Given all of the advanced hype over the upcoming release of the Julie Taymor film version of The Tempest, I decided to do a little digging. I wanted to see if I might come up with some opinion other than the latest salivating conjecture about how good it 'looks to be' from simply viewing a trailer; or projecting how fantastically 'important' it might be because I'm told "something wicked this way comes" by the pricking of the thumbs of studio execs all too eager to sell the next 'latest, greatest, idea thing'; or what they might claim a decent (never mind definitive or great) job of 'interpreting Shakespeare' might actually look and sound like.
It turns out that the film was screened at the Venice Film Festival last month. Here's some advance opinion from some who've actually been privy to more than Hollywood 'massaging'. For your considered perusal, what we might expect in December as a possible climax to all the titillating, pre-release foreplay.
Robert Beames, of the Telegraph UK is receptive but critical, giving Helen Mirren (love her) great credit for making the film a more positive than negative outing, as he sees it:
"...American director Julie Taymor releases what she must hope is a film that does justice to the play, whilst still working as a piece of cinema. It's a feat quite rarely achieved. Luckily, she is helped in no small part by the presence of Helen Mirren - who is here at the peak of her powers."
This is no surprise to me, either on the part of Mirren or on the part of solid acting, in its ability to mask possible deficiencies in other departments of interpretation in a venture as large and brassy as this one. Contrary to popular view, not all reviewers are misogynistic cave-dwellers, pounding away at some antiquated typewriter exuding acid for words. And speaking of popularity when it's warranted, personally, I think it was the outstanding performances of some of the actors in Taymor's Titus that made her overindulgent art director's dream of a mish-mosh work at all. But once again, that's just my opinion.
Another opinion on overindulgent rendering which too often masks Shakespeare's point:
Variety's Leslie Felperin:
As if it were not disappointing enough to produce an intellectually undernourished version of Shakespeare's late romance, helmer Julie Taymor has gone one better by crafting a "Tempest" so kitschy, yet curiously drab and banal, even supporters may hope she'll break her staff and drown her book. Despite a tony cast led by Helen Mirren in the gender-bent lead role, pic makes even earlier middlebrow Shakespeare adaptations look masterful. Skedded to bow in December, the Touchstone release could find a niche among older auds and those who can't be bothered to read the play.
So, can we expect the definitive Tempest of our day? ...Or what? Hard to say...yet.
When it comes to Shakespeare's genius--as opposed to the very busy, busy 'genius' of those also in the process of making a name for themselves--I'll take Groucho Marx's tongue-in-cheek advice to heart every time: "Are you gonna believe me, or your lying eyes?" :) Ask me in December. JM