Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Films: The Tempest

First a quick link: I am the featured writer interview in the latest Text Novel newsletter: "The world is my bison." :-) TextNovel is one of the places that The Mangrove Legacy appeared before its publication and of course, the new serial Airships and Alchemy can be found there as well as on the serial blog. And if you want to know how to pronounce the word, see here.

Be sure to see the round up of all the overlooked films over at Todd's blog.

I love Julie Taymor's vision: she has an imagination that sings and flies and creates some amazing works. How, you ask, how could her film of Shakespeare's wondrous Tempest, the most magical of all his plays, fail?

Simple: bad CGI.

Unconvincing, twee and hokey CGI. Cringe-worthy! Today's audiences expect better graphics. We don't need to see Ben Wishaw's (digitally unsexed) Ariel duplicate like a badly loading JPEG. Almost none of the CGI is good: worse, almost none of it is necessary.

Because the rest of the film is wonderful. Helen Mirren makes a glorious Prospera. Every minute the camera focuses on her becomes completely captivating. Glorious: it's the only word that works. Sally Potter offers another stunning wardrobe -- I want ALL of Helen Mirren's clothes (especially the one above). There's a great cast: how can you go wrong with Tom Conti, David Straitharn, Chris Cooper, Alfred Molina, Alan Cumming? Even Russell Brand didn't annoy me much; after all Trinculo is a fool. Felicity Jones makes for an irresistible Miranda and Reeve Carney provides an adequate Ferdinand (a lousy part: there's little for him to do in any version of the play) looking golden and mooning after Miranda. Djimon Hounsou gives us a Caliban of the earth, who seems to have sprung from its depths like a mudman, his Butoh-inspired movement making him visually Other as much as his strange exterior and race. Wishaw embodies Ariel with some CGI enhancement, which I think doesn't give him enough credit for the way his acting as Ariel must shift gender and aspect so often. When clothed in black wings as the harpy, he's magnificent.

So forget the bad CGI: see this film anyway. It's worth it for Mirren alone, and there is so much more besides. Peg and I were talking about this on the way back; maybe Taymor just doesn't care about the CGI being good. But audiences now want it to look seamless. We saw this at Upstate Films in Rhinebeck which was a terrific theatre except for the fact that they turned up the house lights the second the credits began. The credits in this film are a piece of the story: Portishead's Beth Gibbons sings Prospera's final speech with Elliot Goldenthal's music and it's quite wonderful.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I would love to see Mirren play Richard III.

C. Margery Kempe said...

That would be interesting!

Todd Mason said...

Mirren's Hamletta. (And she does seem to be swiping your style there in the still.)

It is remarkable that anyone would opt for bad fx these days, but that also was only one of the problems sabotaging the Massively overrated HBO film of ANGELS IN AMERICA.

C. Margery Kempe said...

We were talking about it last night and Ron's argument was that it wasn't bad CGI just used in a very old fashioned way, which I could agree with (though I do think a lot of it just looked bad).

So that Sally Potter's been following me around, I think...