This is a bit mean, I’m afraid. But I did feel a bit gleeful to see the debacle-ous Broadway Spiderman panned (and how). I have, and I’m sure I’m not alone, gone from being fascinated by Julie Taymor’s work to being morbidly, and much more so, fascinated by what appears to be an ego of Erich von Stroheim proportions, and without the attendant legacy of masterpieces.
In the past, Taymor could pull all kinds of cool stuff off as long as she kept it onstage. All of her movies have some marvelous frames. In Titus, which is pretty bad other than for Anthony Hopkins, she makes stunning use of EUR, Mussolini’s sleek suburb, as a backdrop; you could be inspired to evoke it onstage, but it looks dynamite on film. But for every great decision she makes as a director, she makes a half dozen or more that exist to call attention to her as a director but do nothing to advance the story; it’s all about her no matter where you look. It’s pointedly evident on the Across the Universe disc, on which there’s some rehearsal footage of her working with one of the actors – and she’s acting, albeit not speaking, simply making Very Sad Faces. It’s not a pretty thing to watch. You can’t imagine a director who really wants to get a performance out of an actor indulging in such a thing, much less recording it and selecting it as supplementary material.
With a double whammy of Tempest bombing and this, it will be interesting to see if Taymor’s able to take it down a notch and do something because it’s a vision she can’t get out of her head. That used to happen, before Lion King turned her into a corporate synonym for Innovative Theater. I’ll be watching either way. Like any good train wreck, she’s become a theatrical event in her own right.