As much as I love both Mazursky’s and Shakespeare’s body of work, Tempest did not make a cake. First of all, it was too long and Mazursky lacked the ability to throw out some of the unnecessary and simply boring scenes that did nothing to move the story forward. This nearly 2,5-hour rampage of lifeless dialogues was a complete waste of energy. Mazursky admitted always wanting to do a loose version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest and perhaps it was too loose or Mazursky lost the control during the writing process. Maybe referring Tempest to Shakespeare’s last play did the harm (read Roger Ebert’s take on this issue). I find myself searching for excuses for Mazursky but frankly, it is impossible. And I’m not the first and only one who noticed how irrelevant Mazursky’s efforts were. Vincent Canby reviewed the film for The New York Times stating as follows: “”Tempest” (…) is an overblown freak of a film. Experiencing it is like watching a 10-ton canary as it attempts to become airborne. It lumbers up and down the runway tirelessly, but never once succeeds in getting both feet off the ground at the same time. The spectacle is amusing in isolated moments but, finally, exhausting”. (The New York Times’ Tempest Review, August 13, 1982).
Mazursky’s Tempest is telling a story of a mid-life crisis. Philip (John Cassavetes), an accomplished New York City’s architect finds himself trapped in his own world. He decides to leave his wife Antonia (played by Gena Rowlands, Cassavetes real-life wife) and start a utopia on Greek Island (part of Peloponnesus Peninsula). He takes his daughter Miranda (Molly Ringwald) with him against her mother’s wishes. Along the way, Philip falls in love with Aretha (Susan Sarandon), an American singer traveling across Europe. The entire movie takes a round trip leading to the culmination when Antonia, who is actively looking for her daughter, finds herself on The Island. She brings her new lover with her – Alonzo (Vittorio Gassman) who also happens to be Philip’s ex-box. The situation screams with dramatic potential which unfortunately never comes. Mazursky fails to show the magic to his wishful audience.
At this time there was a quite big take The Tempest written by Bard in 1610-11. In 1979 Derek Jarman made his homoerotic version of the play, and during the 1980s. there were several TV productions with BBC adaptation among them. For Mazursky it was always about the forgiveness and that was his focus during writing the screenplay alongside Leon Capetanos. Mazursky – being a big humanist among the directors and a writer with a unique taste for characters, this time Mazursky failed to deliver three-dimensional people and their dynamics. It is my personal belief that John Cassettes (actor and director) was inspired by this story to later make his own personal version of a mid-life crisis (Love Stream, 1985). The only thing on the positive note I can write is the behind the scenes part of the experience. The story with casting John Cassavetes is one of the favorite karma examples I’ve heard recently. It turns out that (if you remember Next Stop Greenwich Village, 1976) in the reality it was Cassettes who helped Mazursky with being cast in Richard Brooks’ Blackboard Jungle back in 1955. It was when Mazursky was working as a juice presser in the Village and Cassavetes came in and get him the audition. In 1982 it came to pay back the debt.
© 2018 Anna Jozwiak