I am waiting for you.
Meet me in the library–
–Jerome to Nagiko
Peter Greenaway was born in 1942 in Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales. He trained as a muralist before directing his first short film Death of Sentiment. He worked as a film editor for many years until he returned to directing. In 1980 he made his first full length movie The Falls, a collage of many images related to flying surrounding a British tragedy. Not much later came the movies he is better known for: The Draftsman's Contract, A Zed and Two Noughts, The Belly of an Architect, The Cook, The Thief, his Wife and Her Lover, Prospero's Books, The Pillow Book and one or two others amongst TV collaborations and art shows. Today he is devoted to audio visual art that for the most part involves a review of classical paintings and their makers. His last work revolves around Da Vinci's Last Supper which was staged at the repository in Milan
Greenaway is an artist that paints with film, his work is structured in the most classical esthetically provoking way and the story around it, thought well planned, often falls useless, bending around the stunning art design.
In that matter we are provided with a visual encyclopedia of human endeavor that is footnoted with our most primal pathos and passions. To see a Peter Greenaway movie is to be sucked into the dark side of things that are traditionally represented in a clean and banal way in the art world in an attempt to paint us as superior beings, devoid of defects or in such case, well in control of them. It's like having a chance to sit at a table where Caravaggio, the brilliant murderous artist and his most wretched friends are having dinner; you are both struck at the brilliance of the moment and the fear of finding yourself in harm's way.
A few commentaries and description on a selection of his films by yours truly:
The Draftsman's Contract gives us a glance into the era of Louis XIV, where a rich widow hires a draftsman to make a portrait of her property, though he tries very hard to encompass every detail when he is not distracted seducing the woman, the house seems to change itself, rendering his attempts at exactitude, useless.
In A Zet and Two Noughts, twin zoologists force three women into becoming the object of their obsessions, forcing them into a love triangle and later documenting their decay. At the event of losing their subjects, they themselves are forced to become the object of their obsession.
The Belly of an Architect, one of my personal favorites. American architect Stourley Kracklite is in Rome to mount a show for the estranged French architect Boullée (infamous for inadvertently inspiring the Nazi architects of the third Reich) his idol. The immensity and history of Rome slowly begins to crush Kracklite's perception of true architecture, being that he was obsessed with Boullée, a much more westernized architect. Eventually even a classic Roman tale brings distress and tragedy to Kracklite's life.
The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover. To me his most brilliantly designed movie with many of its sets inspired in Flemish Baroque paintings. Albert Spica is a thug who has taken over a famous restaurant, with his violent behavior not only has he confronted himself with his staff but also lost all his costumers, a thing he doesn't seem to care about. His wife, Georgina (brilliantly played by Hellen Mirren) has lost all interest in him and instead has focused on a nerdy costumer who is a quiet book keeper. Eventually she seduces him, spawning a full confrontation with Spica, who mercilessly forces the book keeper to choke on his own book pages. Ending in a dramatic and somewhat hard to digest final scene, the liberation from tyranny and cold blooded revenge is attained.
The Pillow Book. A young woman develops a fetish out of the love for his calligrapher father. No man may love her unless he is a good calligrapher, so she lends her body as a book to test their skills. Both beautiful and smart, Nagiko seeks out strange lovers in search for the perfect man. Divided in several books referencing a story about Shei Sonagon, a Japanese consort who kept a log of things and thoughts about her life around the year 1000, perhaps the first blogger in history. The story of Nagiko flows towards several tales of passion and tragedy when she discovers that a tyrant book editor who tormented her father is still around.
Today Greenaway continues his visual art endeavor, already having been invited to mount a visual installation in the Sistine Chapel focused on Michelangelo's Last Judgment.