Thursday, December 10, 2009
Peter Greenaway, the British director who was educated as a painter, first came to wide attention in 1982 with The Draughtsman’s Contract, a silky comedy about seventeenth-century aristocrats. Greenaway then promptly set out not to build on this success, undertaking one eccentric film project after another. It was almost as if he were determined not to grow cumulatively, as most of the best directors have done. Of the Greenaway works that I have seen, only two of them--quite unlike each other--stand out in memory. The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover was a modern comedy that revealed how sex can be achieved in restaurant restrooms. Prospero’s Books, a slanted view of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, put the future in debt to Greenaway by preserving John Gielgud’s exquisite reading of Prospero.
Now Greenaway turns to the Golden Age of Dutch painting. Rembrandt’s J’Accuse is a study of that painter’s most famous work, The Night Watch, and though it certainly is a study, it is also--or primarily--a fascinating film. Greenaway has a thesis, possibly stated previously in the mountain of publications about Rembrandt. The painting, familiar to millions, shows a group of civilian militiamen in Amsterdam rousing to an alarm. Greenaway’s film sets out to prove that the painting is really an exposé of a murder--of one officer by another. Twenty points, all visual, are made to support this thesis.
A rather long, but interesting article on the film at The New Republic
1.) YouTube notes
3.) Move over Da Vinci Code...Greenaway's got decryption too