A perfect example for Greenaway's obsession with numbers, alphabetical orders, Renaissance and (early) Baroque painting - in this case especially Vermeer, but you can also find many references to Brueghel (e.g. in the composition of the flower bouquets) as well as visual reflexions on still lifes, birth, death and decay (the vanitas motif). And the film is the second of six cooperations with composer Michael Nyman.
So, what does one get for the film that has everything? A special cinematography award for ravishing natures mortes? A written apology from Cronenberg for ripping it off (and dumbing it down)? A monument in the city of Rijn? How about the pledge to show it as one of my four picks if I am ever chosen as TCM guest programmer...? Come on, Ted, what do you say? For Vermeer's sake if no one else's?
I would say that this is Greenaway's masterpiece. If you want to know who elevated Vermeer into the top tier of artists, look no further. This film has a lot of different levels, which makes it something you can watch again. There's a plot against the black and white animals in the zoo, and someone is trying to create fake Vermeers. When I saw it, it was the most beautiful motion picture I had ever seen.
It is interesting how far out of popular cinephilic esteem Mr. Greenaway has fallen over the past few decades. Once highly revered, now a figure of scorn. It would seem the diminishing quality of his work speaks to this. Were we all wrong in the 90s? As a teenager during that time, Greenaway was unspeakably huge to me, and Zoo was my favorite Greenaway. Does it stand up? Unquestionably. Though I see it w/ new eyes.
Systems of ordering and classification; symmetry, inversions and opposites; composition and decomposition... In the end, in the big picture, does any of it really mean anything? Well, maybe not, but it sure is fun!
Exceptional film from Greenaway with all artisans involved firing on full cylinders. The indelible set design and art direction, the exquisite cinematography of Sacha Vierny, the rich score by Nyman, the well cast group of thespians and the rich, meticulous direction by Greenaway make this film essential viewing. A pleasure to rewatch this evening bringing back memories of discovering his films as they were released.
Visually striking, if rather too ascetic thematic exploration of death and decay. As so often with this director everything is suspended in aspic and shut-off inside glass cases, making the film resemble a Victorian Botanist sticking pins through his exhibits, labelling and classifying them and then displaying at arm's length. No heart, but a great eye.
Greenaway's movies are like the cliched and oft-parodied conception of an "art film." Bloated with self-importance and pretentiousness, and unbearably bogged down in its own arrogance. Greenaway has no respect for the people who actually watch his movies, and has even admitted so. There is nothing challenging or intellectual about this piece of (albiet pretty to look at) garbage. Watch a Resnais film instead.