The Tempest (1979)

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The Tempsetmarks the point where I realized that TCM, in fact, has absolutely no trouble showing nudity of any kind on their channel. Granted, this aired at 2am and not during prime time, but the point is, they don’t have a problem with it. In The Iron Rose they showed a fully nude woman walking along the beach, and here they balanced it out by showing a nude male wandering out of the ocean….and then some. Let it not be said that TCM is not fair and balanced.

If the talk of nudity has confused you any, than let me clarify that, yes, this is, in fact, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest. For those of you who weren’t forced to read it in school, I’ll give you the cliff-notes version: Prospero, rightful Duke of Milan, has been banished to a remote island with his daughter, Miranda. Wanting to restore his daughter to her rightful place and take revenge on those who wronged him, he conjures up a storm, aka: a tempest, to lure his usurping sibling and Alonso, the King of Naples, to the island.

As anyone who’s read Shakespeare knows, it often helps one’s understanding of the play to actually see the play, and not just read the words. The visual cues often aid in one’s understanding. If that’s where your train of thought is leading you, you may wish to reconsider.

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Where do I begin…..

For starters, let me begin on a positive note by saying how visually stunning the movie is. The entire film is highly atmospheric; the imagery is haunting, the sets are intriguing, and the costumes are an eclectic mixture of classical, punk and modern.

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Oh, how my heart flutters at the sight of your braided, frosted tipped….things

As the movie transitions from the darker themes of magic and vengeance to the larger and lighter themes of forgiveness, friendship and family, the visual stylings change from a dark, shadowed gothic perspective, to a lighter, airier baroque one. It’s really quite visually captivating.

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One of the other things that make this film stand out is its erotically charged nature. Now, I don’t want to give anyone the impression with all this talk of nudity that I’m some sort of prude. I was an art student, for goodness sake. The naked human figure does not shock or bother me. I only mention it because while it doesn’t shock me, in this case it did throw me off a little just because I wasn’t expecting it. I’m more used to classical Shakespeare interpretations where everyone remains fully clothed.

And before some of you get all excited, let me clarify that when I say erotically charged, I mean more along the lines of homo-erotically charged. Out of six actors, four of them are male. You do get to see the actress who plays Miranda without her top, but it’s so damn dark in that room that I don’t think those of you who are interested in that sort of thing are going to get much enjoyment out of it. As for the other nude female, that’s a special case.

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This image is for the special kind of fetishist.

In fact, by the time the film nears the end, any viewers remaining notions that the homoeroticism was subtle or perhaps unintentional will quickly be thrown out the window, when they become bombarded with such overwhelming flamboyance.

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The guy with the feathers is naked, just thought I’d point that out.

Hell, by the time you get to the wedding scene the only thing you’ll be thinking will be, “Are they even trying to be subtle? The only thing this movie is missing at this point is a bunch of dancing sailor-…”

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Never mind…..

And then Elisabeth Welch comes out decked in her best “Vegas Singer” outfit and starts singing a very nice cabaret rendition of “Stormy Weather” to said bunch of gleefully smiling sailors.

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A sailor’s greatest dream is to dance and listen to Elisabeth Welch.

To a film filled with alchemical references, it is a humorously campy addition. It is a nice song though. You should listen to it.

Or you could justwatch the last few minutes of the film instead, dancing sailors and all. Your call.

Say what you will about it, you could do a hell of a lot worse than that at your own wedding reception.

As far as Shakespearian adaptations go, this is certainly one of the more interesting ones. I was impressed by it’s unique visual styling, but it’s not a movie for everyone. People who don’t enjoy Shakespeare will want to avoid it ,and some of those who do will most likely be turned off by the deviations of the dialogue. The language is there, but it’s constructed to work with the visuals, rather than have the visuals work with the words. If you enjoy films from an artistic perspective, then you may enjoy this. But if you’d rather have a more classical adaptation of the Bard’s tale, then there are other options to choose from.

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See ya, sailors…..

The Tempest was once available to stream on Amazon, but it looks like they may have currently lost the rights.

It is, however, also available on DVD and Bluray.

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Michi

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