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 exposĂ© 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

Related Links:

1.) YouTube notes
2.) Wiki
3.) Move over Da Vinci Code...Greenaway's got decryption too


DILLIGAF said...

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

Me and Caz were once 'house sitting' in The New Forest and I got this out on video one night.

"It's pornographic!" said Caz

"It's acting" I replied.

Mind you Hellen Mirren was very sexy - still is.

Michael Gambon was supurb. He played the part of the obnoxious crook so well you really ended up despising him - and his come uppance!!! Classic!!!!

Candy Minx said...

Yeah, that was one of the craziest movies I've ever least at he time. I was like wtf? But I liked it. I mean, you are funny I love's dirty so it's "acting". Mirren was so awesome and gorgeous and sexy in it. I didn't think I would be like the movie "The Queen" but she really made it compelling. I love all she does...magic!

S.M. Elliott said...

I've very much wanted to see this one. I'm not a gigantic Greenaway fan, but I LOVE "The Falls" and "Drowning by Numbers".

Candy Minx said...

SME, I thought I had seen all of Greenaway's movies, but I haven't seen "The Falls". I guess I am a sort of Greenaway fan...although I hadn't thought about him in ages until I read thiis article. I love "Drwoning By Numbers" too! And a "A Zed and Two Naughts". It's not so much a fan as I felt here was someone who was really experimenting and trying to make films that were different and thoughtful. Sometimes, the movies as a whole didn't gel or stay with me...but I was always curious to see them. I think that is a great quality in a storyteller to arouse that curiousity in an audience.

I love "The Cook, His Wife and her Lover" too. At the time, the visuals of moving through the restaurant, the kitchen, the decor were stunning. There was something about a sense of being a voyeur to the kitchen/cook mise en scene that was so exciting. In fact...I think it tapped into and foreshadowed our mass fascination with cooks and cooking shows!

Underground Baker said...

I just saw most of this movie the other night on tv...had no idea it was a Greenway, although I should have known because as I watched it I was so mesmerized by it visually.

I am keen on his movies, even if I don't know what the hell he is going on about.

Which movie has the character Buick, who gets hit by a buick....and loses her legs - is that a Greenaway film too?

Its funny, but I see a certain kink of a link between Cronenburg and Greenway. (ha, ha, I just read that last sentence...I didn't intend to write kink but it kind of works! I think I was trying to write "kind").

Oooo, there is a movie weekend - a cronenburg greenaway combination. Might be a bit too much.

Anita said...

All I can say is Awesome!!! And you know I loath The cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover. But The Night Watch is one of my all time favourite paintings!!! Awesome! And I love a good mystery to boot!

S.M. Elliott said...

I like Zed too. I hadn't thought of the Greenaway-reality chef connection before, but you could have something there! I'm sure Cook made people wonder just what the hell was going on in the kitchens of fine restaurants...

* (asterisk) said...

I wish I knew Greenaway better, but I think the "Beatles or Stones" argument becomes "Greenaway or Jarman" here, and I've always been in the Jarman group.