Thursday, October 7, 2010

NYFF Spotlight: The Tempest

I have the distinct pleasure this year of covering a few of the films that are being shown at the New York Film Festival. Most of these films do not yet have U.S. release dates, and therefore this can be considered a preview review.

The Tempest
Directed by Julie Taymor
No NYFF Public Screenings Left; To Be Released December 10, 2010

This adaptation of one of William Shakespeare’s more famous plays will certainly garner much hoopla when its December theatrical release date approaches. Julie Taymor, director of “Across the Universe” and “Frida,” describes it as one of Shakespeare’s most visual works, and notes her own personal connection with the play, having first directed a stage production back in 1986. The most significant modification made in Taymor’s new film is that the traditionally male Prospero has become Prospera, portrayed by Dame Helen Mirren. The Oscar-winning star of “The Queen,” who commands most of her scenes just as fiercely as the sorcerer commands the winds of the storm, is hardly the only notable name in the cast. She is joined by Djimon Hounsou, Chris Cooper, David Strathairn, Alan Cumming, Alfred Molina, and Russell Brand. You read that last one correctly – unfettered comedian Brand sticks out like a sore thumb and seems to be doing his own goofy rift on the already somewhat comical material while the rest of the ensemble actually tries to create a compelling atmosphere. For Shakespeare fans, this reimagining of “The Tempest” may be a fulfilling experience, with proper thespians (for the most part) giving their shrewdly-written characters their all. Much of the film is constructed using greenscreen and bluescreen technology, and though it looks fine, it does give the film a general air of inauthenticity. “The Tempest” is a complex, dense play, and this new version doesn’t help much with unpacking any of its themes; rather, it presents them in a bright, flashy, distracting fashion.


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