A perfect ensemble 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.
Painterly mise-en-scene and breathtaking meditations on decay save this from being a bit of a dud. Greenaway's exuberant, slightly pedantic use of as many symbols and concepts as he can lay hands on, in addition to some disappointing misogyny, makes the middle of this film somewhat tedious and bloated. Fortunately, he manages a neat conclusion that does actually deliver some of the conceptual payoff he promises
Superb! Covers all of the bases! Yes, it's a blunt & ironic jab in the eye at social/cultural structure & this fast tarnishing gilded cage - a farce of a commercially driven slave democracy. Yet says so much more! 14billion yrs ago strange & unfamiliar elements began an arduous sequence of converting events that facilitated our presence on earth today. We'll never exist in this time, mind or body ever again......
3.5 I can't help but think it's dated a little poorly and veers dangerously (echoing the opening car crash) from wonderful to almost cringeworthy in places. For me the theatricality, that is a Greenaway signature, works against rather than for it but then there are some wonderful shots. Its playing with ideas can be fun but then sometimes it all feels so forced. So, yes, I have mixed feelings about this one.
"Freaks and rarities" - this film is quite challenging, it's a bit gross but then I feel guilty for thinking that because it is very human in its weirdness, we are all weird and fragile "how much of your body can you lose and still recognise yourself?". The music is a perfect fit for the comedy of it. It seamlessly weaves themes "What do prawns and apples have in common" and I like that. Mortality in the face.
✺ true maniac and genius Peter Greenaway ✺ Michael Nyman does a great score in this ✺ in terms of freaky-deaky, experimental, snails everywhere, weirdo sex movies, this is my favourite ✺ if you’re into gross time-lapse photography (à la that fox decompossing) this movie is FULL of it ✺ Greenaway masters an aesthetic that i call “classical freaky formalism” – it started with this movie and cinematographer Sacha Vierny
Greenaway's tribute to Vermeer spirals into a territory of endless visual rewards that I'm not going to try to explain. The symmetry of this film– its themes, its composition– massages the brain. Don't hesitate or get too frustrated, just let it do its work.