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movies / September 18, 2010
By Eileen Jones


After a summer like the one we’ve just had, you’d be justified in asking, once again, “Why are movies such a pile of crap lately?”

According to Peter Greenaway, British filmmaker, it’s because, as he puts it, “Cinema is dead.” It’s been dead for ages, apparently, so the pile of crap we keep encountering is the decomposing body of cinema. Or something.

If you’re an established filmmaker, you can dine out for years on a line like “Cinema is dead.” For some reason it makes artistically inclined people give you money to fund your cinematic projects. That’s what you call “irony.”

The other day I attended a “master class” presided over by Greenaway, that arthouse scourge who flourished in the 1980s directing films like The Draughtman’s Contract, The Belly of an Architect, Drowning by Numbers, A Zed and Two Naughts, and The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover. Why would I do such an insane thing, you might ask? Hell if I know. I can’t stand Greenaway films, can’t even stand to hear descriptions of Greenaway films. The titles alone are chilling, and even a single image from a Greenaway film can make me back away swiftly and slide out the side door.


Which is what I did after an hour of the “master class.” How I made it through the hour I don’t know: I must have a stronger constitution than I thought.

In case you’ve never been to one, a “master class” seems to be a session in a smallish room during which a “master” instructs assorted acolytes on his supreme artistry. Sort of like Yo-yo Ma On the Cello: The Secret to Better Bowing.

Before it got going, Greenaway was up front, fussing with his laptop. The sound wasn’t loud enough, and anxious women in charge of making events run smoothly were scurrying around trying to find the correct cables. But the images were projecting to Greenaway’s satisfaction, and in fact there was one up on screen already. It was a rendering of a transparent suitcase full of water, and as the suitcase turned, the water sloshed around inside. The explanatory onscreen note was “Suitcase Number 38: Water.”

I can bear this, I thought, and gritted my teeth. But I was sorely tested. That suitcase spun around sloshing for at least twenty minutes before we got a look at any other suitcases containing unlikely things.

There were some professor types there, but mainly grad students looking solemn. Greenaway was introduced in glowing terms; “transformative figure” was one of them, I recall. Greenaway’s a big strutting man in a pinstripe suit who’s clearly used to an atmosphere of reverence and spews nonsense fearlessly.


He led off with a plummy diatribe against narrative cinema, which has long dominated the film form:

“Cinema is a very poor narrative medium,” said Greenaway. “I think cinema knows that, and that is why it keeps returning to the bookshelf.”

For those of you who don’t speak fluent nonsense, he meant that storytelling is a literary form and filmmakers shouldn’t be poaching from it. Why not, you might ask? Why shouldn’t film incorporate techniques from literature and theater and music and dance and every other art and medium in the world just like it’s been doing ever since it was invented?

He didn’t say. “Cinema knows” what it’s done wrong, and that’s enough!

Fricking suitcase was still spinning around sloshing.

Greenaway said, “I was trained as a painter, which is primarily a non-narrative form. Why can we not have a non-narrative cinema?”

Somebody bright might’ve asked why it’s better for film to imitate painting than literature—or as Greenaway would say, “LIT-trot-choor!” But he wasn’t looking for the free exchange of ideas. He only asked questions he immediately answered himself without pausing for breath.

He went on to brag for awhile about how, in his films, he always attempted to mess with the narrative form by structuring them according to other logical systems, “non-narrative games, tricks, and concepts to see if we can find another GLUE to hold cinematic elements together.” For example, The Draughtsman’s Contract is structured as a catalogue of drawings, he said; The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover is organized around a color scheme, and so on. In Cook/Thief, he also got tricky by taking what seemed to be an overarching thematic metaphor, cannibalism, and turning it suddenly literal—a character ACT-CHUALLY gets eaten in the end.

Very proud of that one, Greenaway was. He seemed to think nobody saw it coming, the flesh-eating finish.


Though Greenaway said he felt compelled to break film audiences of their stupid reliance on narrative, he understood that something else equally fascinating must be substituted in place of narrative.

After all, he wouldn’t want to create mere academic, ivory tower objects of study, he said: “I want to be MAINNNNNSTREAMMMMM.”

So his new, revived cinematic form is non-narrative, incorporating multiple screens, and functioning in “present tense”—that is, always changing, never the same show twice, relying on a “live element.”

Yes, Peter Greenaway had decided to become a VJ.

If you’ve ever been to a nightclub where they project a bunch of flashing, changing pictures on the walls as part of the overall stimuli, you know the kind of con he’s pulling on the art-media crowd.

Take the sloshing suitcase, for example; Greenaway finally got around to that. He cranked up the volume so we could hear the accompanying soundtrack, a mixture of classical music and tidal shooshing noises that, he claimed, creates a “mesmeric phenomenon.”

He admitted that we’d probably seen this sort of thing before, in perfume ads and the like, but he seemed to feel that if he added twenty more screens all playing different loops of his various perfume ad images, he’d really have something. That twenty-one-screen Greenaway show slayed ‘em in Stockholm! Or was it Warsaw?

So he showed us a bunch more of these things, to give us the idea. There were other numbered suitcases like “79: Holy Earth: Uranium” that looked a lot like the glowing “great Whatsit” box from the Cold War film noir Kiss Me Deadly, only without the screaming blonde.


Speaking of screaming blondes, there was a repeated clip of a woman’s head snapping sideways to a cracking noise: “That’s Franke Potente, an actress of some celebrity, having her face slapped continually, forever and ever,” gloated Greenaway.

“Aw,” said a saddened female grad student in the audience.

And so the long day wore on.

There were a few art-porn ones, too, just to startle people awake now and then. As anyone who’s ever seen a Greenaway film knows, the real “glue” holding his films together is full-frontal nudity. Wangs and bush tarted up in draped silks and body-paint calligraphy, that’s the Greenaway method. “New media” merely adds CGI.


As we stared at a picture of a giant cigar with an opera singer’s head in a small box above it, trilling, and text crawl underneath it repeating the line, “These are the clues that should alert you to the conspiracy,” I realized I’d attended the master class with some vague idea that Greenaway might take the opportunity to defend himself, to offer some sort of explanation for his “art.” His is the kind of filmmaking that’s so uninvolving it requires an explanation. It had better be conveying a weighty message because it’s not doing anything else. In fact, it should be allegorical, with everything symbolizing something else, so at least you could make a guessing game of it. The giant cigar stands for patriarchal capitalism, and the opera singer is the feminized institutional culture that sings the praises of a violent and oppressive system…

Finally Greenaway finished with the perfume ads, but didn’t explain them beyond saying he was doing “Eisensteinian montage, which can provide any number of cerebral and emotional experiences infinitely multiplied.” Sez you, Greenaway!

Then he announced he would show us his “Nursery Tales.” He said this project was intended to “drag fairy tales out of the nursery” and reveal them as they really are, “intense stories of human relationships that form the BODY of Western LIT-trot-choor.”

That’s a project I coulda sworn had been done a few times already.

And I noticed we were back to filmed narrative again, only now it was okay for some reason.

He started off with Cinderella. Images of sullen, distorted females staring out at us, and assorted Cinderella story paraphernalia identified by a loud, penetrating Brit voice: “PUMP-kins and MAG-ic, PUMP-kins and MAG-ic, PUMP-kins and MAG-ic.”

Well, I’d about had it. I was hounded out at last by the Brit narrator yelling “TWO RATS, TWO RATS, TWO RATS, TWO RATS…”

Maybe narrative film stays popular because for the past hundred years it’s managed to shove gits like Greenaway to the margins. If so, that’s a good enough reason to cheer it on. Long may it reign!

Peter Greenaway

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Add your own

  • 1. Julius  |  September 18th, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    After reading this article i was disgusted by the ability of civilization to put up with jerks like this guy. I’d say it’s a lack of talent, not an abundance, which drives artistes like him to create things which “can be endless reinterpreted”. I loved the final line of this article, saying that Greenway and others are shunted to the margin for good reasons.

    I then went to youtube searching for “galloway interviews”. I had to leave something heartfelt in the comments, to show that irreverence is irrelevant. What i wrote follows below – but when i posted, a sign said “Comment pending approval”. Oh, the guardians of his persona probably won’t care for my interpretation…so hopefully some of you will read it here. It’s a math equation: Jerks + British accents + financing = fame

    this guy’s a douchebag. He floats like a fart in the rare air of art house crapola.
    I read an eXile article on this guy (Sep 2010). I have more respect for the truck drivers at my company than this paragon of hoity toity, high falutin, balderdash. He talks about things i don’t care about, like famous fops from history, or mOdeRn aRt, Everything in this vid is yawn-inducing blather, look at his stupid hand gestures at 9:30, in the end it’s all shite. But we love British accents

  • 2. Kedikat  |  September 18th, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    I have often noticed that some of the most off the wall and currently baffling artists, actually have an earlier body of work that does show their skills. Painters that display a whole show of works of three primary color stripes, also have a past of creating works that prove a good mastery of the materials, ideas and technical skills of a masterful artist. If you are being a genius at an early stage, I’m sure you get bored. So you need to make your mark, while exciting yourself in your realm, proving to yourself you can push forward. Push forward past all the centuries and genius past. You gotta go way out there. Even the cutting edge gets dulled. You need to go further. You already know you can do that stuff. But at some point, it’s all been done, that can be done in the major, usual, framework of your realm. You now few choices. expand the scope of the realm. Which usually means joining other arts forms into it. Play with new tech to make or be your art. Or focus extremely in sub sections of your realm.
    All these options are somewhat contortions. Often awkward.
    Consider cars. Four wheels is the norm. Four wheels have had everything done to them. There are a few three wheelers. They have pluses and minuses and much done to them. You can go two wheel and try and make the most usable vehicle and work with the minimal styling real estate. But there are folks out there toiling on one wheel vehicles. Crazy!! Contortions and contraptions to make them viable, and barely ever. But any one of those one wheel wonder designers, could make a fine four wheel vehicle in a minute.
    Having said all that. Self important blowhards abound. Religion, politics and the art/fashion world abound with them.

  • 3. Kedikat  |  September 18th, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    I forgot to mention. The subject, Greenaway, may be way out there, or just hot air in his cinema. But at just a glimpse, he does seem to have good mastery of the visual and technical work. The concepts and ideas may be a mess though. I am not a worthy cinema critic to critique those deeply.

  • 4. matt  |  September 18th, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Much better than the article about Scott Pilgrim, not that there was much to say about the fuckin monstrosity.

  • 5. Mike  |  September 18th, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    I hate defending ignorance, but in light of this I’m glad I skipped his movies, in spite getting of the odd recommendation.

    Friends have made non-narrative pieces; that being my only exposure to the genre. They are, in turns interesting and infuriating, depending on my circulation. None such filmmakers had the benighted balls and lack of self-awareness to sustain any mainstream ambitions.

    At most events where there’s a projection of soundless artsy clips, obscure movies, or video “painting,” I usually stare at it for about thirty seconds to satisfy anyone looking that I’ve payed it adequate attention, then find someone to drink with.

    And, fuck, why turn to static visual art for cues? Paintings had their heyday as propaganda for the illiterate; the crosswalk and don’t litter signs of the pious. They were the cutting edge of mass communication. Then visual artists 180’d into abstract philosophical exercises understood by no one you’d run into outside institutions teaching people to understand them.

    I’ve unfortunately been to a lot of galleries, and I can say “1,000” is a vast overestimation of the word value of a picture. Most paintings and photos, in my experience, elicit a listless grunt, followed by a stifled, exasperated sigh. No matter how much meaning the artist thinks they’ve imbued into a piece — and it’s often not much — the majority of patrons only muster a self-conscious perfunctory “interest.”

    Clever ads can at least boast a, “Hm… I get it.” And I fucking hate ads.

    Props on the “Kiss Me Deadly” reference. Gotta love the misogyny and childlike view of radiation.

  • 6. rapier  |  September 18th, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    So socialites really do get into this cannibalism bs.

    I wonder if they’re just hinting it to shock people or just to hint that maybe they have long pork once in a while.

    I am gonna go youtube that fucker.

    Thank you.

  • 7. vortexgods  |  September 19th, 2010 at 6:00 am

    Moe: It’s po-mo! [blank stares from all]
    Post-modern! [more staring]
    Yeah, all right — weird for the sake of weird.

    Homer, Lenny and Carl: Oooh!

  • 8. Nicholas  |  September 19th, 2010 at 9:16 am

    The level of intolerance and annoying vulgarity against Greenaway’s viewpoints is so sad. These obnoxious cynical comments are a mere example of a new advertising driven ‘light entertainment’ reign. In Art & Life. It’s widespread cultural misery produces hatred and disgust, which is obvious from the remarks of this attendant at this Film master class. Such people are social theories driven geeks and egotistical users of ‘ngo’ seminars and networking in nonsense of what is contemporary culture. Their self producing anti aesthetic quasi documenting reality – as they follow it derives from their clubbing social schemes as a prime concern. Such mostly young, non-empathic entertaining driven maniacs avoid any reflexive hint to most of the relevant issues of life and creativity.

  • 9. Wyse Guy  |  September 19th, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Eileen, write on Inception. At least abuse it or something so we know you aren’t a serial masochist, constantly subjecting yourself to this sort of tripe and some of the worst that the summer produced.

  • 10. hon kee mufo  |  September 19th, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    That is an excellent parody of some clueless old shit, Nicholas! Bravo!

  • 11. Mike  |  September 19th, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    @ Nicholas

    I’m going to assume you’re serious, and point out your false dilemma.

    1. Greenaway isn’t mainstream.
    2. Eileen hates Greenaway.
    3. Eileen must love the mainstream.

    Well, Eileen says early,

    ‘After a summer like the one we’ve just had, you’d be justified in asking, once again, “Why are movies such a pile of crap lately?”’

    Actually it’s in THE FIRST FUCKING SENTENCE.

    You extend the same to anyone critical of Greenaway. Since your argument rests ENTIRELY ON THAT PREMISE, it’s moot.

    If you’re joking, then good one.

  • 12. CJT  |  September 19th, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    An interesting and notable read but after the second to last photo this long time Exiled reader is left still disappointed. Surely it would’ve taken small effort for the writer to have included a personal
    Snappernian collage, which could provide many numbers here with paraphiliac and voyeuristic hormonal experiences infinitely multiplied.

  • 13. dermotmoconnor  |  September 19th, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    If it hadn’t been for Michael Nyman’s music, would Greenaway’s films have had such an impact?

    Did he mention Nyman during his “masterclass”? I doubt it.

    There was a devastating show on the BBC in the early 90s that took some average video footage from a UK street, to which was added Nyman’s music. Sure enough, the “Greenaway Effect” was magically achieved.

    Compare to a real director like Kubrick or Welles – you could watch their films without audio or music, and still know that you’re watching a coherent creative work, by a true talent.

    Greenaway’s films, given his “visual” background, look utterly banal. I can’t think of a single shot from any of his films – nothing lingers (and I dutifully watched many of his movies in the 80s, as all serious people were expected to.


  • 14. KasparKrieg  |  September 20th, 2010 at 2:43 am

    I wholeheartedly agree that Greenaway’s Tulse Luper Suitcases are just trite rubbish to flaunt around his overinflated ego, but there is merit to some of his earlier works. Now, I don’t mean the supposedly clever allegories or whatever mindgames he likes to play, but the wonderfully composed pictures, striking scenes accompanied by exceptional music; an atmosphere that works on strange rules you don’t need to understand to enjoy the experience. Films like Drowning by Numbers or The Draughtsman’s Contract.

    The more films I see and books I read, the more I appreciate works where substance rules over trickery, where the beholder is carried away by the force of the work instead of made to wonder the pretenses of the artist. To Kill A Mockingbird beats any day the rubbish by Paul Auster, as well as No Country for Old Men trashes Inception. Inception is even twice as bad as it plays around with all kinds of utter bullshit, while in it’s core it’s just a showy action movie. And everyone goes AHH!

    But there are exceptions, and these can be found when narrative and other kinds of gimmicks are used to serve the work and not be it’s purpose. Take for example Tarkovsky’s The Mirror, which was for me, when I saw it the first time, a magical experience. It was like poetry in pictures, and I am not fan of poetry.

    There’s no point worshiping someone only because he is supposedly a genious, be it Greenaway or Warhol, but it’s equally stupid to deny the artist any credit when it has grounds. Or is the point just loving to hate someone? And who’s easier to hate than obnoxious, self-important fools.

  • 15. Levi Johnson  |  September 20th, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    @12: ‘Snappernian collage . . .’

    YES! The Commissioner’s Office demands more snapper truths, even those dredged up as ‘classics’ from the old

  • 16. Nick  |  September 20th, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    Dunno why you’re so upset.. being privileged and pretentious doesn’t preclude the possibility of creativity or worthwhile art. Some of what he’s done is dull, but for the most part I’ve enjoyed his work. I like colors and nudity and bewilderment, but maybe I’d be pissed too if wasted my time by sitting in a classroom.

  • 17. massimo ventura  |  September 20th, 2010 at 10:04 pm

    A smart guy who did some weird movies. I don’t want to watch anything abot cannibalism.

    But what amuses me is when a bunch of nobodies who will be remembered for– I osn’t know– they size of their farts?– rail against someone who was actually able to get something done, which is pretty hard, after all.

  • 18. Directm  |  September 20th, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    Greenaway is correct when he said “Cinema is a very poor narrative medium”. As a filmmaker I can also testify to the soundness of this concept. However, Greenaway’s sin is one of omission, he never explains where cinema’s strength is found. The avant-garde will not explain the medium’s true strength because they would be forced to revive classical concepts of art. And, these classical concepts would force the “modern” artist to reveal their true nakedness to the world.

  • 19. Nick  |  September 21st, 2010 at 12:16 am

    Also Michael Nyman’s groovy tunes do carry the day, and there’s an ad for ‘Priest in 3D’ below your article.

  • 20. Aaron  |  September 21st, 2010 at 4:34 am

    I’d like to volunteer the general incomprehensibility of Nicholas’ comment as just one more reason why no one shouldn’t take him seriously. Clearly his faculties have been progressively degraded by excessive exposure to the kind of crap documented in the article. Judging by the pervasive misuse of language he displays, I’d assume the rot must have gone pretty far — you might think his Greenaway partisanship would be enough to demonstrate that all by itself, but in cases like this the critical faculties are usually the first thing to go.

  • 21. Aaron  |  September 21st, 2010 at 4:35 am

    “no one shouldn’t take him seriously”

    ‘Scuse me while I just go off and shoot myself.

  • 22. mdc  |  September 21st, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    @massimo ventura

    By your own rationale your post is even more damning to you. The Exile is at least a blog with actual writers and a controversial history; demoted from a Russian alt paper because of their subversive reputation. You’re just a poster with sloppy spelling and bad grammar. You’ve forfeited the right to criticize me, too, since I at least write for things. Do you? If you do, you must have an exhausted proofreader.

    Your argument leads to the conclusion that ALL criticism is invalid unless leveled by a peer in the same field, or one up to your subjective interpretation of achievement.

    Why can’t more of Greenaway’s defenders say something without resorting to basic fallacies?

  • 23. Cernunnos  |  September 21st, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    I’ve only seen The Cook, The Theif, His Wife, and Her Lover, which is actually one of my favorite movies, owing not to some obscruantist shite, but the engrossing narrative and dramatic performances. I always thought of it as a modern Titus Andronicus style tragedy that was also readable in light of socio-political dynamics. So it seems strange to me that someone who so effectively employed narrative in at least one film thinks that film is a terrible for narrative. In any case, however pretentious and insufferable Greenaway may be, at least one of his films is pretty hilarious with great performances and some delicious black humor.

  • 24. twentyeight  |  September 22nd, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    #23 is right. The Cook, the Theif… is a great film founded on both narrative and political-economic metaphor. Oh, and porn. Greenaway’s obnoxious color scheme and obsession with really long sets and tracking shots and his own egomaniacal fucktardism can’t get in the way of it, in fact, they make it more memorable.

    It’s practically a rule that if someone achieves early artistic success, at least in the visual arts, they shouldn’t be allowed to give classes or talks. Not only do they rely too much on their own tacit knowledge and skill–they wouldn’t ever have done anything that good that soon if they needed decades of technical mastery–but also because they’re probably fucking retarded, and you’re just going to end up with brainwashed pomotard grad students and readers defending nonsense syllables about sloshing suitcases, and they all have more status than us drug-addled exile readers, so, whatever.

  • 25. peter  |  September 23rd, 2010 at 5:56 am

    jeez man, where the fuck is the war nerd?

  • 26. Nicholas  |  September 29th, 2010 at 9:14 am

    To ‘Mike’, ‘Aaron’ and other mocking, self centered ‘critical thinking proletetariat’. You deserve ‘a praise’ in your passionate engagement to the formal logic and continuous discriminative comments. With caps lock sentences and the word f**k seem you are yelling. In my recent last week’s hamim noraim days I was unable to answer. Which I will, now: please do continue to enjoy yourselves in realizing superficial inquiries against all other paces and differences, and slam the doors of your strict quasi non conformist academic light entertainment perception. And please, do not ever bother to watch an ‘obnoxious’ Drowning by Numbers. Or avoid any Veronese or Rembrandt pretentious myths and documented fact crowds on canvasses. Continue the clubbing and enjoy a visual arts auction of Warhol’s Brillo’s or ladygagaesque fascination of Marina Abramovic stare(recent at MOMA)in the hollow departure to yourselves.

  • 27. Mike  |  September 30th, 2010 at 1:14 pm


    You’ve convinced me. Your reedy, breathless argument is devastating now that you’ve repeated it, still without remedying its original laughable premise.

    Yes, Niko, the cultural landscape is cleft between the remarkable Greenaway, the sole representative of his genre and craft, and derivative pop sensation, Lady FUCKING Gaga. If you’re 22, and your mind was fucked sore by the critical theory hocus pocus of some frustrated, domineering professor, then it’s to be expected. But perhaps there’s still hope for the young and resilient. If you’re not — maybe you’re even that domineering professor — then I guess you’ll dissolve into oblivion as a guy deriving a bland satisfaction from his moral superiority to a desperate caricature of differing perspectives.

  • 28. Nicholas  |  October 1st, 2010 at 1:05 am

    Can you kindly explain what does such floscula of ‘differing perspectives’ in your sermon mean? Or how to avoid the damnation of cultural oblivion? Who measures the cultural importance, after the post- postmodernist tide?
    The answers, perhaps, could be your altruistic endowment to resolve the issues that make you so, ugh, worried.

  • 29. Mike  |  October 3rd, 2010 at 1:30 pm


    I have to give you props on some good comment thread performance art. Your self-conscious affect and insipid abuse of the language had me going for a while.

  • 30. J. Destroyer  |  October 4th, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    For God’s sake, just try watching Greenaway’s fucking movies sometimes, you interweb dorks. You have to pay attention for, like, an hour and a half but they are pretty good, especially the “twins” in ZOO. No CG – that shit is analog, peeners and all. No gun fights, no car chases… it’s art ’cause it’s beautiful.

    If it isn’t Toby Keith and Bruce Willis, y’all don’t seem to feel like trying. This is a recommendation – and remember, I like Tom Cruise.
    Johnny D.

  • 31. Mike  |  October 5th, 2010 at 11:05 am

    I hope J and Niko eventually meet this fabled Lady Gaga, Toby Keith, Bruce Willis-loving club-goer someday.

    And he’ll say, “It’s nice to finally meet my new brother-in-law!”

  • 32. Doug C.  |  October 7th, 2010 at 5:10 am

    This article has the gnat-like short attention span of the internet all over it. “Entertain me quick, I’m getting bored, waaaaahhhh”
    If you want to review something, at least understand it. This is like listening to ants explain how a TV works.

  • 33. Mike  |  October 7th, 2010 at 8:36 pm


    How do you figure? Is it impossible to defend Greenaway without trying to denigrate a critic’s tastes? Other people have managed moderate approval of the filmmaker without sounding juvenile. It’s one thing to know for certain that someone has fundamentally different tastes, and to think, “Well, it’s not for everyone.” It’s another thing to be like, “Oh yeah? Well you’re probably a pedophile.”

    Criticism shouldn’t threaten someone with their own opinions; and even if it does, resorting to false dichotomies and ad hominem attacks just makes them look desperate.

    At least say you disagree and offer some pertinent reasons, rather than relying on ineffective personal attacks.

    Whatever. You’re probably a pedophile.

  • 34. v  |  December 6th, 2010 at 12:20 am

    I put forth ZOO as the best Greenaway has to offer (aided greatly, as anything would be, by Nyman and picnicking bears), which should entertain far more than a lecture on suitcases, and his flipping change of mind between the remote control destroying cinema and interactive cinema [sic] being its revival. If you have watched ZOO and still think nothing of Greenaway, cut your losses I suppose. It’s up there with Romero’s Dawn and Carpenter’s The Thing amongst my favorites. Odd company, but there’s a bit of body horror to tie them together.

  • 35. Dana  |  December 30th, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    Allow me a defense of Greenaway – I’ll start by saying that he’s very obviously not the only figure in the art world, and that disliking him is not tantamount to being a Michael Bay fan (and I find those sorts of criticisms of his detractors quite annoying myself). I’ve seen little of his recent work, most of which I’ve found, very, very boring and vapid, but I think his older work truly is terrific. I don’t think one needs to decipher empty metaphors like water filled suitcases to enjoy films like The Draughtsman’s Contract, A Zed and Two Noughts, or The Belly of an Architect all of which feature metaphors but they’re both considerably more fun and amusing than the previous example. They also feature plenty of humor, visual flair, arch dialogue with a lot of punning, good music, and enjoyable stories. Even his very early work, like The Falls, is really just entertaining stories narrated in a book on tape fashion with accompanying images (and curiously enough for all his current disdain for cinema based on text, The Falls is probably his best film). In fact, the more Greenaway rejected narrative the more I disliked his work.

    Is Greenaway a bit of a pompous bore at this point in his life? It seems so. Is that any reason to reject his older work? Absolutely not. I think most of his 80s work is really, really entertaining, and I’d say some of it is even up there with some of the great films of all time. The art and the artist are not the same thing – have you seen how vapid and dumb David Lynch is in person?

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