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Home :: Archive :: 1992 :: April ::
Rs: *Prospero's Books*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 81. Wednesday, 8 Apr 1992.
 
 
(1)	Date: 	Sun, 5 Apr 1992 17:32:01 -0400
	From: 	Tad Davis <
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	Subj: 	RE: SHK 3.0078  *Prospero's Books*
 
(2)	Date: 	Mon, 6 Apr 1992 16:11:00 -0400
	Subj: 	Prospero's Books
	From: 	
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(3)	Date: 	Mon, 6 Apr 1992 12:52:00 -0400
	From:  	Luc Borot <ELI16@FRMOP22.BITNET>
	Subj: 	Reply to Geoff Wall on *Prospero's Books*
 
	
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Date: 		Sun, 5 Apr 1992 17:32:01 -0400
From: 		Tad Davis <
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 >
Subject: 3.0078  *Prospero's Books*
Comment: 	RE: SHK 3.0078  *Prospero's Books*
 
	[Ed. Note: Geoff Wall's note, which appeared as quoted below
	in SHK 3.0078, was apparently inadvertently truncated.  Geoff
	will be forwarding a complete version, which I will distribute
	as soon as it arrives.  Perhaps the very brevity of the
	initial note sparked this deluge of discussion -- I hope that
	the longer version will do the same. -- k.s.]
 
> After watching Peter Greenaway's film version of The Tempest, I'd like to
> compare notes with anyone interested.
>
> This is sumptuous stagnant erudite phantasy, spun out between the lines
> of The Tempest.  Memorable visual splendours and ingenuities, but a lack
> of subtlety and dramatic detail.
 
Personally, not to cut too fine a point on it, I thought it was a piece of
self-indulgent overblown nonsense. Yes it was visually stunning, almost
excruciatingly so, and as a window into Peter Greenaway's mind I'm sure it
had some interest for fans of Peter Greenaway. As a treatment of
Shakespeare, it stunk.
 
Tad Davis

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(2)--------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Date: 		Mon, 6 Apr 1992 16:11:00 -0400
Subject: 	Prospero's Books
From: 		
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          It is my considered opinion that "Prospero's Books" sucked
          big time.  Aside from stomping out any semblance of
          Shakespeare's "TEMPEST," it was ultimately a study in
          randomness, and randomness is boring because all randomness
          is the same.  They could have made the same film using the
          Chicago telephone book as the premise.
 
          Of course, perhaps it was SOOO far over my head that I
          completely missed the point.  I suppose one could argue the
          artistic merits of staring up Caliban's asshole for 2.5
          hours but I rather subscribe to the position that, in this
          case, the King (not to mention the entire cast) has no
          clothes.  This movie gave gratuitous nudity (which I
          support) a bad name.
 
          The only part I liked was the 7 seconds when the dog was
          wearing the big white collar.  Arf, arf.
 
          John Massa
 
(3)-----------------------------------------------------------------------
	
Date: 		Mon, 6 Apr 1992 12:52:00 -0400
From:  		Luc Borot <ELI16@FRMOP22.BITNET>
Subject: 	Reply to Geoff Wall on *Prospero's Books*
 
Geoff Wall's invitation to discuss Greenaway's film comes sev-
eral months after my seeing the film, but his comment on the
excesses of the production struck me more than ever after seeing
a very plain and honest production of *The Tempest* in French in
Montpellier last Thursday. It was my third viewing of this prod-
uction, by a local professional company specialised in the worthy
task of taking the world's great classics, from Aeschylus to the
"Bard" onto village audiences in the South of France. The set,
whether in a theatre-house or in the open, is a plain circular
machine with 3 concentric elements, four corner blocks separated
from the machine by a lane which creates the separation between
stage and "offstage" or "eavesdropping" characters. A metal struc-
ture above the circle allows the very "cute" Ariel to hover over
the scenes.
 
Prospero was touching and the Marseilles accent of Trinculo
provided a natural and irresistible comical device, an excellent
transfer between the two cultural contexts, English and Mediterranean,
for a representation of Italians.
 
The lush pageantry of Greenaway's film is quite the reverse of the
sober efficiency of the Avant-Quart company's production. Greenaway
himself said that his was the first "hypermedia" Shakespeare production
ever (How about *Hamlet Machine*?). Perhaps, but why should post-modern-
ism be ugly? Why should naked flesh be lavished on the spectators in
the most unsightly form of the overnumerous walk-ons' loose, hanging
skin? The interest of the production in this semi-literate age, is its
genuine erudition and innovative usage of technique to promote a new,
more intelligent vision of written culture and visual arts, the theatre
being a meeting ground of all these. But how exhausting to watch
3 or 4 superposed pictures! How wonderful Gielgud's acting, but how poor
did the youngsters sound!
 
The idea that Shakespeare is Prospero (a smarter notion than the Oxford-
ians' by the way!) or the reverse and that Prospero is the author of
the other characters' thoughts, desires and actions is not fully sup-
ported by the text and the play's world, but it may be accepted as it
proves aesthetically fecund in the production. The extent to which
duplications are used (e.g. for Ariel) is at times excessive.
Nonetheless, the film is a visual success, for all its excesses.
It cannot be said that the film is a presentation of the Tempest to
make it accessible to modern (or post-modern, whatever that means)
audiences, but to make it more complicated to those who know enough
about the Renaissance and have already seen enough of Greenaway's works
to begin to sit back and enjoy understanding some of the subtleties.
The problem here again is the superposition and the simultaneous sour-
ces of information.
 
The credit one must pay Greenaway's film is that it makes one aware of
the multiplicity of our levels of interpretation, of the simultaneous
presence of the sources in our minds when we read. We come to realise
this through the superposed layers of visual data.
 
Still: is this one more *Tempest* or a new kind of work of art?
 
I leave it to your meditation.
 
Sorry about the erratic syntax and composition: I typed on the spur of
the moment with people speaking French around me and it caused confusion
in my slow brain.
 
Luc Borot <ELI16@FRMOP22.BITNET>
 

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