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r rated, four moon iconColumbia Tristar (VHS), ASIN 6303589138
Director Paul Mazursky works a sea-change indeed on this Shakespearian classic. Released in 1982, this film turns the lash of oceanic storms in two directions that double-back and enrich the story. First, a New York architect (John Cassavetes) wills the lightening to obey his command -- and it does! Such power-mongering seems easy, though, in contrast with controlling the women in his life. Wife, mistress, and daughter possess all the fury -- and impudence -- of the original play's dynamics. Who misses Ariel when Gena Rowlands, Susan Sarandon, and Molly Ringwold simultaneously bear down on you?

DVD: tempestWith eyes as huge as Hawaiian mushrooms, the architect's new-found love (Sarandon) counsels his frustrated teenager (Ringwold). The girl, of course, insists that virginity will be the death of her. Meanwhile, the hero's long-time spouse (Rowlands) relaunches her theatrical career, a move which parallels her budding affair with the underworld. The titan stalking all members of this family (Vittorio Gassman) continues his pursuit to the ends of the earth. With the chilling power of one who orchestrates both cities and lives, the hero's archenemy slides his yacht toward their perfect hiding place.

The dramatic talent of John Cassavetes alone would render this film a treat for theatre buffs. His smoldering angst will enrapture audiences familiar with his performances in The Dirty Dozen (1967) or The Fury (1978). Similarly, his direction of Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence (1974) remains legendary. Here, though, under the direction of Mazursky, he pairs up with his real-life wife to explore a marriage gone nuclear. The film's final request for forgiveness echoes hauntingly. Just so, the original farewell was spoken from the oracle of the theater, which the world's greatest dramatist made synonymous with his name.

Balancing tragedy and comedy in true Shakespearian fashion, the performance of Raul Julia will also rock audiences in their seats. Long admired for his lugubrious humor in The Adams Family chronicles (1991, 1993), Julio spoofs the dourly hilarious earth spirit Caliban as "Calibanos." Only such an absurd character would keep a Sony Trinitron TV in his cave! Only pure fantasy explains his act of donning a silver jacket when he lures a female to his unromantic digs. Viewers will inevitably be clapping along as he capers up and down Greek mountains in his rendition of Broadway numbers. Who could anticipate the pastoral flute becoming a wailing clarinet, played by a virtuoso with the supreme agility of a mountain goat?

Expect the unexpected from this movie. Even a terrier which sleeps with its nose in the air beside Cassavetes nearly steals the opening scene. The dog, in turn, cannot compete with the somber noses and wicked ears of an entire chorus of goats. Their ability to skitter from heights, apparently strung on elastic, will astonish young and old alike. In such a context, we see all our human foibles, escapades, and silly obsessions in the pure light of uncanny wisdom. How extraordinary to rediscover the Bard -- and recognize ourselves as high-jumpers among equally altruistic and ridiculous plots!

Meg Curtis

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