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Monday, November 12, 2007

Tempest

Directed by Paul Mazursky. Starring John Cassavetes, Gena Rolands, Susan Sarandon, Vittorio Gassman, Raul Julia, and Molly Ringwald.

The first time that I saw this film was at an outdoor cinema during the first summer I lived in Greece. I doubt that it is even possible for anyone, anywhere to have a better summer than I did that year. I doubt that it would be possible to improve upon this wonderful movie, although I was beginning to think that I may have overly-romanticized this film because everything else around me that summer was so perfect. This would have been 1984 and I hadn’t seen the film again until last night.

It’s not like I didn’t try to see the film again. When I got back to the States a few years later and the whole video craze was in full bloom I looked for a copy of Tempest in every mom and pop video store in the Washington D.C. area without success. Years after this came the internet and Amazon.com. I tried to buy the film but I could only find it on VHS format and I had already abandoned that technology. I could never find it on DVD anywhere until a few weeks ago. I bought it and had it mailed to my brother’s home in Chicago and he relayed it to me here in Spain. Even Homer’s Odyssey only took ten years.

As I said, I saw the movie at a little outdoor theater in a southern suburb of Athens called Glyfada which, although attached to the sprawl of the capital, has more of a beach town feel to it than big city. These little theaters were rather impromptu affairs that looked like someone had just set out a few chairs in their back yard and invited a few friends over. All that I remember is that they seemed to specialize in movies that were filmed in Greece. This was probably why I went to see Tempest.

My date for the evening was my girlfriend at that time and she had come over to Greece to spend the summer with me. Eileen was tall, smart, athletic, fun, and beautiful. I remember that on the evening we saw this movie she was wearing a white knit dress that showed off her great legs. We had already traveled around Greece quite a bit before we saw this movie so we knew all about idyllic island playgrounds and deserted beaches. In fact, we could have been scouts for future film locations in Greece except that we wanted to keep some of these places secret.

I have praised this movie for so many years that I was a bit worried that it wouldn’t live up to the memory I had of it after seeing it so many years ago. I don’t think anyone could blame me for over-rating it considering the perfect setting for the first time I saw it. As it turns out, I’ve been a bit conservative in my praise.

It is hard for me to imagine that a movie this good could even be made in this day and age. The run time is 142 minutes which for a romantic comedy (or whatever the hell it is) is very, very rare. If these kinds of movies make it to two hours these days it’s some sort of miracle. I didn’t remember that the movie goes for almost two and a half hours but I immediately was aware of the slow and deliberate pace of the story—something not synonymous with boring. The director has a story to tell and he isn’t about to be pressured into rushing things. A more hurried pacing of the film would have defeated the purpose of why the characters had escaped to a deserted island in Greece. In fact, the story involves two islands: Manhattan and an enchanted Greek isle hidden somewhere in the crystal-clear Aegean. It’s difficult to say which one looks more beautiful in film.

As I watched this movie for only the second time in 23 years, I felt like I was watching a movie made by adults, for adults. I don’t get that feeling very often when I watch movies. Most of the time I’m lucky if the movie doesn’t insult me, although I avoid the worst of the comic book remakes and low-brow action flicks. I know that most movies are exactly made with my demographic in mind. Tempest, on the other hand, has found in me the perfect target audience.

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