Lawrence O'Toole
October 30, 1992 AT 05:00 AM EST

Prospero's Books

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
performer
Michael Clark
director
Peter Greenaway
author
Peter Greenaway, William Shakespeare
genre
Drama, Sci-fi and Fantasy

We gave it a C

In Prospero’s Books, director Peter Greenaway’s altered version of Shakespeare’s last play, The Tempest, viewers are offered the sight of Sir John Gielgud’s bare backside. Comparisons, of course, are odious. Though Sir John manages to maintain his dignity as Prospero, Shakespeare’s island ruler and magician, Greenaway’s movie manages to be not much more than a parade of nude people of varying attractiveness. The small screen inspires only squinting at this buck-naked brigade.

Obviously Greenaway’s intent was to deconstruct this fable of wonder, longing, and forgiveness, as he has deconstructed other material so brilliantly in the past (1987’s Drowning by Numbers). But in taking apart the play he doesn’t offer much in return other than a kind of merry, pretentious confusion. When he melts down the Bard’s metaphysics, Greenaway dismissively turns the play’s magic isle into depressing disenchantment. C

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