Peter Greenaway

Peter Greenaway

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British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA)

Peter Greenaway - British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA) 2014 held at the Royal Opera House - Winners Room - London, United Kingdom - Sunday 16th February 2014

Juliet Stephenson and Peter Greenaway

Dame Helen Mirren Strives To Keep Learning From Fellow Actors

Helen Mirren Peter Greenaway

Dame Helen Mirren is basically royalty now, or at least as close as possible. Having played two queens in her career, the 68-year-old actress will be awarded a fellowship from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts from none other than Prince William at the BAFTA Awards on Feb. 16. That must mean she’s done something right, Mirren reckons.

Helen Mirren, The DGA Awards
Despite her long and storied career, Helen Mirren continues to get starstruck by her favorite actors.

"I think it feels pretty amazing, actually, because I don't think he'd do it if the royal family felt I had messed up," Mirren, who played Elizabeth II in a 2006 film by Stephen Frears, told The Hollywood Reporter. "So I hope it's a sign they don't think I messed up. But I don't know, and I will never know for sure."

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Nightwatching Review

As visually fascinating as anything Greenaway has done, this film's narrative is so convoluted that it's virtually impossible to follow unless you know the life story of Rembrandt. And even then it's a challenge.

When he's commissioned to paint a local militia group in 1642 Amsterdam, Rembrandt (Freeman) has premonitions of trouble, but goes ahead and creates a fiercely untraditional painting that reveals rather too many secrets about the musketeers depicted in it. While painting it, his sparky wife (Birthistle) gives birth to his son, but becomes seriously ill in the process, eventually causing him to turn to the family nurses (Holmes and May) for company. And when complete, the portrait, The Night Watch, has drastic repercussions on his career.

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The Falls Review

Calling The Falls a mockumentary is like calling Roots "a TV show." Yeah, it's accurate, but that doesn't really get to the truth.

Wrapping up Peter Greenaway's earliest years as a filmmaker, The Falls is a three hour indie epic, a film about nothing and everything all at once. It's maddeningly infuriating: Concentrate on its stories for more than a few minutes and your brain turns into a pretzel. Look away, though, and you feel you're missing something.

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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.

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8 1/2 Women Review

Peter Greenaway's latest foray into highbrow elitism will test the endurance of even his most fervent admirers. 8 1/2 Women indulges his fascination with the human body by allowing a father and son to fulfil their sexual fantasies by setting up a brothel comprised of the title characters, and systematically ogling each of the voluptuous and unusual female forms they encounter.

The compulsive listmaking and mathematical precision of Greenaway's earlier films is present and intact, but the center of 8 1/2 Women is ultimately hollow and painfully obvious. His very concept reduces women to childish fantasies such as the sexually repressed nun (Toni Collette), the pregnant woman (Natacha Amal), the nubile bombshell (Polly Walker), the prudish accountant who wears thick glasses (Vivian Wu, from The Pillow Book) and the woman who adores her pet horse and pig (Amanda Plummer). The "half-woman" has no legs, of course.

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The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover Review

Helen Mirren's had enough of boorish husband/restaurateur Michael Gambon in this creepy and foul yet eminently watchable melodrama -- in fact, it remains Peter Greenaway's one and only great film. To be honest, it's his only good film at all, a shock considering its no more grotesque than some of his other work. The film's simple story has Mirren having an affair with a regular (Alan Howard) at hubby's restaurant -- at least until he catches wind of it (which is inevitable, since they never leave the restaurant to do the deed). I won't spoil what happens after that point, but the getting there (in which Greenaway concocts a color- and symbolism-feuled fantasy where costumes change as actors walk between rooms) is just as much fun.

Prospero's Books Review

Peter Greenaway is possibly best known for this inexplicable film, a fanciful, musical, nearly-all-nude recreation of Shakespeare's The Tempest. You have to wonder if the austere John Gielgud, who has played Prospero in the theater five times, knows if topless women are voguing behind him as he delivers his lines. Or that a child is projectile urinating in the background. The paycheck couldn't have been that great.

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A Zed & Two Noughts Review

Peter Greenaway, with A Zed & Two Noughts, gives us what is undoubtedly the ultimate film with time-lapse shots of decomposing animals. Seeing them swell up with maggots and then explode, well, it's enough to make you want to go out for ice cream.

Lest you think I'm joking, consider Greenaway's body of work, which has included plenty of equally perverse nonsense. This time out he's giving us a story -- if you can call it that -- of a doctor whose wife dies in a freak car crash in front of the zoo (think about the title) where his twin brother is researching the aforementioned decaying of dead things. The distraught brothers end up in a love affair with a woman named Alba, who lost one leg in the car accident and later decides to lop off the other one for kicks.

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Peter Greenaway

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