by Anthony King
My wife Bobbie and I celebrated 11 years of marriage in April, and in December we will have been a couple for 14 (?) years. There are few on-screen couples, and even fewer real-life celebrity couples from whom I find inspiration. While I love Gena Rowlands and Peter Falk as an on-screen couple, they just don't compare to when Rowlands appears with her real-life husband, John Cassavetes, as an on-screen couple. There is no other pair that contains the electricity that Rowlands and Cassavetes had on screen. I'd always thought Rowlands was at her best when directed by her husband (A Woman Under the Influence, a masterpiece), yet when she appears in Paul Mazursky's loose adaptation of William Shakespeare's The Tempest, acting with (as opposed to directed by) her husband, it's unlike anything I've ever seen.
Co-written and directed by Mazursky, Tempest follows architect Philip Dimitrius (Cassavetes) during his mid-life crisis. The film opens with Philip waking up to the sun rising over the ocean on an unnamed Greek island (hi, Summer Lovers). He slips on his robe and his boots and waves to a woman standing on the balcony of a stone house built into the side of a rocky hillside. She yells, “Separate bedrooms is one thing, but this is ridiculous!” The woman is Aretha, played by the always breathtaking Susan Sarandon, and along with Philip's daughter, Miranda (Molly Ringwald in her first film role), they live on a secluded, rocky island in the Mediterranean. The only other inhabitant of the island is a lonely goat farmer called Kalibamos played hysterically by Raul Julia. After setting the present day, we jump back 18 months to New Year's Eve in New York City and the story begins.
The tipping point for Philip and Antonia occurs when he comes home drunk one night while she's entertaining the creative team of her new play (including Mazursky as the producer, Terry Bloomfield). Philip bursts through the door singing, and in what has to be an improvisational moment, asks Bloomfield to sing a song so the two men can dance together. Like so many moments in Mazursky and Cassavetes films, this one is so real and uncomfortable yet works perfectly within the context of the scene.