The Belly of an Architect

"Terrible"

The Belly of an Architect Review


Architect Stourley Kracklite (Brian Dennehy) arrives in Rome, where an exhibition of the works of the 18th-century architect Etienne-Louis Boullée is being mounted under Kracklite's supervision. The city - or something - doesn't sit with him; upon arrival, he begins complaining of stomach pains. Cancer? Kracklite is sure of it. Or not: It could be that his wife Louisa (Chloe Webb), with whom he is traveling (and who is pregnant with his child), is poisoning him, a revenge for his self-absorption. She may be further motivated in this by the affair she has taken up with Caspasian Speckler (Lambert Wilson), another architect involved with the exhibition. Which brings us back to the exhibition: Boullée's architectural metaphor of choice was the oval, a detail that finds an echo in Louisa's pregnancy and Kracklite's gut; and, in fact, Kracklite soon discovers that Boullée's life in many ways parallels his own. There's the fact too of a Roman statue of Augustus to which Kracklite takes a shine, and the pertinent detail being that Augustus was himself poisoned by his wife Livia. Our hero, among other eccentric behaviors, begins xeroxing photos of the statue's stomach...

So it is that Peter Greenaway's The Belly of an Architect is crammed to bursting with symbolism, analogy, and allusion, all loosed within a circular plot wherein the film opens with the architect and his wife conceiving a child and closes with the opening of Boullée's exhibition, Kracklite's real "baby." But for many viewers, I believe, the most telling parallel is that between Kracklite, with his perpetual stomach upset, and director Greenaway: Both are pretentious gasbags. Another quick connection is that between the "belly" of the title and "taste." The secret subtext of all of Greenaway's work is that his taste is good, or at least arcane in a high-minded way (and despite a predilection for bodily functions that is present in most of his films, which in less tony productions would rightly be termed sophomoric). The viewer is invited to share in this, but it's made clear that those who don't (or who can't follow his esoteric web of allusion) are either pigs (as was the villain in Greenaway's major success, 1989's The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover), philistines, or merely dim.

Greenaway has an eye for composition, and in The Belly of an Architect many formal arrangements stand out for their beauty. Dennehy, always engaging, is slyly illegible in the central role, a stroke of luck maybe for the director, who has shown himself to be disinclined to bother much with actors. But the relentless condescension and self-congratulation with which Greenaway conducts this very private amusement is grotesque. He fosters the worst imaginable relationship with his audience: showing off while condemning those not enlightened enough to cherish his preening. In Kracklite, Greenaway has created a self-obsessed, boorish non-hero on whom to hang his obscurantist ramblings, and his indifference to his audience is so great that he expects us to relish it. Who's the asshole here?



The Belly of an Architect

Facts and Figures

Run time: 118 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 23rd September 1987

Production compaines: Sacis, Callender Company, Mondial, Tangram Film, Film Four International, British Screen, Hemdale Group

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 1 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Fresh: 10 Rotten: 1

IMDB: 7.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Stourley Kracklite, as Louisa Kracklite, as Caspasian Speckler, as Io Speckler, as Flavia Speckler

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Colossal Movie Review

Colossal Movie Review

It's rare to find a movie that so defiantly refuses to be put into a...

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

It's unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This...

Snatched Movie Review

Snatched Movie Review

It doesn't really matter that the script for this lively action-comedy is paper thin: teaming...

Jawbone Movie Review

Jawbone Movie Review

Boxing movies aren't usually this thoughtful. Sure, there are plenty of punchy moments in the...

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) remakes the 1949 Ealing comedy classic, although it's difficult...

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Master filmmaker Ridley Scott is back to continue the story 10 years after the events...

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

A fictionalised account of real events, this drama is reminiscent of Peter Morgan's work in...

Advertisement
Sleepless Movie Review

Sleepless Movie Review

In remaking the 2011 French thriller Sleepless Night, the filmmakers have dumbed down both the...

Unlocked Movie Review

Unlocked Movie Review

By injecting a steady sense of fun, this slick but mindless action thriller both holds...

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama...

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It was never going to be easy to match the impact of 2014's Guardians of...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.