-->
Reviews

Tempest (1982)

Kelley Schei

Let Me off This Island


Tempest

Director: Paul Mazursky
Cast: John Cassavetes, Gena Rowlands, Molly Ringwald, Raul Julia
Distributor: Sony
MPAA rating: PG
Studio: Columbia
First date: 1982
US DVD Release Date: 2007-03-27

On their 1999 debut, the band Le Tigre repeated the lyrics: What's YR take on John Cassavetes? Alcoholic? Misogynist? Alcoholic? Messiah? Their take was left ambiguous, though these questions raised by Cassavete’s films from the '70s could all too clearly be answered by Paul Mazursky’s 1982 film, Tempest.

Mazursky casts John Cassavetes as a New York City architect struggling through a midlife crisis in Tempest, working with some of the themes of aging, personal crisis, and alienation from Cassavete’s highly regarded earlier films. The film is loosely based on the Shakespeare comedy, a context which gives you an idea of the sense of importance Mazursky gives his protaganist.

But any romance that may have surrounded the depressed, alcoholic antiheroes created by Cassavete’s legendary acting and directing has long soured here, and Tempest is hard to stomach. As for misogyny, it’s a fair accusation; the women surrounding Phillip suffer the most, although the misogyny is an outgrowth of the pointless solipsism at the center of the film. Phillip’s unwavering view of the people in his life as an extension of his ego and his inability to consider how his actions affect others makes it hard to care about him, and any suspense about whether he will recover or be redeemed drains at his first drunken rampage.

A scene in the first third of the film shows Phillip stumbling home to his wife’s cocktail party, which he quickly destroys in a cruel, drunken rant. At two and a half hours, Tempest feels a lot like that drunken party guest who has long overstayed his welcome; heavy, unpleasant, and demanding without reward.

Philip abandons his career and wife (Gena Rowlands) and brings his daughter Miranda to a gorgeous Aegean island to accompany him while he finds himself. He starts an affair with a free spirit named Aretha (Susan Sarandon). She is the most interesting character in the film, and also the happiest and least complex, though in the end she remains more or less opaque. Her lightness makes it easy to see why he likes her. It’s a mystery, though, why she would want to be with him, especially since his soul-searching has manifested in part by an unexplained commitment to celibacy.

Meanwhile, Miranda has nothing to do and no one to talk too. It’s unclear why he took her with him, and she is openly miserable, which he barely bothers to notice. Kalibanos, a local goatherder (Raul Julio), hangs around to spy on her while she skinny dips, in a creepy scene that is supposed to be funny. These characters correspond loosely to those in Shakepeare’s The Tempest, though the connection seems superficial. It seems that the director’s use of the play as a template hindered the development of his own characters, who never seem to take on a life of their own.

The film takes place in one day on the island, though it’s an endless one, fragmented by innumerous flashbacks to Phillip’s opulent though soulless big city life in New York. These vignettes are supposed to trace his progression from stable adulthood to depression, alcoholism, and the dissolution of his marriage, though they are tediously repetitive rather than revealing as a linear narrative. The film’s structure is so sprawling you loose track of parts of the story and it becomes disjointed. The conflict loses momentum, and in the end, it feels as though there is not enough substance left to carry the story.

Cassavete’s performance is so assured that it takes time to realize how generic his upper middle class professional dabbling in philosophy really is. He plays alienation with wry sarcasm that sometimes gives way to explosive anger. But there’s nothing in between, and he holds back so much that he becomes boring. Tempest ultimately forgoes introspection anyway, returning to the surface for a climax that is linked in plot to the shipwreck at the beginning of the Shakespeare play. It wraps things up neatly and pays back very little of your time.

The most interesting thing about the film is the way it looks. The flashbacks of New York City look as sunny and stark as life on the island. The unyielding blaze of the sun in both settings seems more objective and mundane than idyllic, a look reinforced by some abruptly edited transitions. It’s empty without feeling bleak, and supports the spiritual lethargy of the theme. Even though Phillip felt that he needed a drastic environmental change, things ends up looking the same. The problem, of course, is within.

3
Music

The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less
7

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image