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Sound and Fury: Julie Taymor’s “The Tempest”

Sound and Fury: Julie Taymor's "The Tempest"

Julie Taymor is a filmmaker fascinatingly, infuriatingly at odds with herself. Each of her four features contains an essential, somewhat patronizing, gesture toward accessibility: her debut, Titus, sexes up Shakespeare’s gruesome Titus Andronicus with an all-star cast and a bright color palette; Frida puts Salma Hayek through an Oscar-friendly ornate-biopic game of dress-up, casting the voluptuous actress as the earth-mother-ish Mexican painter Frida Kahlo; Across the Universe tells a story of young love laced with Beatles tracks, proudly presenting the biggest pop-music sensation in the history of the world for those recalcitrant adolescents unwilling to take their parents’ word for it; and The Tempest, her latest effort, returns to the turf of her debut, busting a flashy late-Nineties-esque Shakespeare-revisionism move (it’s Prosper-a not Prosper-o!) amid a maelstrom of bizarre VFX. Even her forthcoming, astronomically expensive Broadway adaptation of Spider-Man, subtitled Turn Off the Dark, seems determined to make the comic-book material even more mainstream; the three Sam Raimi Spider-Man films collectively took in about $2.5 billion worldwide, but for all those stern, earnest adult-contemporary listeners in flyover country still dismissing superheroes as geeky kids’ stuff, Taymor has made the diplomatic gesture of adding a score of new soaring anthems by Bono and The Edge. Read Benjamin Mercer’s review of The Tempest.

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