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The Draughtsman's Contract
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The Draughtsman's Contract More at IMDbPro »

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Frustrating yet delightful

Author: paul2001sw-1 ( from Saffron Walden, UK
24 September 2011

Peter Greenaway's films have characteristic features: beautiful aesthetics, Michael Nyman scores, grotesquely humorous plots. His first film shows his gifts came fully formed: 'The Draughstman's Contract' is a bizarre costume drama that displays all of his talent, while, at the same time, being arguably about nothing. Greenaway's films really are pure cinema: his interest in what he can do with the form exceeds any external message, and there's no attempt to hide the the sense of artistic experiment. They're an acquired taste, but in an age of identikit blockbusters, his strange combination of imagery, originality and plain silliness weaves a magic all of its own.

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2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Lush and lovely, but ultimately a cheat

Author: willie-14 from Houston
10 June 1999

When first I saw this film, I felt that I had missed a detail by the end of the story. I rented it again a few years later and had the same feeling. By chance I met the costume designer a while back. She informed me that Greenaway edited out a pivotal scene towards the end of the movie, which filled in the gap in the plot.

Aside from this egregious edit, this is a lush and sumptuous film, one of Greenaway's best. A puzzle with a few pieces missing, but quite a lovely picture when (almost) completed.

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3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Rich and rewarding

Author: Jeff Orgill from United States
12 January 2007

A very funny film with lots of great dialog. Some good examples of the dialog are listed in the quotable lines section of IMDb. Greenaway makes very intricate films. You can re-watch them and keep learning more each time. This one does not use the grotesque imagery which he used in films like THE COOK and ZOO. But it is still lushly composed visually, if more subtly. A word that comes to mind with Greenaway films is saturation - not of color, but of ideas. His background is in the arts and his films tend to be more like paintings layered with many ideas rather than the more literal representational photographic style used in most mainstream/classical/Hollywood film-making. Greenaway has a kindred spirit in Joel-Peter Witkin who also soaks each of his still frames in multiple outside references.

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6 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Michael Nyman's Music

Author: dzap76 from California
19 April 2004

Before I start rambling on about Nyman's music, let me just say that I really enjoyed this movie. The cinematography is excellent, and the pacing of the dialogue is wonderful. Greenaway seems to shoot his scenes around Nyman's music...which of course can't be true (can it?) as the music is usually the last thing to be added to a film. The movie is a bit odd at times, but I always find it enjoyable to watch. These comments below [which I posted on the message board for this film] are from a paper I wrote on Nyman's music.

The music for this film is performed by an early version of The Michael Nyman Band, the instrumentation of which features all of the saxophones, clarinet, and bass clarinet, played by four different musicians, two violins, a bass trombone/euphonium, a bass guitar and a double bass, and Nyman on harpsichord and piano. At this point in his compositional career, the influence of pop music on Nyman's music can be felt in his use of repetitive and simple melodies and chord progressions, persistent beats, and loud dynamics. He varies melodic fragments over his bass lines through the use of `extension, syncopation, suspension, and superimposition.' These bass lines are prominently featured through the use of, together or in different combinations, bass trombone/euphonium, baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, cello, piano, and bass guitar. In between the two extreme octave doublings is usually some kind of motoric rhythm or sustained sounds. The harmonic stability created by recognizable chords and chord progressions, outlined by a prominent bass line underneath driving, repetitive melodic units played by familiar, though fresh-sounding, instrumentation, suggests `an energy and exuberance more associated with pop and rock music.' His style of employing minimalist techniques of `layering, stratifying, reordering, and transform his material' seems to be well suited for film and popular styles of music making.

For this film, he creates six short pieces based on different ground basses or chaconnes, borrowed from the English Baroque composer Henry Purcell, that correspond to the first six of the twelve architectural drawings made by the draughtsman, who imposes `temporal and organizational restraints' on his employers. The melodic fragments over these bass lines, which are manipulated in the manner described in the previous paragraph, are played in a loud dynamic during the foreground for each scene, and the music is continued as underscore under the dialogue, which adds a heightened sense of emotion, whether dramatic or comedic, to each scene. From piece to piece, the tempo, intensity of rhythm and articulation, tonality, texture, meter, and instrumentation are constantly being changed, which creates a sense of restlessness and forward momentum. These short pieces are brought back as a way to identify the location of each scene and the context of the desired mood. Nyman simply uses variations of the first piece as a montage to accompany the next six drawings. He creates, through superimposing various fragments and bass lines, a new melody for the second half of the film that heightens the dramatic mood as the intrigue in the conspiracy develops and the climax of the film is reached. The Draughtsman's Contract represents a youthful exuberance to try out new ideas that explores the new elements of minimalist style within the static harmonic framework of Baroque ground basses. The instrumentation of the Michael Nyman Band is striking in the combination of this `Baroque minimalist' style of music with modern instruments such as the saxophone and bass guitar.

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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

loved the authenticity

Author: ayn5242 from pennsylvania
25 May 2003

The movie is lush and sophisticated and does a good job of capturing the sophistication and bawdiness of the times. Social mores have changed since the onset of indoor plumbing but class exploitation certainly hasn't. Wonderfully done.

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1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

a draughtsman is bound to honour a contract that is most unusual

Author: marcellny from Mexico
7 June 2006

Peter Greenaway's masterpiece is simply one of the best films I have ever seen. Every shot is of superb beauty and the joy of English is sublime. Every phrase spoken beautifully and inspiredly, leading me to believe every English person in the late 1600's was of absurdly impressive wit. Michael Nyman's score has stayed with me for 24 years and will always remember the insouciant pseudo baroque echoes making one feel as if the music is of repetitive grandeur and of the greatest intimacy.

Every performance captivating, it is a movie that I wish I could again see in the big screen. The beauty of colour is simply too great.

I insist, a film that anyone who loves art should see.


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0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A Feast

Author: linda-stark from United Kingdom
2 March 2006

I have just watched this on DVD for the fourth or fifth time and it's still one of my most favourite films. Greenaway is visually incredibly satisfying, his films are entire of themselves. You always come away with images fixed in your head. And you gain something each time you watch that you didn't notice before. Check out references to artists such as Vermeer, the fact that all the clothes are in black and white - and they switch in the last scene; a visual feast, set in beautiful countryside. So many layers, so beautifully done. And you become absorbed by the feeling of the film, it stays with you. A film you have to think about, now there's a thing!

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0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Meaningful and grabbing. Striking score...

Author: KGB-Greece-Patras
19 October 2004

I watched this on DVD at a little projection in Athens. There is currently no Greek subtitles version of this and the DVD we watched had no English ones as well! So, I really couldn't get ALL of these, complex at times, dialogs.

I liked the premise, the cinematography, the crazy statue and of course the beautiful music, which wouldn't ever stand alone for my strange musical tastes, but as a soundtrack, particularly for this film's static visuals, it is perfect!

I need to watch this more & more, as others suggested. I have a tendency to love Peter Greenaway, even if I have only seen this plus 2 others (Cook... & Belly of an architect).

So if you wanna see some extraordinary cinema, Greenaway cinema is one of the best potential choices!!

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0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

always a hidden element

Author: aliworth ( from Canada
15 September 2001

This is one film that if watched again and again there is always a subtle point that wasn't noticed before. These subtle points have the ability to change one's perspective on the entire film. For this reason alone I love the film. Laughing at one's own knots is not an easy thing to do....highlighting one's neurosis WITH HUMOUR is a gift that we can learn how to stay buoyant from....thanks Mr. Allen for giving me the ability to laugh in order to overcome the hardships.

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1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Well... is good.

Author: Raul Fuentes
16 March 1999

The Draughtsman's Contract is a very good movie, and has beautiful shots and cool characters, but is a bit slow.

Don't misunderstand me, this one is like all the Greenaway movies: so good to miss it. This is a great film with excellent moments, but I don't think the end is the best...

Anyway, this one rocks.

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