The first of three parts, we follow Tulse Luper in three distinct episodes: as a child during the first World War, as an explorer in Mormon Utah, and as a writer in Belgium during the rise ... See full summary »
The first of three parts, we follow Tulse Luper in three distinct episodes: as a child during the first World War, as an explorer in Mormon Utah, and as a writer in Belgium during the rise of fascism. Packed with stylistic flourishes, it's a dense, comic study of 20th century history, revolving around the contents of one man's suitcases. Written by
I have three living filmmakers that I revere. Greenaway, of course, is one of them and the most obstreperous of the bunch. I like that he has real problems with making illustrated books and does something substantial out of that.
His fundamental notions of the world are built on overlapping conceptual frameworks, ordered frameworks. In this, he follows the Joycean tradition of "Finnegans Wake," which layered all sorts of frameworks from Kabbalistic, Vican, mythological, even geographic sources. It was all merged according to a dream logic since we had no other template in that day and used every lexical and literary device he could muster.
Where Joyce had to make do with dream-layering, our Peter gets to use already familiar web- referenced multimedia overlays. He surely knows how to use the software to extend the art of editing into new dimensions. Wow, just on that score.
And where Joyce used obtuse frameworks with the intent of his book being a life's reading, Greenaway uses obvious overlapping frameworks: numbers, his own life and the mythology from his prior films. Some categories, like the periodic table. Oddly, he hasn't been as thorough in this film as he has in some others: Vermeer's theories of light, animals, sexual stereotypes, the written word, various frameworks of introspection and reflection. Different slices on gender.
Anyway, the point is that where Joyce was esoteric, Greenaway strives to be obvious, though manylayered, even juvenile, in his frameworks. He wants these to be so simple and grand that he can stretch them to many web sites, films, CDs, games, and (I presume) books and installations. Someone can casually enter a part of the larger work and intuit the order of the thing.
Each fan of Greenaway will have to make her own decisions on what she likes in terms of the different balances he has struck. As for me, I want a tighter integration of framework and image than he has here. This is why I value his "book" films the highest.
What does this add to what we have? Sadly, not much, except an attempt to integrate himself and some of the political sweeps of the ordinary world, which he tags to nuclear control. I've often thought that the artists themselves are dumber than the art they produce and the greater distance we have from their personalities, the better.
If you have talked to Greenaway, you'll see this in a flash. He has some good headlines, having to do with the bankruptcy of narrative in film. But beyond that, his films (some of them) soar, while his own spoken narrative crawls.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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