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Peter Greenaway

Eisenstein In Guanajuato * Peter Greenaway (2015)

Sergei Eisenstein is a young, Russian director who had some success in his own country, but when he tries his luck abroad, Hollywood is less favourable and his home country becomes suspicious when he remains out of the country for a long time. Eisenstein decides to travel to Mexico to make his next film.

Greenaway’s film plays in the 1960’ies with old cars and a classic Mexico. Eisenstein is a bit of an odd character which allows Greenaway to display his somewhat pompous style with nudity. The director also chose to make use of experimentations which are sometimes alright, but sometimes a bit annoying, like the ‘repetitive three screen picture in picture’ effects.

Eisenstein gets a guide in the form of Palomino Cañedo with whom he first becomes friendly and later much more. However we do not get a whole lot of that part of the story, Eisenstein supposedly shoots miles and miles of film which takes so long that his sponsors become impatient. Eisenstein gets tossed between his longing to his home country and Mexico which he learns to love as well.

“Eisenstein In Guanajuato” is a nice film, but in my opinion not one of the better Greenaways. It is mostly a drama with subtle humour and a few of the known Greenaway approaches.

Nightwatching * Peter Greenaway (2007)

NightwatchingWhen this film premiered I was excited by the fact that I would finally be able to see a Greenaway on the big screen. It played in only a few cinemas in the country, but I would happily drive a bit. When two weeks later I had the time, the film was already not shown anywhere anymore… Now that I finally did see it, I must say that I am slightly disappointed. “Nightwatching” is better than “The Tulse Luper Suitcases” and has a lot of Greenaway elements, but it is nothing compared to the older works. “Nightwatching” begins with the typical repetative violins, but there is not too much music in it. Also I miss the long moving camera shots and absurdity. There is even not much nudity this time, quite a lot of ‘bad language’, though. There is some magnificent camera work and use of colour, grandiose stages, etc., but “Nightwatching” is much more of a film with a story than the better works of Greenaway. Naturally the film is all about Rembrandt’s famous painting “De Nachtwacht“. Greenaway has written a story around and about the film in which Rembrandt himself is the main character. All kinds of plots and theories are supposedly put in the painting, but I think people who compare this film with the overly popular “Da Vinci Code” vastly overrate that part of “Nightwatching”. In any case, surely not a bad film, but also surely not one of Greenaway’s better.

A Zed & Two Noughts * Peter Greenaway * 1985

Another old film by the magnificent director Peter Greenaway that has been made available on DVD. Now there is also a series with “the early films of Peter Greenaway”. I am still eagerly awaiting Greenaways absolute masterpiece “Prospero’s Books” to be released on DVD. I did notice that “The Baby Of Mâcon” has been released on DVD, so I hope it is only a matter of time. Anyway, I hadn’t heard of “ZOO” yet, but Greenaway has many films that I haven’t seen. “ZOO” is a typical Greenaway film. A long line of strange scenes made around a thin story that only serves as starting point. Greenaway took a few absurd (or even taboo?) subjects, uses his famous amount of nudity and inverted sexual moral and again managed to create a dreamy atmosphere with great camera work and music. The story plays around a zoo where two women mysteriously died and another survived. All people involved are somehow connected to the zoo. Again a very good film of one of my favorite directors.

The Tulse Luper Suitcases, part 1., the moab story * Peter Greenaway * 2003

I noticed that many of the older films of Greenaway are being released on DVD and I asumed that this was one of them. It seems -though- that the “Tulse Luper Suitcases” is a trilogy and quite recent too. However Greenaway is one of my favorite directors and this is again a typical Greenaway film, I didn’t like this film too much. The film contains the Greenaway picture-in-picture style, long scenes, taboos and nudity, but usually the man sets an atmosphere, mostly by use of repetative classical music, that I miss in this film. The ‘story’ (there never seems to be a real story in Greenaway’s films) is about a young man (Tulse Luper) who is frequently imprisoned. So often even that his life goes to play around it and he sees imprisonment as art. Luper structures his life in (I believe) 18 suitcases and 92 items that define life. A lot of stress is put on the Mormons and their philosophies. In a way, this film is a biography of Greenaway. Luper supposedly made films that were made by Greenaway ‘for real’. Anyway, a typical Greenaway film, therefor already interesting, but in comparison to the man’s other films, not the best.

Prospero’s Books * Peter Greenaway * 1991

For a long time I thought that my all-time favorite film was not available on DVD, while all other Greenaway films are being released on DVD. While discussing something completely different, I noticed that the local library has “Kalverliefde” DVD sets which have winners of the Filmfestival Rotterdam since the beginning. One box contains short films, another five long films on three DVDs with… the 1991 winner “Propero’s Books”!! For those of you who don’t know the film, it is an impressive load of images, music, speech, symbolism and information. The film is based on “The Tempest” by Shakespeare, but only the text of the wizard Prospero seems to be from this play. For the rest this is Greenaway’s most bombastic film with long shots, picture in picture, elements going right through eachother, naked ballet-dancers, odd characters, weird colours and strange stages. Overwhelming, strange and hard to follow, but I totally adore this magnificent ‘art film’ which is unlike anything you ever saw. The “Kalverliefde” boxes are expensive, but I hope a DVD with only this film will be released some time too. For the time being, I am happy with the library copy.

The Belly Of An Architect * Peter Greenaway * 1987

For a Greenaway film, this one is very ‘normal’. The film has a story which is shown chronologically, there are no stretched scenes with repetative music, no picture-in-picture or strange montage, no explicit nudity or absurd sexual moral (only a wife cheating). Fortunatly it does have a Greenaway atmosphere, but not too much. I think this is a Greenaway for a larger audience.
Stourley Kracklite is an American architect whose lifework is an exibition about an obscure but influential French architect. The final stage of the work is the preparation of the actual exhibition in Rome, but this soon proves to be Kracklite’s end. His wife leaves him, he gets very sick and looses control over the exhibition.
“The belly of an architect” is a nice film which is completely covered by the title. Nice, but for Greenaway standards maybe too normal and average …?