REVIEW: Prospero’s Books [1991]

“And yet I needs must curse” I have a hard enough time with William Shakespeare when the characters onscreen are speaking his words with relevant visual cues to cut through the iambic pentameter and present the stories for my eyes. Don’t ask me to comprehend anything while reading his plays because my mind is constantly at a loss as to what the words mean. Laugh if you will or empathize with my similar plight to your own, but that’s my struggle with the Bard despite loving most of his works…

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REVIEW: The Pillow Book [1996]

“Itch to read. Scratch to understand.” There aren’t many auteurs quite as inventively unique as Peter Greenaway and his “inspired by” adaptation of Sei Shonagon‘s The Pillow Book is a perfect example of why. Sexual explicitness and ink on flesh fetish aside, the sheer formal construction of the film puts it on a level all its own. Greenaway goes from black and white pasts to vibrantly colored presents, but as a demarcation of his lead character Nagiko’s (Vivian Wu) personal and emotional timeline rather than a generic linear one. He…

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REVIEW: A Walk Through H: The Reincarnation of an Ornithologist [1978]

“This drawing was probably the one I’d need first” What is “H”? It doesn’t stand for heron or owl keeper Van Hoyten. No, “H” is a place only decipherable when approaching its end—a journey spanning 1,418 miles traveled by following 92 distinct drawings that double as maps until such time comes when they fade into oblivion. More precisely they fade into a crossroads signpost or windmill silhouette, identical iconography left behind as a marker denoting we’ve finished one more step towards finding our destination. Whether or not that end point…

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REVIEW: Dear Phone [1976]

“Hirous claimed he could make ten calls for the price of a beer” During his avant-garde experimental phase—as if you wouldn’t call the two feature films I’ve seen from later on in his career avant-garde or experimental—Peter Greenaway took it upon himself to play a high-brow telephone game with his short film Dear Phone, an elegy to the since forgotten British red telephone box. The entire piece consists of static-framed shots of different booths across England along with random aural examples of the myriad rings cut between pages of text…

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REVIEW: The Draughtsman’s Contract [1983]

“Four garments and a ladder do not lead us to a corpse” It’s said Peter Greenaway‘s original cut of The Draughtman’s Contract came in at three hours before almost half the runtime was excised to deliver its theatrical form. I’m quite happy by this result because the lack of answers for its shadowy mysteries befits it. That’s not to say we cannot presume to know what’s occurred considering where each character ends up by its close, but to think the director actually gave answers is to imagine the fun ruined.…

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REVIEW: The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover [1989]

“The naughty bits and the dirty bits are so close together” The above quote pretty much sums up Peter Greenaway‘s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover. High society and criminal filth: seemingly disparate sectors of civilization that wouldn’t truly wish to consort together yet constantly overlap through history to almost merge into one. The surface context of the words concerns a conversation about the close proximity between genitals and anuses during dinner as only the boorishly crude gangster Albert Spita (Michael Gambon) could describe, but it also…

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