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Raymond J. Barry,
Art-house Cinema at its lewdest best - or Biblical porn masquerading as art?
Goltzius and his pelican company are a band, or troop, of entertainers who want to set up a printing press to produce enlightening pictures of 'art', the sort of art that gets pulses racing. Well they happen upon the kingdom of The Margrave of Alsace. Where Goltzius sets out to seduce him into funding his entrepreneurial activities and make some cash into the bargain.
In order to do this he is required to put on several plays of a 'Biblical' nature for the titillation of their imminent (hopefully) financier. The plays all examine the latent sexuality of the stories, and in doing so challenge the hypocrisy of the sixteenth century religious establishment. The plays lead to public debate that starts out as free speech and soon descends into anything but. In the meantime the on stage sexual displays get hotter and lewder to a point where the 'legitimate voyeurism' of the audience is replaced with something more akin to mob rule or directorial influence. As the analysis falls away it is replaced by accusation and retribution and the audience become the players in what is ever closer to recreation of sins of the past and nothing to do with public debate and discourse.
Now this is a film from Peter Greenaway ('The Cook, the thief, his wife and her lover') who is known for making controversial stuff. This has full frontal nudity throughout with on screen copulation aplenty. The story is mostly developed with a running narrative from Goltzius to camera. There is , at the beginning, a lot of comparisons to art history and portrayals of the characters from the Bible from Adam and Eve to Sodom and Gomorrah. Also most of the shots are overlaid with other scenes that add extra animation but can become distracting.
The camera angles are often split and even bent to give the idea that everything is in 'the round'. The idea of moving in circles is a constant feature with even a circular stage - even the chamber music players rotate.
So is it any good? Well it is so art-house that to not like it marks one as being in bed with the Philistines. But this is two hours of often alienating camera devices and 'art' nudity, which will not be to everyone's taste and the language is fairly 'earthy' too. It was amusing in places, challenging in others and almost self indulgent in places too. It was far from ordinary and, as far as alternative cinematic experiences go, it was one to be remembered. If you like your cinema a bit cutting edge and not afraid to challenge a few taboos I think you will be a fan, if your tastes are more 'vanilla' then might want to give it a miss - either way it is a film I am glad to have experienced.
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