Picks and Pans Review: Prospero's Books

updated 12/09/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/09/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

Sir John Gielgud

All the world's a stage for the works of William Shakespeare, but the film director had best wield his camera with care or the bard's subtleties will get lost in the glare. That's precisely what happens in this, Peter Greenaway's gaudily interpretive version of The Tempest. Indeed, it looks as if poor Prospero, Duke of Milan, and his beloved books have been banished not to a distant isle but to Hugh Hefner's mansion. The great Gielgud, playing Prospero as an imperious imp, is in splendid form, but his fine work is lost amid the tempest's howl, wandering nudes and a slinky Caliban who could be found in any lower Manhattan dance studio. Alas, even with Gielgud's six decades of glorious experience brought to bear, it is a tale full of sound and fury, signifying nothing but ornate pretension. (R)

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