Derek Jarman's The Tempest (1979) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

As the stoners used to say in my day, "this is some heavy shit"

Derek Jarman thought of himself as a great artist, and maybe he was. He was famous for making arty underground stuff with a strong homoerotic aesthetic. This version of Shakespeare is no exception. I guess the difference between a Jarman and a Zefferelli, both of whom did Shakespearean interpretations in the 70's, is that Zefferelli thought about how Shakespeare would have done it if he were there. Jarman did it his way. He figured words were Shakespeare's bag, but he himself was a great visual artist. The title of the movie is not "William Shakespeare's The Tempest", but Derek Jarman's.

He also edited Shakespeare. The credits read "written by: Derek Jarman, William Shakespeare". Kinda says it all doesn't it? I'm planning Uncle Scoopy's Hamlet right now, written by Uncle Scoopy, additional dialogue by Bill Shakespeare.

Here's part of my re-write. "To be or not to be, that is the question (Slurping noises from Ophelia between his legs.) Oh, to be isn't so bad. Yes, definitely to be. Oh to be, to be. Oh, yes, yes, yes, oh my god, to be"


There is a ton of nudity, most of it male

One attractive woman, Toyah Wilcox, rempoved her top.

You are going to think I made this next bit up, but every word of it is true. The finale of the movie features a musical number in which an aging female chanteuse sings the 20th century song "Stormy Weather" (It's a tempest, get it?), while a bunch of sailors prance around her in about the swishiest all-male dance number I've ever seen (see below). Oh, brave new Shakespeare, that has such people in't.

The movie is visually innovative, in the sense of "unusual'. I guess you'd call it avant garde. Jarman was controversial, had many admirers and as many detractors, as daring artists always do.

Jarman died in 1994, aged 52, AIDS-related.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • no widescreen version available, but the fullscreen version is a good transfer.

  • three additional short films by Jarman

The Critics Vote

  • Apollo 77

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.3, Apollo members 49/100
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+ as an arthouse flick. It is an especially airy adaptation of Shakespeare's artiest play. It should please the people who think that sounds interesting, although even they may shake their heads in disbelief at the finale. If that doesn't sound appealing to you, avoid it, because it will not reach out to you. I like Shakespeare, and I can find things to admire in the film, but nothing to like.

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