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Right then: Confusing shots involving projecting writing onto the actors and sets, making the action hard to discern? Check. Copious nudity, including from bodies you'd rather remained covered up? Check. A suspicion that the creator aims primarily to shock? Double - no, triple - check. That's right, 'Goltzius and the Pelican Company' is another film from Peter Greenaway.
This is actually more accessible than many Greenaway films in that the plot line is fairly easy to follow, presented as it is in a good, linear fashion: it's the Sixteenth Century, and Dutch engraver Goltzius tries to encourage Alsace's Margrave (a sort of hereditary military commander in the Holy Roman Empire) to invest in his printing press by staging a series of plays. Convinced that any new technology is inevitably used for lechery (good point - I've often wondered how long after the invention of the Internet the first pornographic website appeared), Goltzius uses his theatrical company to enact stories from the Old Testament (Adam and Eve, Lot and his daughters, David and Bathsheba, etc). But it isn't long before the actors' own ambitions and desires overshadow the biblical stories...
There's lots of gimmicks here that don't make sense: for instance, the Margrave's former wet-nurse (who, as the Margrave is played by F Murray Abraham - dob: 1939 - must herself be pushing ninety at the very least) apparently being heavily pregnant in some scenes, but not in others. But you're wasting your time getting worked up about such things where Greenaway is concerned - you have to take him as you find him. As is to be expected from one of his productions, the costumes are sumptuous, the staging curious and the acting at times over-blown. There are some telling (to this non-religious reviewer) pokes at organised religion, as various men of the cloth debate the meanings and content of Goltzius' plays. There's also a sly streak of humour running through it which is welcome, as is at least some of the nudity - but not all of it: next time, F Murray, please keep your backside in your trousers, there's a good chap...
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