor’s “Spider-Man” stage musical? Gotta say I didn’t see that one coming.

    I was never that into “The Tempest” so I probably won’t see this film, but I have to say that “It’s not Transformers” made me guffaw. And why am I not surprised that Vern is a “Titus” fan? Shakespeare’s bloodiest play by some way (and that’s pretty damn bloody. I lost track of how many people get their limbs chopped off.) Good wholesome child-eating limb-chopping fun!

  2. I remember the VHS cover of TITUS used to confound me to no one when I would see it at the Hollywood Video as a kid

    “is he wearing a WW2 army helmet? or is he a roman soldier or something? why is his face covered in mud? what is this movie about?”

  3. “confound me to no end”

  4. Goddamn it, here is a perfectly good review and then you had to go and mention ANONYMOUS. Fuck that movie and fuck all the Anti-Strafordians. It’s all rich guy shit. The super-educated old guard just CANNOT believe a middle-class guy could create works of genius. It’s absolute bullshit with no real evidence to back up any of the numerous suspects they trot out every year.

    Until now it was mainly just a thing us theatre folk had to complain about, but now this piece of shit movie is going to put the idea into the world and we’re going to be subject to a ton of “the mystery of Shakespeare” specials, and all these half-assed scholars who have made their careers out of badmouthing a gift get to be on the tv.

    In an attempt to end on a positive note THE TEMPEST was quite good.

  5. I didn’t see this, but I have “Titus” on DVD because I love that movie so much. My respect for you Vern has gone up even more, if that is even possible.

    marlow: There are people who think 9/11 was an inside job and there are people who think we never landed on the moon. Conspiracy theory is meant to be taken humorously, or to serve as the basis for Hollywood scripts. You just can’t take that shit seriously man, you will go insane.

    Also, this review reminded me that a long time ago I made out with a chick on top of a Julie Taymor Broadway prop in Julie Taymor’s workshop. Some “Lion King” thingie, I don’t know what, I wasn’t paying attention to the prop.

  6. I like how Taymor interprets Shakespeare so I’ll definitely see this. With regards to the Shakespeare controversy. In point of fact there is very little evidence for who wrote the plays but the only evidence there is always mentions Shakespeare – one of the earliest original manuscripts of a play is signed by him, he is mentioned by others from that period, the local burghers in Strafford put up a bust to him in the Church referring to him as a playwright etc. If I remember correctly there are 14 pieces of evidence that Shakespeare wrote these plays, what there is absolutely no evidence of is that anyone else wrote them. Anyway who cares, it’s all a moot point, it’s only an intellectual controversy of no relevance to anyones daily existence, whether Shakespeare wrote the plays or not isn’t going to raise the poverty line. It’s all a storm in a teacup.

  7. I dunno’ Zombie Paul. That DRAGON TATTOO trailer hasn’t convinced me this remake contains anything the original film didn’t do better. Originally. I fuckin’ loved that picture. I believe it was Vern who posited the notion of having these characters return to solve mysteries beyond the original core novels. I think that would be a brilliant move. I want these characters to keep solving cases, Holmes and Watson style. Forever.

    I probably won’t see the TEMPEST but I appreciate Vern’s diversification.

  8. Hey Vern, this is a weird subject for a first comment, but I thought it might be helpful/interesting/cool/stimulating/something. There actually is a tradition in modern theater of casting black actors as Caliban, dating back to the 1940s and continuing to today. Early African-American Calibans include Earle Hyman (TV dad of Bill Cosby) and James Earl Jones (movie dad of the Lion King and I think Chewbacca). Why, and what that means in context tends to depend on the performance and the production — sometimes it is addressed as text, as subtext or not at all.

  9. I for one would absolutely pay to see Jodorowsky’s take on Candyland.

  10. “You just can’t take that shit seriously man, you will go insane.”

    aint that the truth, in fact I can’t imagine why there are so many conspiracy theorists in the first place because it’s too horrible to believe those things without it ruining your life because the answer conspiracy theories taken to their logical conclusion is to either become a bomb making terrorist or to kill yourself

    what a sad, sorry existence it must be, I can only imagine that the only thing that keeps them going is they get off on the idea that they’re smart and every else is an idiot

    sorry for that somehwat off topic rant

  11. With regards to Caliban: a lot of people see The Tempest as Shakespeare’s New World play (a bunch of people cross the ocean and find themselves in a new undiscovered place), so my guess is that by casting a black actor as Caliban there’s a strong possibility they’re trying to make a connection to actual, historical slavery in the Americas. I’m not sure if this is the case with Taymor’s version or not, but it’s a possibility.

  12. So after years of hearing how FORBIDDEN PLANET was a SciFi version of THE TEMPEST, what exactly are the similarities? I never saw or read any version of Shakespeare’s play.

  13. CJ,
    I was gonna type a lot of this out, but got about three points in and got lazy.

    This is a decent comparison of Forbidden Planet to The Tempest:
    http://www.digitaltermpapers.com/a3896.htm

  14. I haven’t seen the movie but was involved in the shoot and it was a true clusterfuck. Failing to complete shoots on a daily basis and huge budgetary problems which finally resulted in the production shut down mid-shot by the cost controller and very much against the directors wishes. I’m really pleased (and somewhat surprised) that the results bear comparison with Titus, loved that movie.

  15. THE TEMPEST was also given another loose adaptation in the form of Peter Greenaway’s PROSPERO’S BOOKS, with John Gilegud in the title role. Apparently it was Gilegud’s career ambition to star in a film version of THE TEMPEST. I haven’t seen this most recent version, but I can’t imagine it has more trouble holding the attention than Greenaway’s film.

  16. Isn’t Fincher’s GWTDT movie supposed to be a slavishly faithfull remake, to the extent it’s not relocated to america, but still set in Sweden, with the cast speaking english with accents? Dunno how much of a point there’ll be to watching that. I only just got the original and finished watching it last night.
    ANONYMOUS is meant to be taken seriously? It’s not just a bit of “what if” fiction? Fuck’s sake…

    “it’s not supposed to be Transformers, it’s just Shakespeare”-this, sir, could be your greatest moment.

  17. I know I shouldn’t let the cranks get to me, and it’s not the theory itself so much as the classicism it represents that is keeping my chosen profession down. Shakespeare was populist and to suggest he was really just an embarrassed nobleman goes against some of my most personal and sacred beliefs.

    Honest show of hands, when was the last time anyone here saw a play?

    (and not a big musical either, but an actual play)

  18. one guy from andromeda

    September 25th, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    my favourite conspiracy theory is the one about this worldwide organization that is split up into little groups that have zero contact with each other and wage global terror warfare. how do they come up with this stuff?

    on the tempest: vern’s review makes me want to see this – kinda. i still feel my wounds from “across the universe” have not healed enough yet to try another taymor…

  19. Stu:

    Don’t forget Hollywood remade “The Grudge”… in Tokyo… with the same director (but with Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

    The artistic argument is of course pointless. The economic argument is paramount. Art and commerce have bizarre offspring, some of which may disgust you, but you have to go with the flow, as there is no fighting it.

    Which is why I look forward excitedly to seeing “King Lear” reinterpreted by Decepticons, in 3D IMAX, and will accept nothing less.

    Stratford-upon-Avon? Stratford-upon-Cybertron biatches!

  20. I’m probably going to always regret not seeing the Spiderman musical before they fired Taymor and watered the thing down. I’m a big fan of TITUS and FRIDA and the descriptions of the musical made it sound really darn interesting.

  21. BR- I’m sure in and of itself, the remake will be good, just personally as someone who’s just seen the original, I don’t see much point in paying to go see it. By the by, I’m surprised how Scandinavian my movie watching has been lately, with THE TROLLHUNTER, TGWTDT and TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY (same director as LET THE RIGHT ONE IN).

  22. speaking of Shakes, what opinions do the peanut gallery have on Ralph Fiennes’ upcoming CORIOLANUS?

  23. Does “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” count as a remake if two separate directors in two separate countries both decide to film the same book at the same time?

    And Darryll, I haven’t seen the “original” but my parents have, and they said it was ok. They thought that it suffered a bit from over-editing – in particular the rape scene came off as gratuitous (which it didn’t in the novel) because there was no real setup for it or reason for it to be there.

    RRA – Ralph Fiennes in “Coriolanus”? I find the ironic thing about Fiennes is that he’s known as a great classical actor of both stage and screen, yet the role I liked best of all of his that I’ve seen so far was when he played a gangster in “In Bruges”. Still will check this out though: “Coriolanus”, like “A Winter’s Tale”, is one of my favorite of the “second-league” Shakespeares – those that aren’t quite as famous as “Romeo and Juliet”, “Hamlet”, “Othello” etc, but are still very good.

  24. “Does “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” count as a remake if two separate directors in two separate countries both decide to film the same book at the same time?”
    Watching the trailers for the Fincher version you can see a TON of visual similarities that indicate influence from the swedish version. Also according to wikipedia, the film was first in production early 2010, and Fincher was secured as director in April of that year, whereas the swedish version was released in 2009.

  25. ^development not production

  26. BR Baraka:

    Shizumi is a total hack. He made the grudge SIX TIMES. Plus various other films that rip off the Grudge. So don’t pretend that any version of Ju-On is really ‘artistic.’

  27. marlow:

    Last November I went to NYC and saw the new LaBute in previews.

  28. i was kinda surprised and annoyed when i watched the extended fincher GWTDT trailer to see that everyone was speaking with “swedish” accents. it’s fairly ridiculous. though it seemed like daniel craig’s accent was either very soft or non-existent. i’m a big opponent of people doing unnecessary accents in movies. i know it happens a lot; in fact wasn’t there a significant outcry when people realized tom cruise wasn’t using a german accent for VALKYRIE? i, for one, found it refreshing that they ditched that stupid idea of speaking english with the accent of the country where the story takes place. it makes no sense! AMADEUS had an interesting way of dealing with accents. english was meant to represent german, so whenever italian was spoken it was simply italian. and austrians all had very american accents (the the degree that simon callow, a brit, even affects an american accent to play an austrian), and most of the italians have more english accents (the big exception being f. murray abraham, who speaks with an american accent, albeit a more “upper-crust” and therefore quasi-english one). that i don’t have a problem with. also, in the HBO show ROME, everyone speaks with british accents, but the accents are all according to their class or social position, which i think worked well.

    the absolute worst is when an actor speaks in an accent that is neither their natural accent nor the one of the country where the movie takes place for NO REASON, i.e. liv tyler speaking with an english accent in ONEGIN, which takes place in russia (this happens a lot in period costume dramas set in non-english speaking countries).

    but can we all agree that americans and brits speaking in english with swedish accents in a movie that takes place in sweden is pretty damn silly?

    anyway, i haven’t read the original novel or seen the swedish film, but i will see the fincher version regardless, as with ZODIAC he gained a lifetime pass with me (and re-affirmed it with THE SOCIAL NETWORK).

    regarding THE TEMPEST, i love shakespeare adaptations so i am definitely curious to see it, though i must admit i haven’t seen any of taymor’s previous movies. also, i must admit that russell brand is the person i am most interested to see in it (i am a big fan, but besides that, as vern noted, it seems like oddly spot-on casting).

    finally, interesting trivia on THE GRUDGE. the original japanese movie was called JU-ON (which means, roughly, “the grudge”). the american remake was of course called THE GRUDGE. so, when the american remake was released here in japan, what was it called? why, THE JU-ON, of course! that cracks me up. i guess it was kind of following the pattern established by THE RING, since the original japanese movie was called RINGU here, so the american remake was called THE RINGU… but it’s still funny.

  29. (raises hand for marlow, be he Christopher or otherwise)

    Saw Craig Lucas’s RECKLESS a little less than a year ago on a Boston stage, in time for Christmas (before that, CABARET with Amanda Palmer; do smaller musicals count?). Love how nutty the plot is, with a lady fleeing from location to location (non-profit organization, game show, therapist’s office, talk show) after her husband takes a contract out on her life on Christmas Eve and everyone she meets starts dying around her. I guess there was a movie of it with Mia Farrow, but I don’t really have much of a desire to see it; like the movie of SEARCH AND DESTROY, it sounds like the director had his own interpretation of “what it all means” that goes a little outside what the actual play was aiming for. But it’s all my opinion, I guess.

    Vern, go ahead and look at PROSPERO’S BOOKS, aka NEKKID PEOPLE TEMPEST. Or, really, any Greenaway film–I want to see if you think his ideas fall more on the Taymor/Jodorowsky side or the Matthew Barney side of Weird Moments In Cinema. THE COOK, THE THIEF, etc. is impossible to ignore, whatever you think of it.

    And I’ll be surprised if ANONYMOUS is anything more than a blatant attempt at a DA SHAKESPEARE CODE manufactured controversy. William Shakespeare and “William Shakespeare” are the same person, I have to think.

  30. I’m totally gay for Amanda Palmer. She’s one of my five favorite songwriters of this generation.

  31. Zombie Paul – Your post implies that your parents read the novel first. Is this correct? As everyone knows, the book is always better than the movie. If they were coming at it from that angle, more power to them, but their experience differed from mine. It was a film I went into knowing virtually nothing about, which is very unusual for me. I found it fresh, engrossing, and harrowing. The rape scene was pretty strong (as you say, stronger than the book) but, man, did it nail home her hatred and mistrust for the male half of the species, which, incidentally, is the catalyst for just about everything she does.

    Speaking of the male half, I just watched Martino’s TORSO last night on Blu. The women in that picture are fucking gorgeous but every male character is painted as a sweating, voyeuristic, lecherous, pervert. It was a very entertaining film. One of the best Giallos I’ve seen yet.

  32. Well thank you for reviewing this, Vern. A lot of people trashed it, but after reading this my interest has been reawakened, revived, resurrected… I just hope she can keep making movies despite the financial shortcomings and fickle critics/public.

    Also: Griff, Kuroneko avatar? Really? Why?

  33. Echoing the Taymor love here, just as I have previously regarding TITUS & ACROSS THE UNIVERSE. Somehow, I haven’t yet had the opportunity to see this new version of THE TEMPEST {*scowls, angrily shakes fist skyward*}, but Vern’s review pleases me, despite Maxiao trying to harsh our mellows.
    Vern, if you like how a female Prospero/a autobiographically reflects the directatorship of Taymor, you would probably enjoy seeing Shakespeare’s original Prospero as an authorial character & reflection of the writer, how artists are like wizards, all-powerful but also fallible, as when they let their creations screw up things that they thought they controlled and all sorts of other stuff I covered for a week in college a few years ago. Point is, THE TEMPEST is major Shakespeare, but it’s arguably a lot more colorful & wacky than his more studied great works, so it doesn’t get the same critical attention for commenting on the human condition, etc. even though its thematic strands are richer than Scrooge McDuck.

    marlow, I’m a major live performing arts supporter. I love plays. It’s what separates us from the animals. That being said, it seems that, technically, you could say I’ve only seen 2 plays lately. And for that I blame global warming.

    (This might seem like bragging or whatever, but, what can I say, I maximize the entertainment value of my travels, and this is how I spend my allowance. And most of this stuff I do solo, so it’s not like I’m macking it worldwide.) Live shows seen by Mouth the last 4 months on 3 continents:

    -Martin McDonagh’s “The Cripple of Inishmaan” (engrossing, but not cathartic)

    -Taylor Mac’s “Comparison is Violence” (one man show of a crossdresser who sings Tiny Tim & David Bowie and belittled me in the front row for not following instructions on audience participation)

    -The Magic Flute (my least favorite Mozart, but I was front row center with a hotty, and Papageno serenaded an old lady right next to me, so it was pretty great)

    -Medium (radical opera experience)

    -Q – Zain Company’s “Dance of Ages” (Karachi-based belly dancing troupe teamed with some postmodern spoken word/narrative/poem/play performers)

    -Carmen (wish it had been more experimental & unconventional, but the Toreador song was top notch)

    -Manon (surprising amount of sex & nudity for a 19th century opera, but maybe not for a French opera)

    -A good friend auditioned for HOMELAND, which I think is on Showtime or HBO, and he & I double dated a couple of actresses one night after I went to watch his acting class, where I saw a bunch of desperate local talents do role playing & improv and shit.

    -2 hours of fucking hilarious stand-up comedy, including some guy who said he writes for & has a role on 30 Rock (I haven’t seen that show and haven’t verified this.), in some joint near Times Square

    -Most of a ballerina-pop-interpretive hybrid dance show for an audience of about 30 (I met the star’s sister on the sidewalk and ended up hanging out with them for a few hours.)

    -Spider-Man (kinda sucked, wish I’d seen what Taymor intended before the injuries & disasters made national news and I got left with the watered down version, but it was cool how much time Spidey spent standing right next to me, running by me, and flying close to my section)

    -War Horse (pretty good, not great, the guy next to me smelled funny)

    I would’ve seen another play, but Hurricane Irene shut me down.

  34. Darryll – mother did, stepfather didn’t. I don’t know who pointed out the incongruity of the rape scene first because I wasn’t there; but both of them agreed with it.

  35. It warms my heart to see some theatre love.

    Mouth: So I take it you’re looking forward to this as much as I am:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXpFD7gi8R0

  36. Anyone remember that bizarre version of OTHELLO from the mid-1990s starring Lawrence Fishburne? If you ever wondered what the Bard would be like as a pulpy noir softcore thriller, that’s the film for you. Bonus points for Branagh’s hambone performance as Iago.

    Virgin Gary: My favorite accent is Keanu Reeves in DANGEROUS LIAISONS. There was just no effort whatsoever to downplay the surfer cadences. Too bad there’s no way to know what Malkovich was thinking when he had to act opposite Reeves on that film. You’d need some sort of portal or something to enter Malkovich’s head.

    Darryl: I can think of a whole bunch of examples where the film improved upon the source novel. BETTY BLUE, for one. I’d also say UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING did pretty well as a film. The novel that ANGEL HEART is based on (Falling Angel) is pretty awful, and I think the film of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS improves on the pacing and characterization of the novel. And I like Cronenberg’s CRASH better than Ballard’s novel.

    Marlow: I saw an amateur production of Stoppard’s REAL INSPECTOR HOUND not long ago that just blew me away. They had virtually no budget, but it was one of the most inventive productions I’ve ever seen (having a brilliant script helps, obviously). I don’t know if this is standard fare in the theater world, but they used the sound of a basketball being bounced offstage as a sound effect for Magnus bounding down the stairs in his wheelchair. It was really hilarious.

  37. THE COOK, THE THIEF, THE WIFE AND HER LOVER is the only Greenaway film I’d say worked all the way through. THE DRAUGHTMAN’S CONTRACT and PROSPERO’S BOOKS are certainly brilliantly made, interesting and unique films, but boy do they struggle to hold the attention (or at least _my_ attention).

  38. I should say only Greenaway film _I’ve seen_ I’d say worked all the way through.

  39. Jareth – Using a basketball for the wheelchair wouldn’t be a “standard” effect, but that’s exactly why I keep doing theatre. I’m happy I get paid a living wage for 90% of what I do, but the no-budget shows with talent and heart are where you get the most satisfying work. It’s all just for the love of the game.

    And I love Stoppard because he writes great scripts that you can put up on a shoestring.

  40. Pacman: Did you see DROWNING BY NUMBERS and A ZED & TWO NOUGHTS? I think those are Greenaway’s best films. DROWNING in particular is one of my favorite films. And, as mentioned in another thread, in ZOO a character fucks a zebra. But don’t let the enthusiastic support of the Enumclaw crowd deter you from seeing that one if you haven’t already. It’s not a chore like DRAUGHTMAN’S CONTRACT.

    Marlow: I don’t attend the theater regularly, but whenever there’s a production of a play or playwright that I like showing I try to see it, even if it’s in a school gymnasium.

    A lot of the productions I’ve seen support your point about the ingenuity of the script. Production design seems so crucial to the success of the performance, and there is so much room for varying visual interpretations of any particular script, provided the script has that ingenuity you described. It’s kind of insane how flexible theater can be.

    I once saw a production of THE CHAIRS that had no props whatsoever but it was just phenomenal; correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that’s how Ionesco intended it to be performed. Early Albee stuff also seems like it was deliberately written for off-off Broadway productions that wouldn’t have much budget to work with. And has a Beckett play ever been produced with more than minimal production? Maybe that version of Godot starring Steve Martin and Robin Williams that I like to pretend never happened.

    There’s probably a word to describe that thrill that is unique to watching live theater, when all the individual elements coalesce into something transcendent. It’s really magic.

  41. I saw the 39 STEPS in Piccadilly London last november, which is meant to be pretty faithfull to the Hitchcock movie, but was also hilarious for how they did it with 4 actors total playing all the parts, and the use of props and limited scenery. Wanted to see something when I was down in London again during the summer, like THE WOMAN IN BLACK, but it was sold out.

  42. I saw the Patrick Stewart / Ian McKellen Godot the year before last. It was almost as good as the Monsterpiece WAITING FOR ELMO.

  43. Jareth: I haven’t seen DROWNING BY NUMBERS, which does sound very intriguing but is almost impossible to get ahold of without paying through the nose for it. A ZED AND TWO NOUGHTS I do intend to see; if nothing else it’s got to be worth seeing Britain’s most loathsome and loathed light entertainer in an art film.

    It’s strange to think in this day and age that Greenaway and his “rival” Derek Jarman were once household names of a sort in the the UK, cited in UK comedies in the 80s and 90s about as frequently as Michael Bay has been cited in US comedies over the last ten years.

  44. @Marlow

    The last piece of great theatre I saw was the ‘Three Lives of Lucie Cabrol’ which is the only play I have ever seen that demanded a standing ovation. That was put on by the Theatre de Complicite, in a small theatre in the round in Liverpool, England. After leaving the theatre I had a feeling of being shellshocked. Absolutely amazing.

  45. Jareth – hey, I remember that film. Although I’d maybe prefer not to. The only thing that they got right casting Fishburne as Othello is that he’s a black guy who’s the right age. Otherwise, terrible casting. Since his two most famous characters are both famed military leaders I guess it made sense for him to play it like Morpheus. The trouble is that Morpheus’ most defining character trait is his utter faith in what he believes; Othello is exactly the opposite of that, plagued by self-doubting, and I never believed in Fishburne’s Othello in that respect at all. It just didn’t work for me.

    As for Branagh, it was as though he realized what he was dealing with in Fishburne so tried to go too far in the other extreme. It’s an entertaining performance, but it ain’t the Iago I’ve come to know and love. Of the eight or nine or so versions of “Othello” I’ve seen on stage and screen, I’d rank the Fishburne version as second-worst (the worst was an amateur performance in college, but I’d excuse those guys because they were at least enthusiastic about what they were doing.)

    I actually preferred the modern adaptation “O” to the Fishburne / Branagh version of “Othello”. Partly because Iago is the most interesting of all Shakespeare’s villains, to me, and Josh Hartnett played him so well in that movie.

    “Silence of the Lambs” is a completely different beast on film as it is in the novel, and I personally prefer the film.

    “A portal to enter John Malkovich’s head”, eh? Somebody should make a film about that, it’d do pretty well.

  46. I’m pretty sure Fishburne wasn’t trying to play Othello like Morpheus, seeing as that the Matrix wasn’t made until a few years later.

  47. Caoimhin – touche. Didn’t realise that, haha.

    Point still stands though. Maybe he had a premonition?

  48. No, no, NO!

    You bastards are not talking about Greenaway without talking about “The Pillow Book.”

    You HAVE to see that movie. Ewan McGregor, Vivian Wu with a serious fetish. That’s Greenaway’s best, in my opinion.

    Take a sexual fetish, way out there: body calligraphy. Ok, as that as your starting point, now go 40x way out there, take that fetish to it’s most bizarre conclusion possible. I won’t ruin it for you anymore than that vague hint if you haven’t seen it already. What a mindbending film. Greenaway is a genius.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4I75Rvb0zo

    Seriously, see that film, you will thank me. Total mindfuck.

  49. Paul: That Fishburne version of OTHELLO made the strange choice to excise way more of the text than necessary in order to interject bizarre sequences in some misguided attempt at appearing contemporary. And nothing says “contemporary” in 1995 like softcore porn flashbacks. Branagh plays Iago like a villain from the SUPERFRIENDS. Probably best to stick to the Orson Welles version, where Welle’s additions to the text were at least spectacular. Apparently Welles had to dub in the audio for that film after shooting, and when an actor wasn’t available he’d just perform the voicework himself.

    Fishburne played Othello in a cerebral, almost detached manner, which really seemed to work against the whole descent-into-jealous-madness thing Shakespeare seemed to be going for.

    BR Baraka: I like PILLOW BOOK, but I think McGregor is miscast, just like I think Tim from THE OFFICE (UK) was miscast in NIGHTWATCHING.

    I like THE BELLY OF AN ARCHITECT a lot too, but I’m reluctant to recommend it to anyone who found PROSPERO’S BOOKS difficult to get through.

  50. Jareth – it’s a while since I saw that movie, I forgot the softcore porn flashbacks. Maybe I should check it out again…

  51. I remember being in school doing Othello around the time it came out. English teacher brought in the video for us to watch unaware of the sexy parts. Cue highly amusing flusterdness when she realised.

  52. There are two traditional schools of thought when playing Iago:

    A: He’s a Joker like sociopath that is just here to fuck up everybody’s day.

    B: He’s a sociopath that is just here to fuck Othello, but he doesn’t want to say that.

    Branagh went with A, which is fine, but he went over the top without going far enough. Then Fishburne is just kind of hanging out and waiting for his check to clear… It’s pretty bad, which is a shame because Branagh can do much better both as an actor and a director.

  53. C. He’s a sarcastic, foul-mouthed pet parrot sidekick.

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