Peter Greenaway

7.3 The Draughtsman's Contract (1982)
7.9 A Zed and Two Noughts (1986)
7.5 Belly Of An Architect (1987)
7.4 Drowning by Numbers (1988)
7.8 The Cook The Thief His Wife And Her Lover (1989)
6.8 Prospero's Books (1991)
7.0 Pillow Book (1996)
7.0 8 1/2 Women (1999)

(Translation from the Italian by Kathy Ushiba)

Painter, film editor, and avant garde director (structualist short films), Peter Greenaway (1942), releases his first feature film, "A Walk Through H" (1978), followed by the documentary, "Act of God," about thirty people struck by lightning; the film seeks to propose an arcane law that unites their fates. "The Falls," shows the biographies of ninety-two people whose last names begin with "Falls" with a similar intent to codify fate, but breaks through in 1983 with the successive "The Draughtsman's Contract" (1982), a ferocious grotesque parable on the relationship between art and power.

Pittore, tecnico di montaggio, regista d'avanguardia (Cortometraggi strutturalisti), Peter Greenaway (1942) esordisce nel lungometraggio con A walk through H (1978), seguito dal documentario Act Of God, su 30 persone colpite dal fulmine, in cui cerca di proporre una legge arcana che unisce loro destini, e The Falls, biografia di 92 persone il cui cognome comincia per "Falls", con analogo intento di codificare il caso, ma si rivela nel 1983 con il successivo The Draughtsman's Contract (1982), feroce grottesco sui rapporti fra arte e potere.

On the surface the theme of The Draughtsman's Contract (1982) is the relationship between art and power: a vain artist is hired by vain aristocrats, and has to cope with their morbid passions and murky motives.
However, it is also a clockwork mechanism to reveal the several layers of truth that surround the action. After a while we realize that this is a film about a murder. Then we realize that the film is about a carefully-planned cynical double adultery. And finally we realize that we don't really know what this film is about because there was just too much around the flimsy plot that we had missed in the first scenes, and we wonder how much more we may have missed.
The film is about reacting to systems of conventions, to codes of behavior, and to codes in general. In this case there are two: the code of art and the code of power. Greenaway satirizes both, as they are ruthelessly fighting each other to the last drop of blood. Each one shows contempt for the other. The artist shows contempt for the puritan code of the rural aristocracy. The rural aristocracy shows contempt for the arrogant code of the artists. The director indirectly shows contempt for both, because they are both useless to society.
The two systems are in agreement about one thing: that the drawings only represent what is out there. The artist makes this his aesthetic statement. The aristocrats make this the limitation of his art. One boasts of it, the others ridicule it. However, both sides turn out to be wrong. The drawings that are supposed to merely reflect reality, shunning any kind of interpretation, end up being the subject of a fatal process of interpretation. The artist loses his life precisely because of the interpretations that the world reads into his detailed realistic drawings; and the other men are precisely the ones whose lives are upset by his "harmless" drawings.
Another contrast pits the female world against the male world. The men are busy slaughtering each other verbally and physically, while the women carry out a more sophisticated game without any need for insults or violence. And the women triumph over the beastly world of men. The mother used the artist to get rid of a husbamd. The daughter used the artist to obtain a child.
A semiotic contrast of codes also takes place indirectly due to the fact that Greenaway sets the story in the age of the comedy of manners but then turns this comedy into a comedy of insults. He does so both in the icy dialogues between the men and particularly in the group scenes, when the men of the house look like conspirators from the very beginning. During dinners and lunches, both inside and outside the house, the camera "walks" up and down the table, showing each and every person sitting at the table as they talk one after the other. The effect is sinister.
There is yet another contrast of codes. The human world, with its labyrinthine plots of murder, greed and jealousy, is juxtaposed to the world of nature, to the luxuriant landscape of the well-groomed gardens. The gardens, the costumes and the furniture all contribute to a symphony of colors. Usually, it is the landscape to be wild and untamed, while the human environment strives for order and decency. But here we soon realize that the landscaped gardens are the symbol of a supreme and almost metaphysical order (beyond the grasp of this inept humans), while the humans live in a chaotic and dirty moral world. The hidden protagonist is the garden that has been groomed to be drawn, and that seems to metabolize as it is being drawn.
The artist is a contradiction in terms himself. He claims to be nothing but a realist, but then goes to such an extent to realize his art that his staunch discipline must qualify as an idealist approach to art. In his mind, art reigns supreme, and everything else must be subservient to it. However, his downfall is caused precisely by his stubborness in seeing only what is presented to him, and not understanding (as an artist should have done) the hidden semantics of it (that they were plotting to use him and kill him). The artist never quite understands the situations. He doesn't understand what he is painting and he does not understand why they want him to paint it. He is as dumb as he thinks the subjects of his drawings are. Except that the subjects of those drawings contain a lot of meaning, whereas his life contains no meaning at all. When they kill him, they pretty much kill a non-entity.
The film is not a murder mystery. The director never reveals who really killed the landlord and how. The farcical appearances of the naked madman add a dimension of satire not against the characters of the film but against the viewers themselves, who are probably trying to paste together the puzzle while the director is thumbing his nose at them. The frolicking madman's appearances state that the film is about the absurd, not about the rational. Every time the madman shows up, the director is basically reminding the viewers that they are not meant to find a rational solution to the mystery. The drawings are allegorie. The film is an allegory. It is an allegory about the interpretation of allegories.
Last but not least, the movie, set in the age of booming classical music, advances with the grace and precision of an aristocratic ball.

The story is set in 1694 in the lush English countryside. A landowner, Herbert, his wife, their married daughter and her husband Talmann live in a quiet, remote mansion surrounded by elegant colorful gardens. A group of aristocrats are assemble at the mansion and listen to the cheerful chat of the lady. Among them is an artist, Neville, who is greatly admired by the women for his skills at drawing landscapes while despised by the men for his arrogant manners. The men gossip. The mom and the daughter conspire against the artist. Neither of the women has a happy marriage. The conversation implies that the mom is neglected by the landlord, and that the daughter's husband is impotent and cannot give her a child. The landlord has to go on a 14-day trip. The women would like Neville to stay and make 12 drawings of the estate. The lady pretends that the drawings will be her gift to her husband when he returns. Neville is skeptic about the project. Neither is he interested in the project nor do the women have the money to pay for it. The mother finds a way to pay for it: she accepts to prostitute herself for him once for every drawing. Satisfied by the agreement, that is formally recorded by estate manager Noyes, Neville sets himself to work. He pretends absolute obedience while he draws, and makes a point of drawing everything that is in the scene, including laundry hanging in front of the house, a ladder, boots, etc. Prominent in the landscape is a phallic obelisk. Although these are tiny details, they seem to disturb the harmony of the picture.
The mother is disgusted by Neville's sexual performances. She literally vomits. She also cries when she is alone with her daughter. At one point she tells Neville she would like to void the contract. She is not doing it for fun, but then it is not clear why she would go to such an extent to obtain a gift for a husband whom she despises. In the meantime she secretly dispatches a faithful servant to find out by which route her husband plans to return to the estate.
A naked man appears to be spying on them. He first appears on the roof while they are eating outside, and then blends with the vegetation against a wall, observed only by the orphan child who has been raised at the mansion. One day the naked man steals the obelisk. Another time he pees in a pond like a Roman fountain. Neville insist on including Talmann in a drawing of the house when a ladder is set against the wall. At night the daughter masturbates while Talmann snores next to her. The manager of the estate, Noyes, pledges loyalty to the mother. It turns out that he once proposed to her, and is presumably still in love with her. He is the only one to know the terms of Neville's contract. The daughter notices that, taken together, Neville's drawings show a number of garments spread around the property, and wonders where the body could be that inhabited those clothes. There is an insinuation to a murder having been committed. Neville himself is beginning to wonder about the real purpose of the drawings. Now it looks obvious that they contain evidence about a crime. Is he trying to frame someone or is someone trying to frame him?
The daughter offers the artist a new contract: this time it is him who will have to satisfy a woman's desires, and not the mother's but the daughter's. While having sex with the mother, Neville inquires about a painting that the landlord bought and whose subject seems to be infidelity.
The landlord's horse is found. While undressing the daughter, Neville mentions that he suspects the gardener might have intervened to hurt the horse. Neville has now finished the drawings and tells the women (seated on twin thrones) that he is ready to leave.
The landlord's corpse is found in the pond. Noyes fears he will be accused of the murder (he had the motive and was the only one to know that the man had just returned). He blackmails the mother: he wants the drawings in return for his silence about the terms of the contract.
In the meantime Talmann has come to realize that the drawings also show evidence of his wife's infidelity: the ladder that takes to her room, the dog left outside the door, ...
The widow is mourning. A Dutch garden designer is being hired to redesign the landscape. Neville returns, asking permission to make a 13th drawing of the house. He had been forbidde to draw from the pond, i.e. from the place where the murder was committed. Now he wants to make a drawing of the house from that side. She tells him the legend of Persephone and the pommegranades, and how gardeners seem to defy the will of the gods by grooming gardens, only to grow pommegranades in their gardens, the fruits that symbolize slavery to the gods. The women reveal to Neville that the daughter is pregnant of his child, that they were accomplices in using him for that purpose. They tell him that Talmann is away, but Neville knows that it cannot be true. Nonetheless he does not know what to read in their lie.
Neville has finished the drawing and is admiring it in the dark, by the pond. Behind him is a statue of a horse surmounted by a horseman. Neville is surrounded by the aristocrats who are wearing black masks, led by Talmann. They suspect that he wants to marry the widow and become the new owner of the place. They burn his eyes, burn his drawing, scatter his clothes around and finally beat him to death and dump his body in the pond. The artist may have painted the crime itself before the posse killed him. While the drawings are slowly dissolving in the fire, the horseman descends from the statue and starts eating the pineapple that the mother offered to Neville.

Peter Greenaway reaffirmed himself as a sophisticated and glacial choreographer and a perverted voyeur with A Zed and Two Noughts (1986), a film obsessed with decay and symmetry.
Decay: the protagonist decays losing one leg, then another one, then dying; the various animals filmed obsessively by the twins decay.
Symmetry: the film begins with the death of two women and ends with the death of their two husbands after they have given birth to two children; there is symmetry not only in the plot but also in the composition of many scenes.
The film also mocks biology and science in general, first through its parody of the zoo and its personnel; then through the documentary on the origins of life and the many videos of the decomposing of life that help nobody learn anything about life; and finally through the grotesque final experiment that fails miserably because of snails. The deus ex machina of the plot is the mad surgeon/painter: and he is none less than a forger, a man who has an assistant simulating Vermeer's wife and who wants to be Vermeer, a man who confuses fiction and reality. And note that the prostitute and the little girl ask the most philosophical questions, not the scientists.
Finally, the film also contains a veiled analysis of a society drowing in images: there are videos everywhere, or posters or photographs or paintings.
It is probably the most complex puzzle attempted by Greenaway and the most layered visions. In a zoo a scientist is studying a tiger. Outside the zoo a car crashes against a post because of a fleeing white swan, killing two of the occupants, both women, right in fornt of a poster that has a tiger in it. Another scientist is photographing a gorilla that lost a leg, the gorilla walking back and forth inside its cage. In the middle of the night a man cries and picks up the debris of the accident. A woman, who was driving the car, Alba, suffers the amputation of a leg. Meanwhile the photographer is crying in front of pictures of the one-legged gorilla. Two men visit her at the hospital and then place flowers on the site of the accident while workers are removing the tiger poster. One of them is the only spectator in an empty movie theater that is showing a lecture about the origin and evolution of life. They visit the woman again and listens to her erudite meditations. Back in his studio the photographer bites an apple and then take repeated photographs of it. In the evening a prostitute named Venus de Milo is approached by an old customer, Van Hoyten, who, while negotiating the price, asks her: "Is a zebra a black horse with white stripes, or a white horse with black stripes?" One of the men is watching the documentary on the beginning of life again, alone in the same theater, and is approached by a friend while another man, the tiger expert, is watching the same documentary at home on television. Alba talks about the hours preceding the accident with Oswald, one of the two men: one of the women who died was his wife. Alba also shows them the photo of a field from her childhood. Alba is hospitalized in a vast room with wall-size windows and giant, permanently fluttering drapes.
Meanwhile the other biologist, Oliver, is approached by a zoo worker wearing a uniform who tells him that Venus has been asking about him: the other woman who died in the accident was his wife. Oswald is shown in bed with a naked Venus, playing with snails on his own body and chatting casually with the prostitute. He loses his patient and kicks her out but later in his studio makes her wear his wife's dress.
Meanwhile, Oliver confronts Alba at the hospital. He accuses her of having caused the accident to get rid of her fetus: she was pregnant. It turns out the two men were conjoined twins at birth. They are now widowers. Venus leaves Oswald to visit Oliver, the "punkier" of the two, and finds him drunk and naked in the bathtub. The zoo worker and Van Hoyten watch the documentary in the empty theater.
Oliver and Oswald visit Alba at the same time. She admits that she might be guilty of the accident: it is true that she wanted to abort. Now she wants another child. Alba tells them that her surgeon is the cousing of the painter who specializes in fake Vermeer paintings. That surgeon later asks Venus to distract the twins to make sure they are not seduced by Alba. A patient is passing by in a wheelchair and overhears them. Sure enough Oliver is seduced by Alba and makes love to her in her hospital bed.
At a restaurant the two brothers are sitting at a table with Alba's little girl Beta who argues about their knowledge. To prove that they don't know everything, she asks them to guess the color of the underwear that a woman in red is wearing. Oliver walks to her table and asks her. The woman in red tells him "black and white stripes" but then challenges him to check for himself. She forces him to follow her in the restrooms and to lift her skirt: she is wearing no underwear. She warns him that he and his brother should stop seeing Alba.
Alba confronts the surgeon. She demands to know where he disposed of her leg. She has learned that he performs amputations on the animals of the zoo. The woman in red, Caterina, is an assistant to the surgeon: she measures Alba's waist for a "surprise". She always wears the same red dress and the same red hat.
Now it's Oswald to be seduced by Alba, after finding out that she keeps hundreds of keys. At the zoo a man with no legs, Felipe, chats with Venus the prostitute in the cage of a zebra. He would like to own the zoo and stock it with mythological animals. The woman in red poses for a Vermeer-style painting (we only see the back of the painter, but he appears to be the surgeon, as she is jealous that he is attracted to Alba).
Alba, the twins and and the girl visit the cage of the crocodiles. The surgeon and the woman in red order a red dress for Alba. The twins visit the field of Alba's childhood and are fascinated by snails that hide behind decomposing wood. The story continues in between documentaries of wild animals.
While the girl is taking a bath in the vast room, in another room Alba announces to the twins that she is pregnant and they are about to become "a father" refusing to pick one over the other. Alba tells them that she has decided to have her other leg amputated as well. Caterina, dressed as usual in red and wearing as usual the red hat, assists the surgeon during the operation. When she recovers, they both get in bed naked with her while a crowd outside tries to catch the rhino that they freed to show her a bit of Africa from the window of her house.
The twins have created a gruesome collection of dead animals in their laboratory, with the tacit approval of the Van Hoyten, whose job is to procure meat for the carnivore animals of the zoo. Van Hoyten, who is color-blind, is obsessed with black and white animals. The legless Felipe and the prostitute Venus discuss zebras. The twins take Alba to the fields of her childhood: they row a boat through the quiet landscape. She asks to be cremated and her ashes scattered there. A fast forwarded video of a decomposing swan. The surgeon/painter talks to Alba about Vermeer's wife Caterina, and tries to make love to her while his Caterina, dressed in red, paces silently outside.
The twin and Venus the prostitute take Alba in a wheelchair to the zoo. There they meet Felipe the legless who immediately befriends Alba. The twins enter the cage of a tiger and start stripping while Venus and a crowd of photographers watch the scene. The naked twins sit under Vermeer paintings while the surgeon tries to convince to conjoin them together again. Then they are standing against a wall (dressed) while Van Hoyten and the zoo worker play the documentary on a tv set. Van Hoyten offers them the corpse of a woman. They laugh and instead purchase the corpse of a female zebra and a tranquillizing gun. They set out to perform an experiment in front of the surgeon, Caterina, Van Hoyten, the zoo worker and the owner of the zoo. Alba gives birth to twins, and each twin (Oliver and Oswald) holds one. Her girl Beta is setting up her little zoo of animals. Alba wants the legless man, Felipe, to be the legal father of the babies. A fast forwarded video of the decomposing zebra. At night the twins play with their shadows creating the image of conjoined twins. Back in Alba's room, they secure her permission to film the decay of her body when she dies. At night the prostitute Venus and the sinister Van Hoyten break into the zoo: she walks in, he walks away. After Alba dies, her daughter and the legless man come to claim the body and therefore ruin Oliver's and Oswald's plan. At night the twins walk again as if they were conjoined to the set they have prepared in the woods of Alba's childhood. They strip naked while playing an old musichall tune. They inject poison in each other's arm and lie naked in front of a camera that films their death. Ironically, a swarm of snails attacks the machinery and kills the camera, besides chewing on the two dead bodies.

If English is your first language and you could translate my old Italian text, please contact me.
Scroll down for recent reviews in English.

Belly Of An Architect (1987)

Un architetto americano di mezza eta` viaggia in treno con la giovanissima moglie. Fanno l'amore mentre il treno passa la frontiera italiana. A Roma si tiene un banchetto all'aperto in suo onore, sulla piazza del Pantheon. E` stato invitato a organizzare la mostra di un architetto francese (Boullee) che e` sconosciuto ai piu`. L'architetto e la moglie sono soprattutto alla ricerca di una vacanza romantica. Durante un tour architetturale, la moglie viene intrattenuta dal giovane che gestisce i fondi per l'esibizione, mentre un vecchio tenta di toccarla e poi viene colto da un malore. L'architetto e` sempre accompagnato in pompa magna dalle autorita`. Durante un altro banchetto, ancora in uno scenario antico, l'architetto si sente male e vomita. Nei bagni scopre che l'uomo colto da malore era stato pagato per svenire davanti alla stampa: l'esibizione ha bisogno di pubblicita` visto che il pubblico non conosce l'architetto.
Poco alla volta l'architetto viene ossessionato dalle rovine romane, in particolare dalle forme volumetriche delle statue romane. E` un'ossessione che si sposa con quella del cibo e del suo stomaco: usa una fotocopiatrice per fare ingrandimenti delle statue, ci disegna sopra le interiora e poi se le pone sulla pancia. Al tempo stesso diventa irascibile con la moglie per ragioni futili, e arriva a sospettare che lei stia tentando di avvelenarlo. Intanto il giovane gli seduce la moglie.
Durante un altro banchetto l'architetto perde la pazienza per i continui ritardi nei lavori. Dopo un picnic alla Villa Adriana, sorprende persino i due amanti ma non dice nulla. Quando confronta la moglie, lei gli rivela di essere incinta da quando hanno fatto l'amore sul treno. Ma li sorprende di nuovo, questa volta in casa propria. Li guarda dal buco della serratura, e li ascolta delirare, osservato con curiosita` da un bambino e dalla sua mamma.
L'architetto passa sempre piu` tempo da solo nelle rovine romane, scrivendo lettere a un amico americano. Convinto adesso di avere un cancro allo stomaco, si fa esaminare dai dottori. Fa amicizia con la fotografa, sorella dell'amante di sua moglie, che lo riprende in pose da imperatore romano. Lei e` affascinata dalla sua paranoia e la asseconda. Diventano amanti. Vengono sorpresi proprio dall'amante della moglie, che lo prende in giro ringraziandolo per il bambino nella pancia della moglie, che e` un perfetto contraccettivo.
Le eccentricita` dell'architetto e la sua peggiorante salute spingono le autorita` a chiedere le sue dimissioni. Si rende conto anche che alle sue spalle si e` giocato alla politica: l'amante della moglie ha speso cifre ingenti per garantire il successo dell'operazione, ma non per il suo progetto artistico. L'architetto decide di proseguire e di vendere la casa americana per finanziare il resto del suo progetto. Ma questa volta le autorita` lo licenziano sul serio. Il dottore gli comunica che ha poco ancora da vivere. E la moglie lo lascia.
Un'altra rotonda pancia si aggiunge alla galleria delle "pance" romane: quella di sua moglie.
Ubriaco, torna sulla piazza del Pantheon e infastidisce gli avventori che stanno mangiando ai tavoli.
Il giorno dell'inaugurazione della mostra viene invitata sua moglie, non lui. Lui riesce a entrare corrompendo una guardia e assiste alla celebrazione. La moglie si sente male mentre taglia il nastro. Lui e` in cima a un davanzale e si lascia cadere all'indietro da una finestra. Si schianta su un'auto parcheggiata li` sotto.
La vacanza romantica si trasforma in un incubo horror. Film tutto di inquadrature, molto fisico, che contrasta statue e rovine con personaggi piccoli immersi in ambienti giganteschi.

Drowning by Numbers (1988) is a black comedy and/or a moral fable about three women of three generations (granma, daughter and granddaughter) who get away with murdering their respective husbands. One was insulted by the man's cheating habits, one was frustrated and neglected by her husbamd, and the third one only wanted to get pregnant. The film can also be read as an eccentrically feminist manifesto. But that's only the surface. The film is also a "counter" of sorts. There is a girl who introduces the film by counting from 1 to 100 while jump-roping in front of her house, and during the film we see those numbers (on a tree, on a bathtub, on a cow, on runners, etc, even a copy of Joseph Heller's "Catch-22", all the way to the last one painted on a boat). The film also has a boy narrator who coldly describes complex social games like a mathematician would describe a complicated mathematical problem. There are rules to solve them and the humans who play the game have to behave like symbols in a mathematical proof. These games are not arbitrary intermezzos: they seem to comment on an action that just took place or prepare for the events that are about to happen. The same boy celebrates each violent death (of animals or humans) with fireworks. This same boy shows pictures of the characters and of himself to the mysterious Skipping Girl, as if he had to somehow report to her. The mysterious Skipping Girl is never explained. She is dressed in clothes that do not match the era of the film, and she is permanently jump-roping outside her house, day and night. The boy plays an almost supernatural role, and the girl too. He seems to take orders from her. The film employs iteration (three men murdered in water) and enumeration (the 100 episodes counted one by one) to stifle the sense of progression, when in fact there is a narrative plot and a kind of moral (or amoral) ending. It could even be a family saga, because it spans three generations, but it all takes place at the same time, the three generations not only coexisting but copying and colluding with each other. At night a girl in a funny dress in jump-roping and counting the star outside her house. She goes from 1 to 100. The young Nancy is indulging in an orgy with a much older man in a filthy room full of cockroaches. They are both drunk and she passes out. The wife of the man, Cissy, walks in and sits down listening to the delirious man; then she calmly pushes her husband's head into the water until he dies. Cissy walks to her daughter's apartment to relate the news. Her daughter, also named Cissy, is just waking up and her husband Hardy is still asleep. While the action continues, a boy's voiceover discusses various games. Cissy #2 loads Nancy in wheelbarrow and the two women take her through the woods to her house and dump her in her bed. Then they bike together to the coroner's sheep farm. He's having a gargantuan banquet by himself while his bespectacled boy Smut is counting the sheep. The child recites erudite rules of playing with sheep. The women tell Madgett that they need help with the drowned man. They don't even try to lie to the coroner, who is nonetheless an old friend and is willing to write a death certificate of accidental death if Cissy is willing to have sex with him. The adults play a game in the garden. Elsewhere the Skipping Girl is still counting stars, and the boy is staring at her. Cissy #2 has a 19-year-old daughter, Cissy #3, who is at the river with her boyfriend who cannot swim. Cissy #3 says she will marry him if he promises never to have sex on top of her. Later she tells her mother and granma that she decided to marry him because she wants a baby. Two cousins of the dead man corner Cissy #3 at the swimming pool, where she is training for the Olympic games. They don't believe that the death was an accident. At the funeral and cremation ceremony they also confront the coroner about the cause of death. At night on the way back in the car the coroner his son and the three women make fun of Nancy, but then they see Nancy and the dead man's relatives conspiring by a bonfire. The boy's voiceover keeps describing games that we briefly observe. Cissy #2's husband Hardy almost drowns and initially people are just indifferent, including the ubiquitous bearded town's gravedigger. Eventually people run to the water and save him. His wife doesn't seem overly concerned. The boy Smut and the Skipping Girl chat about what is happening and watch photos of the protagonists. The coroner is writing a book on cricketing deaths and takes a picture of his naked boy Smut, who is also been taking photos of himself with painted symbols on his nude body. The boy becomes obsessed with circumcision, first mentioned to him by the Skipping Girl. Madgett takes Cissy #1 on a night date but she encourages him to go after her daughter instead. He demands to see Cissy #1 naked in return for his fake death certificate. The boy Smut is playing in the dark with insects. Then he runs scared to the car where the two adults are still negotiating the terms of their deal. Cissy #2 is frustrated with her husband Hardy who is typing naked in the living room while she wants to have sex with him. Smut keeps counting and collecting animals in the woods, and celebrating violent deaths with fireworks. Cissy #2 and Hardy leave near the beach. When he goes out to swim, she tells him that she hopes he drowns. Then she pours water and grated cheese on the typewriter and types the words: "KISS ME HARD". Her husband gets in trouble again in the water, and this time there is nobody around to save him. She stares at his last moments from the veranda of her house through the lenses of a binocular. When a group of runners appears over the hill, Cissy #2 walks calmly into the water and reaches her panicking husband. By the time the runners reach a point where they can see the scene, the man is floating lifeless on the waves. The coroner, knowing that this is another murder, gets upset with the women: now he has to cover up two murders. Again driving into town at night the coroner, Smut and three women pass by a bonfire where the cousins, Nancy and runners are congregating. It is obvious to suspect that they are sensing the truth and conspiring. The boy chats with the Skipping Girl and shows her the photographs of himself naked. A police officer overhears it and confiscates the photos as evidence of child pornography. Cissy #3's fiance suspects the deaths were not accidental. The coroner takes Cissy #2 to a night date and proposes to her. He says "All coroners see is corpses". And he confesses he has fallen in love with some of the corpses. She replies that "coroners need corpses". At home they find Smut in bed bleeding copiously because he circumcised himself with scissors. At the swimming pool Cissy #3 is trying to teach her husband to swim. He tries to make love to her in the water. She pulls the lifesaver off his waist and then circles around him while he's drowning. The three women beg the coroner for help again while fire is burning in the fields and people are fleeing around them. The police show up at the coroner's place: they suspect him for child pornography and sexual mutilation. At the third funeral the corpse is lying in state in a restaurant. Cissy #3 tenderly touches his genitals. The coroner and the women meet for an idyllic scene with the sheep by the river. Smut climbs on top of a tree and counts the leaves. At the funeral the runners show up uninvited. Then the women walk by the river followed by Madgett and offer him sex with all of them in the same afternoon if he can do it. Madgett fails with Cissy #1 and Cissy #2 but Cissy #3 has mercy of him and offers herself fully but also asks him if he can swim... She suddenly reveals that she's pregnant and then she withdraws with the excuse that she's been a widow only for two days. He tries violence to get what she owes him but she runs away in the night. The boy tells the Skipping Girl that he did circumsize himself. She starts counting again from one... A car full of drunk people hits her and presumably kills her. The same car shows up at the coroner's farm. It contains the group of conspirators, i.e. the runners and the cousins. Smut describes the tug of war game. They will engage in it and if the conspirators win the coroner promises that they will get the truth about the murders. The police arrive and call Smut in the middle of the game. Smut lets the rope go and the other team wins. The police give Smut a new rope. Lots of runners arrive. Smut climbs a tree and starts reciting the rules of the game of hanging in order to punish those who have caused great unhappiness, which he calls "the best game of all". He hangs himself. The old gravedigger lights the fireworks and starts digging the grave. three womena and coroner in the boat watch the firework shows Unaware of this, Madgett had gladly gotten into a boat with the three ladies. The coroner admits that they lost, but the women girls refuse to lose and smile at him. They are preparing to kill him. He starts undressing of his own will. The women start flooding the boat and, while it is sinking and the man is undressing and there are fireworks in the sky, they drop the typewriter and other objects of the dead husbands in the water. Then they leave the boat (we only see Cissy #3 swimming so it is not clear if the other two survive). The coroner stores his clothes in a box and waits patiently to die.

Less cerebral than its predecessors, The Cook The Thief His Wife And Her Lover (1989) is almost a (very black) comedy by the standards of Greenaway, and with Shakespearian overtones. Visually stunning, like a farce it indulges in grotesque situations, bordering on the masosadistic. However, the film's vulgarity is a stately vulgarity, not the vulgarity of a burlesque. It is also framed by a ritualistic element that turns each character into more than a laughing stock, more like a symbolic type. The whole has the feeling of a very abstract allegory about society in general, although it remains cryptic about how it maps into contemporary society. Stray dogs are eating meat in an alley. Two men in red open the curtain and we reveal a nocturnal violent scene in the deserted street: a group of people emerge from two trucks and a car. Others bring a bleeding man towards the vehicles. The thief, Albert, is torturing to death a naked man while dogs fight behind them. The back of the trucks open and each reveals a scene within the scene, like two additional screens. Albert's indifferent and elegant wife coldly asks him to stop. They leave the naked man in the street and walk towards the kitchen of a fancy restaurant that Albert owns. The French chef, Richard, and his assistants are hard at work to prepare the dishes. a boy intones a solemn hymn and Georgina walks behind him. Everybody is given a plate with a candle and they all stand in line behind the kitchen tables. A door opens and Albert's group walks into the (very red) dining room. From another door we can glimpse the scene in the street outside of the dogs attacking the bleeding naked man, who, crying, eventually makes his way into the kitchen and is washed with a hose by the staff. Meat is everywhere, with people languidly cooking it or eating it. There are several customers in the restaurant. Albert's group is seated in front of a colossal poster of a Frans Hals painting. Albert keeps talking, arrogant and obnoxious, while Georgina stares coldly away. Her eyes meet the eyes of a customer who is eating alone, and reading a book, while Albert is explaining to his friends how eating and sex are related. Richard and his staff beging to serve the elaborate dishes. Georgina leaves the table and walks into the (very white) restrooms. When she comes out, the mysterious customer is waiting. They stop and stare at each other. She lights a cigarette. Without exchanging a word she returns to the table but first she picks up the stranger's book and checks its title. He too returns and sits at his table. But a little later they are back in the restrooms and this time they walk into a stall together and she pulls down his pants and they make love. Not a word is exchanged, except for her moaning. They are rudely interrupted by Albert who comes looking for her. Talking to him from the stall, she pretends that she is simply taking a break to smoke a cigarette.
The following night Albert's party sits at the same table, and the stranger at his table again. Georgina and the stranger get up and walk in the kitchen, where they hide to make love. Again, they are interrupted when Albert walks into the kitchen. Again, they have to dress frantically and return to their tables. At the table Albert talks nonstop. When one of his men, the zombie-like Mitchell, asks him why he doesn't have children, Albert almost breaks up crying. The waiters wear red, Georgina wears red, Albert wears red. On the way out a drunk Albert picks up one of the lover's books (red cover) and, clearly annoyed by the intellectual look of the customer, throws it away, telling the man "this is a restaurant, not a library".
The following night Albert is annoyed by the kitchen assistant who sings like a choir boy. He takes both the boy and Georgina in the street, where the dogs bark at them. Then he throws Georgina in the car and rapes her while the boy runs away terrified.
The following night Georgina and the lover are having sex in the kitchen again. The chef Richard seems to know and help to hide them while his enormous staff is busy in the immense kitchen. One of the assistant chefs is cutting the hair of the choir boy, who is singing at his best and making glasses hiss.
Another time Albert walks into the men's restrooms, making a scene in front of urinating customers and even beating one. Then he confronts the stranger (who is his lover's wife) because he always reads when eating: it's insulting to the chef. Albert invites the stranger to the table of the group and introduces all his men as well as Georgina. We finally hear his voice and learn his name: Michael. Albert makes fun of his wife in front of him. Georgina takes her revenge continuing the litany of things that are wrong with her: she cannot bear children and already had three miscarriages. Michael revels that he is a gynecologist and then returns to his table, while a furious Albert drags Georgina in the kitchen. He beats her all the way to the car.
Another time Albert is at the table chatting about Georgina's lengthy trips to the restrooms while in a corner of the kitchen, surrounded by meat, she's talking naked with Michael. The silence has been broken and now they enjoy chatting. A waiter comes to pick up a piece of meat, indifferent to their love making. It is a noisy busy night at the restaurant. There are new people at Albert's table, notably a grumpy crippled friend and his young girlfriend Patricia. Albert causes panic among the customers when he attacks and expels one of his men.
Michael asks Georgina why they can't meet anywhere else: she feels safe only in between courses. The affair is noticed also by some of Albert's friends, and eventually one of the girls shouts it at him in front of everybody. Albert, furious, sticks a fork in her cheek, then goes on a rampage looking for the two lovers. They are naked in the kitchen. The chef alerts them and escorts them to the refrigerator. Albert terrorizes the chefs and destroys everything he can set his hands on. He swears that he will kill Michael and will eat him.
Meanwhile, outside the parking lot is full of police cars: they have come to check the contents of the two trucks that have been parked outside ever since and from which nauseating smell emanates. The police open the back doors of the trucks and find piles of rotting meat.
The chef saves the lives of Michael and Georgina: the only way to get the lovers out of the restaurant safely is to put them (naked as they are) in another truck full of rotting meat. As the truck moves, their naked bodies are hit by the larvae-infested hanging animal parts. They arrive at a book warehouse. A man showers them with a hose. Then they casually walk around the warehouse, still naked.
They hide there. The following night they are served dinner by the choir boy, obviously sent by the chef. On the way back to the restaurant the boy is attacked by Albert and his gang. Albert tortures him and even his own men throw up, but the boy does not talk. The following night it's the chef in person who brings food to the lovers. Georgina insists on visiting the boy at the hospital. This time she's the one taking the dinner to him. He lies unconscious, attended by silent nuns. She doesn't know that Albert has found their hideout. Mitchell is mercilessly sadistically torturing Michael. They are killing him slowly. Albert keeps talking, as usual, in a dialogue of sorts with the agonizing sounds coming out of Michael's throat. When Georgina returns, she finds Michael's lifeless body. She cleans his body as much as she can and then sleeps next to him as usual.
Georgina returns to the restaurant at night to meet with the chef. She begs the chef to cook Michael's body. She is serious and desperate. The chef thinks that she wants to eat Michael, but she tells him that she wants Albert to eat him.
The restaurant is closed for a private function. When Albert arrives, Georgina tells him in her most sophisticated tone that she has a present for him. The waiters carry the body of Michael in a gigantic tray, followed by the choir boy in a wheelchair. All his friends line up in front of him. He is astonished to see Michael's body barbequed like a delicacy. Georgina reminds him that he vowed to eat Michael after killing him and she points a pistol at him to convince him to start eating.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da Marco Spagnuolo)

Meno cerebrale dei suoi predecessori, The Cook The Thief His Wife And Her Lover(1989), e’ quasi una commedia nera(molto nera) per gli standard di Greenaway, e con la presenza di overtones di stampo shakesperiano. Visivamente sbalorditivo, simile ad una farsa che induce in situazioni grottesche, al confine con il sadismo. Tuttavia, la volgarita’ presente nel film e’ un tipo di volgarita’ magniloquente, lontana da quella di un burlesque. L’opera e’ anche circondata da un elemento rituale che trasforma ogni personaggio in qualcosa di piu’ di un semplice zimbello o saltimbanco, piu’ come un personaggio-simbolo. Il tutto da’ la sensazione di una feroce ed astratta allegoria della societa’ in generale, sebbene rimanga senza risposta di come possa essere inserita all’interno della scoieta’ contemporanea.

Cani rabbiosi stanno divorando della carne in un vicolo. Due uomini in abito rosso aprono le tende e ci rivelano una violenta scena notturna in una strada deserta: un gruppo di persone escono fuori da due camion ed una automobile. Altri trascinano un uomo sanguinante verso i veicoli. Il ladro, Albert, sta torturando a morte un uomo nudo mentre i cani ringhiano dientro di loro. Il portellone del camion si apre e ci rivela una scena dentro una scena, come due schermi addizionali. L’elegante ed indifferente(o meglio assuefatta  a tanta violenza) moglie di Albert chiede di fermarsi. Il gruppo di Albert lascia l’uomo riverso in strada e si avviano verso la cucina di un bizarro ristorante di cui Albert e’ il proprietario. Lo chef francese, Richard, e i suoi assistenti, lavorano alacramente per preparare le portate, un ragazzo intona un inno solenne e Georgina cammina dietro di lui. A tutti viene dato un piatto con una candela e rimangono in linea dietro i tavoli della cucina.

Una porta si apre e Albert con i suoi uomini entra nella sala da pranzo totalmente rossa. Da una seconda porta possiamo intravedere il vicolo in cui prende avvio la macabra scena in cui i cani attaccano l’uomo sanguinante, che ,urlando, si trascina verso la cucina, dove lo staff lo lava con un tubo da cucina. La presenza della carne e’ costante, con le persone, languidamente, la cucinano o la mangiano. Ci sono diversi clienti nel ristorante. Il gruppo di Albert e’ seduto di fronte un colossale poster di un dipinto di Frans Hals. Albert continua a parlare, in modo arrogante ed odioso, mentre Georgina rimane fredda in disparte. D’improvviso I suoi occhi incontrano gli occhi di un cliente che sta mangiando solo leggendo un libro, mentre Albert spiega ai suoi amici la relazione tra il mangiare e il sesso. Richard e il suo staff iniziano a servire gli elaborati piatti della cena. Georgina si alza dal tavolo incamminandosi verso la (molto bianca) toilette. Quando ne esce, il misterioso cliente sta aspettando. Si fermano e rimangono immobili. Lei accende una sigaretta. Senza scambiarsi una sola parola ritorna al suo tavolo ma prima lei prende il libro di quell misterioso cliente e cerca il titolo. Anche l’uomo ritorna al suo tavolo e si accomoda. Ma poco dopo si ritrovano nella toilette e questa volta vanno incontro l’un l’altro e lei toglie le sue mutandine e fanno l’amore. Non una parola e’ scambiata tra i due, eccetto i gemiti di lei. Sono bruscamente interrotti da Albert che la stava cercando. Lei cerca di spiegare ad Albert che si e’ semplicemente allontanata per accendersi una sigaretta.

La notte seguente alla festa di Albert, si siede allo stesso tavolo, e lo stesso fa lo straniero. Georgina e lo straniero si alzano e si avviano in cucina, dove di nascosto fanno l’amore di nuovo. Nuovamente sono bruscamente interrotti da Albert che entra in cucina. Di nuovo, devono vestirsi in fretta e furia e ritornano ai loro rispettivi tavoli. Al tavolo Albert chiacchiera senza fermarsi. Quando uno dei suoi uomini, Mitchell una sorta di zombie, gli chiede perche’ non abbiano figli, Albert quasi scoppia ad urlare. I camerieri vestono hanno una divisa rossa, Georgina ha un abito rosso e stesa cosa Albert. All’improvviso un ubriaco Albert prende un libro(anche’esso con copertina rossa) del misterioso uomo e chiaramente seccato dallo sguardo intelluale del cliente, lo getta via, urlando all’uomo”Questo e’ un ristorante non una biblioteca”. La notte seguente Albert e’ seccato dall’assistente di cucina che continua a cantare come fosse in un coro. Allora decide di portare sia il ragazzo sia Georgina nella strada, dove ci sono i cani che li abbaiano. Poi Albert getta in auto Georgina e la violenta mentre il ragazzo scappa via impaurito. La notte successiva Georgina e il suo amante fanno l’amore in cucina nuovamente. Lo chef Richard sembra aver capito e aiuta a farli nascondere mentre il suo numeroso staff e’ impegnato in quella enorme cucina. Uno degli assistenti dello chef sta tagliando i capelli al ragazzino del coro, che canta al suo meglio facendo sibillare i bicchieri. Per l’ennesima volta Albert entra nel bagno degli uomini, facendo una scenata davanti ai clienti intenti ad urinare, scuotendone anche uno. Poi si confronta con lo straniero(che e’ l’amante di sua moglie) perche’ egli legge sempre quano si mangia: e’ un insulto allo chef. Albert invita lo straniero al tavolo dei suoi amici e gli presenta tutti gli uomini ed infine anche Georgina. Finalmente sentiamo la sua voce e il suo nome: Michael. Albert si prende gioco di sua moglie di fronte a lui. Georgina si prende la sua rivincita continuando la litania delle cosec he sono sbagliate con lei: Georgina non sopporta i bambini ed ha avuto gia’ tre aborti. Michael rivela che lui e’ un ginecologo e ritorna al suo tavolo, mentre un furioso Albert trascina Georgina in cucina. Lui la picchia allo stesso modo di come ha fatto in auto. Albert e’ di nuovo al tavolo che chiacchiare delle “lunghe gite” di Georgina alla toilette mentre in un angolo della cucina, sovrastata dalla carne, lei e’ nuda di fronte Michael. Il silenzio viene interrotto e continuano a chiacchierare. Un cameriere viene a prendere un pezzo di carne, indifferente al loro amplesso.

E’ una notte rumorosa ed intense al ristorante. Ci sono nuovi ospiti al tavolo di Albert, in particolare un amico scontroso e paralizzato in compagnia della sua giovane fidanzata Patricia. Albert scatena il panico quando tra i clienti quando reagisce ferocemente e butta fuori uno dei suoi amici.

Michael chiede a Georgina perche’ non possono incontrarsi da qualche altra parte: lei si sente al sicuro solamente tra un corso e l’altro. Tuttavia la relazione e’ notata anche da alcuni amici di Albert, e alla fine una delle ragazze glielo urla proprio in faccia. Albert, furioso, infila una forchetta nella sua guancia, e corre rabbioso alla ricerca dei due amanti. Sono nudi nella cucina. Lo chef li allarma e li accompagna dentro la sala frigorifero. Albert spaventa gli chef e comincia a distruggere tutto cio’ che gli si trova sotto mano. Egli giura che uccidera’ Michael e lo mangera’. Nel frattempo, fuori nel parcheggio vi sono numerose auto della polizia: stanno controllando il contenuto dei due camion che sono parcheggiati li fuori, richiamati anche dal cattivo odore che ne deriva. La polizia apre I portelloni e scopre una grande quantita’ di carne andata a male. Lo chef salva la vita dei due amanti: l’unico modo per fuggire dal ristorante senza essere scoperti e’ quello di infilarsi nel retro di un camion (nudi come sono) pieno di carne andata a male. Appena il camion si mette in moto, i loro corpi nudi sono colpiti da parti di animali appese infestate dalle larve. Arrivano ad una biblioteca. Un uomo li lava con un tubo. Poi cominciano a camminare su e giu’ per la biblioteca ancora nudi. Essi si nascondono li. La notte seguente gli viene loro servita la cena dal ragazzo del coro, ovviamente mandato dallo chef Richard. Tuttavia sulla strada per il ritorno al ristorante il ragazzo e’ attaccato da Albert e dalla sua gang. Albert e soci lo torturano , ma il ragazzo non dice una parola. La notte successive e’ lo chef stesso a portare la cena ai due amanti. Georgina lo prega di poter far visita al ragazzo in ospedale. Questa volta e’ lei a portare la cena al ragazzo. Lui e’ ancora incosciente, assistito da strane suore silenzose. Lei non sa che Albert ha scoperto il loro nascondiglio. Mitchell tortura senza pieta’ in modo sadico il povero Michael. Lo stanno uccidendo lentamente. Albert continua a parlare, come al solito, in una specie di sadico dialogo con i lamenti agonizzanti che fuoriescono dalla gola di Michael. Al ritorno Georgina, scopre il corpo senza vita di Michael. Lei cerca di ripulire il corpo il meglio che puo’ e poi dorme accanto a lui come era solito fare. Georgina ritorna al ristorante di notte per incontrarsi con lo chef. Lei prega lo chef di cucinare il corpo di Michael. E’ disperata e furiosa. Lo chef crede che e’ lei avoler mangiare Michael, ma Georgina gli racconta che ha intenzione di farlo mangiare ad Albert. Il ristorante rimane chiuso per impegno private. Quando Albert arriva al ristorante, Georgina gli dice con il tono piu’ sofisticato che conosce che lei gli ha fatto un regalo. I camerieri portano il corpo di Michael su un gigantesco vassoio, seguito dal ragazzo del coro su una sedia a rotelle. Tutti I suoi amici sono davanti a lui. Lui e’ sconvolto di vedere il corpo di Michael in versione barbecue proprio come una leccornia. Georgina gli rammenta che ha promesso di mangiare Michael dopo averlo ucciso e lei gli punta una pistola per convincerlo ad iniziare a mangiare.

Prospero's Books (1991), adapted from Shakespeare's play The Tempest, is a fantasy film of sort, notable mainly for the subtleties of the choreography and scenography. Each scene is, first and foremost, an intricate and sumptuous fresco, full of countless fascinting details, or, better, an optical illusion, a phantasmagoria of Greenaway's personal obsessions, designed to overpower, disconcert and hypnotize the viewer. Prospero, once Duke of Milan, has been exiled to a faraway island. He shares the island with his daughter Miranda, assorted servants, and monsters Ariel and Caliban. Last but not least, he took 24 books with him. Prospero is writing a play about a storm that brings his enemies to his island.
Drops of water introduce the "book of water". A child is permanently peeing into a swimming pool. Naked servants help Prospero perform a ceremony that feels like a ballet (oddly reminiscent of Busby Berkeley's musicals): as Prospero advances to the crowd of naked spirits, someone turns the pages of a giant book, books are passed around, everybody moves as if controlled by a clockwork, pages fly all around him.
Miranda is sleeping, a very turbulent sleep.
Then the real play begins. Characters speak with Prospero's voice (as if he was writing the play). Shakespeare's text is interwoven with detours that discuss the 24 books. Greenaway seems more interested in describing the books, the medieval magic, the medieval craft, than Shakespeare's play. Eventually, Greenaway does tell Shakespeare's story, line by line, but the story is so drenched in an overflow of images that one hardly realizes there is a plot connecting the scenes.

If English is your first language and you could translate my old Italian text, please contact me.

Pillow Book (1996)

Un anziano calligrafo giapponese dipinge il volto della sua bambina, Nagiko. Nagiko lo ha sorpreso mentre si lasciava usare sessualmente dal suo editore, in cambio della pubblicazione dei suoi libri. Party e sfilata di moda. La madre legge alla bambina il diario di una cortigiana vissuta mille anni prima, il "Pillow Book". Immagini nel mezzo della pagina del libro. La bambina decide di tenere un diario. I fotografi sorprendono una coppia, lui che dipinge la schiena di lei. A sei anni la bambina incontro` il suo futuro marito. Nagiko adulta, il vecchio le scrive su tutto il corpo. Il piacere della calligrafia e` per la ragaza una forma di piacere erotico.. Passa continuamente dal bianco e nero al colore. Nagiko si sposa con una pomposa cerimonia, ma il marito rifiuta di scrivere sul suo corpo. Durante il litigio fra gli sposi schermo a colori nel mezzo della pagina del diario in bianco e nero. Nagiko diede fuoco alla casa e fuggi` dal marito. Schermo in bianco e nero quando prende il treno. Nagiko commenta anche la propria storia in inglese. Prese l'aereo e si trasferi` a Hong Kong, dove visse ai margini della societa`, lavorando in ristoranti. E` determinata a tenere viva la tradizione di suo padre. Si scrive addosso da se`. Trova lavoro in uno studio di designer e viene introdotta al mondo della moda. Impara l'inglese. Diventa modella. Adotta uno stile di vita decadente. Cerca l'amante ideale, ma e` insoddisfatta tanto degli anziani quanto dei giovani. Un fotografo giapponese la segue dappertutto.
Assume un calligrafo matematico che la riempie di formula, ed esige pagamento in natura. E cosi` via, d'amante in amante. La sua e` una paranoia. Costringe tutti gli uomini a un test di calligrafia sul suo corpo. Continua a scrivere il suo diario. Comincia a sperimentare il contrario: scrivere sul corpo di uomini, sempre in cambio di favori sessuali. Il corpo diventa la carta del suo diario. Seleziona gli uomini sulla base di quanto bene la loro pelle ritiene l'inchiostro. Un editore giapponese rifiuta di pubblicare il suo diario e lei vorrebbe sedurlo con il suo corpo, ma scopre che e` omosessuale. Si invaghisce pero` del suo giovane amante americano, Jerome, che sa scrivere in numerose lingue. Scene da kamasutra.
Il giovane si offre come messaggero: lei scrive un capitolo sul suo corpo e lui va a trovare l'editore. Spogliandosi, gli fa leggere il libro. Funziona: l'editore ne rimane affascinato. Lei e` pero` sempre piu` gelosa che lui debba fare l'amore con l'editore. Si mette a scrivere un libro su ogni uomo. Trova gli uomini in un ristorante di fiducia. Il giovane traduttore (Jerome) si chiude in una stanza, si droga alla follia e muore.
Lei arriva troppo tardi. Il giovane viene sepolto in un cimetero in collina, sotto il minaccioso profilo dei grattacieli. Lei brucia tutti i propri libri, i vestiti, le fotografie, i diari. E` il secondo fuoco della sua vita. La riporta in Giappone. Una gang dissotterra il corpo, interamente scritto dell'ultimo libro di Nagiko, il sesto. Spellano il cadavere e ne derivano una pergamena per l'editore. In Giappone lei continua a scrivere su altri corpi, che poi spedisce all'editore: spera che in cambio l'editore le ceda la pregiata pergamena di Jerome.
Il primo corpo arriva pero` sgualcito dalla pioggia, e l'editore deve accontentarsi del corpo per usci lascivi. L'ottovo libro arriva soltanto per via fotografica. Nagito e` incinta. Nagiko diventa sempre piu` criptica: i suoi "libri" portano sooltanto il titolo e qualche frase, scritta nei punti piu` bizzarri (l'orecchio, la lingua). L'editore e` sempre piu` irritato. Il tredicesimo libro e` un corpo grasso, finalmente pieno di testo, che l'editore divora avidamente. Davanti a questo capolavoro, l'editore cede la pargamena e si fa tagliare la gola dal messaggero. Nagiko ha dato alla luce una bambina. Mentre lei allatta il bambino, scorrono le immagini nel centro dello schermo delle sue passioni calligrafico-sessuali. Quello e` l'editore che perseguito` suo padre. Per questa ragione lei voleva che fosse lui a pubblicare il suo testo.
Ambienti sensuali, architettonicamente a meta` strada fra modernismo occidentale e spartano orientale. All'esterno ci sono i grattacieli, ma soltanto sullo schermo esteriore, nella cornice. Film multimediale e "televisivo", fatto di schermi dentro schermi, di immagini incastonate dentro immagini, di frenetici cambi di scena, di testo e video combinati (i sottotitoli sono parte integrante del film).. Lo schermo esterno e quello interno talvolta rappresentano la stessa scena, soltanto con qualche secondo di asincronia.

Il film non e` compiuto come i suoi precedenti. La trama e` piu` lineare, pero` esibisce anche difetti di plausibilita`. Tutto il film ruota attorno alla stessa idea, quella della ninfo-calligrafa. La struttura del film ricorda i cento quadri di Drowning by Numbers, e ancora una volta si ha la sensazione che si tratti soltanto di un saggio gratuito di virtuosismo. La dissezione del cadavere ricorda The Cook... Il tema del sesso come merce di pagamento ricorda The Draughtsman's Contract.
L'ossessione grafomana e nudista e` ripresa da Prospero's Books. La narrazione a strati, con flashback sovrapposti e quel descrivere la stessa scena in due schermi sovrapposti, e` inr ealta` un tentativo di mettere ordine nel frammentismo dei film precedenti. Ancora lontana dalla linearita`, la sua tecnica si avvicina pero` alla razionalita`.

8 1/2 Women (1999) is only superficially a parody of Fellini's masterpiece. All of Greenaway metaphysical themes and narrative techniques are present. The cold sequencing of scenes, the geometry of the plot (and the consequent illusion of chance), the roles of the classes, his peculiar variety of British nonsense, the passion for degrading subjects and shots, are still his tools. If this film is less of a cinematic shocking, it is because this time the sexual innuendos are sexual theory on a classical subject. In describing the erotic fantasies of a son and a father (and one can presume Greenaway hints that the son and the father are two aspects of the same man), the film is debating the eternal war of the sexes. As usual, the puzzle can be deciphered at several different semiotic levels. In Tokyo a British businessman, Philip, aided by his son Storey and an attractive interpreter, Kito, purchases 8 and a half videogame parlors by blackmailing a Japanese who even hits him in the face. His son Storey takes reckless charge of one of them and moves to an apartment upstairs. While he is playing himself with a slot machine, he meets a young attractive thief, Simato, who is being chased by an elderly man and helps her escape.
Philip has a crisis and threatens to drill a hole through his skull. Philip calls his son to communicate the news that his mother has died, while an earthquake strikes Tokyo.
Storey returns to the swiss chateau and tries to console his father. They discuss sex, they look at each other's naked bodies. At the funeral the father tries in vain to wear white clothes. Forced to change, he strips on the sidewalk. The son takes the father to watch Fellini's 8 1/2. The father talks about his father and how he had morbid fantasies about him just like the son seem to have now. They are watching a video of Fellini's 8 1/2 in the chateau. The son persuades his father to convert the chateau into a private brothel.
In Tokyo Storey is approached by the family of the thief who, through Kito's mediation, offer the woman to him as a sex slave as reparation for her stealing. They make love upstairs.
Storey, Philip, Kito and Simato attend a kabuki performance and meet a pretty spectator who is dressed like a kabuki actress, Mio. TGhey talk aloud in the theatre, and nobody seems to mind. An earthquake strikes.
Back to the chateau, Storey makes love to Simato under his father's eyes. An earthquake strikes. They both get in bed with Simato. Father and son meet in a futuristic office building. Philip confesses that he is obsessed by the androgyn sexuality of a bank teller of foreign origins, Griselda, whom he envisions as a depraved nun. They are spied by a surveillance camera. Back to the chateau, Mio is playing statue in the garden and in the living room.
Philip blackmails Griselda to force her to play his fantasy. At home they paint Mio white and shave Griselda.
While driving the Rolls Royce on a country road, they scare the horse of what appears to be an aristocratic woman. She falls and breaks her neck. Beryl is hospitalized, naked, and her neck and back are supported by equipment. She confesses that she stole the horse.
At the hospital the son meets an Italian, Giaconda, who is pregnant of her sixth child. Inspectors spy on her as they suspect she is selling the babies, which in fact she admits of doing.
Griselda is already in bed with Philip. She play the very religious woman.
Giaconda asks Storey to marry her so she can confound the detectives.
Philip visits Beryl at the hospital and takes her back to the opera. At the opera Storey meets his friend Palmira, a con-artist, who is the lover of the black tenor. Storey convinces Palmira to join the brotherl and become his father's main sex entertainer. The black tenor gives her a ride to the chateau.
An helicopter lands in the chateau's yard. All the women are out watching. It's Kito, the secretary, who joins the group.
Finally they acquire a midget named Giulietta.
The ever growing brothel angers Clothilde, the old and faithful maid of the chateau.
The nun has created a little chapel and hired other nuns to perform religious functions. While Beryl washes a big fat pig, the nun undresses and performs her duty to Philip.
Philip paints his face black to look like the tenor. Mio, Kito and Simato play kabuki, and the two men dress like women. Mio doesn't like Philip's impersonation and has a hysterical fit.
The following day Mio is found dead in the moat. The two men throw the corpse in the lake, spied by the detectives.
Giaconda keeps having babies and the two man decide to send her away.
Clothilde poisons the drink for Philip, but Philip is saved by the inspectors who storm the residence claiming they are after a con-artist: Clothilde confesses and lets them arrest her, while the pig drinks the poisoned drink.
In the videogame parlo Simato takes Kito hostage (a very willing hostage) and blackmails the men, who eventually surrender: they strip and sign a contract that surrenders the parlor to her.
Another earthquake strikes Tokyo and this time Kito is killed by falling debris while riding a bicycle.
Philip can't stand Griselda's religious obsession anymore and is digging a grave. Griselda joins a convent and refuses to talk to them.
Beryl rides away, naked, on a white horse.
Philip dies in bed while Palmira is giving him pleasure and his son is spying through the keyhole. Storey pretends he wasn't watching and then refuses to admit his father is dead. The black tenor comes to pick up Palmira, while Storey watches in a fit of jealousy.
The chateau is now quiet. Storey is alone with Giulietta, the half woman on a wheelchair. The son closes the door of the room where they are alone. An earthquake strikes.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da Laura Tittarelli)

8 1/2 Women (1999) e' solo in apparenza una parodia del capolavoro felliniano. In realta' racchiude le tematiche e le tecniche narrative tipiche di Greenaway. Il regista sfrutta infatti i suoi piu' classici strumenti: il freddo susseguirsi delle scene, la geometria della trama (e la conseguente illusione di fato), i ruoli delle classi sociali, la passione per le situazioni degradanti e le battute taglienti, senza dimenticare di far mostra del "nonsense" britannico. Se questo film risulta al pubblico meno scioccante di quanto non furono altri dello stesso Greenaway, si deve al fatto che in questo contesto le allusioni sessuali appaiono come pura teoria su un argomento classico. Infatti, nel descrivere le fantasie erotiche di un padre e di suo figlio (si potrebbe anche presumere che Greenaway voglia dare a questi due personaggi la valenza di due diversi aspetti dello stesso uomo), il film altro non fa se non dibattere riguardo l'eterna guerra tra i sessi. Come sempre, l'enigma puo' essere decifrato a piu' livelli semiotici.

Tokyo. Un uomo d'affari inglese, Philip, con l'aiuto del figlio Storey e di un'attraente interprete, Kito, acquista 8 salegiochi e mezzo ricattando un giapponese che lo prende anche a pugni in faccia. Il figlio si fa incoscientemente carico di una di queste, e va a vivere in un appartamento al piano sovrastante. Mentre gioca da solo con una slot machine, incontra una giovane ladra, molto attraente, Simato, che sta scappando da un uomo anziano che la insegue. Storey quindi la aiuta a fuggire.
Philip ha una crisi e minaccia di trapanarsi il cranio. Chiama poi suo figlio per dargli la notizia che la madre e' morta, proprio mentre un terremoto sta straziando Tokyo.
Storey torna in Svizzera, al castello dove vive il padre, per tentare di consolarlo. Parlano di sesso, osservano ognuno il corpo nudo dell'altro. Al funerale il padre vorrebbe vestire di bianco, ma viene forzato a cambiarsi, quindi si spoglia nel bel mezzo della strada. Storey porta il padre a vedere 8 1/2 di Fellini. Philip racconta di suo padre, e delle morbose fantasie che nutriva per lui, proprio come quelle che Storey dimostra! avere ora per il padre. Guardano 8 1/2 di Fellini nel castello. Il figlio convince suo padre a trasformare il castello in un bordello privato.
A Tokyo Storey viene avvicinato dai familiari della ladra i quali, tramite la mediazione di Kito, gli offrono la donna come schiava sessuale per rimediare al fatto di avergli rubato. I due vanno di sopra e fanno l'amore.
Storey, Philip, Kito e Simato inscenano una rappresentazione kabuki ed incontrano una bella spettatrice vestita come un'attrice kabuki, Mio. Parlano in teatro a voce molto alta, ma questo sembra non dia fastidio a nessuno. Altro terremoto.
Una volta tornati al castello, Storey fa l'amore con Simato proprio sotto gli occhi di suo padre. Terzo terremoto. Entrano entrambi nel letto di Simato. Padre e figlio si incontrano nell'ufficio di un palazzo futuristico. Philip confessa di essere ossessionato dalla sessualita' ambigua di una impi! egata di banca di origine straniera, Griselda, che lui immagina come una suora depravata. I due sono spiati da una telecamera di sorveglianza. Al castello, Mio fa la statua in giardino e nel salotto.
Philip ricatta Griselda per obbligarla a realizzare le sue fantasie. A casa dipingono Mio di bianco e rasano Griselda.
Mentre guidano la Rolls Royce in una stradina di campagna, spaventano un cavallo che sembra essere di una donna aristocratica, Beryl. Lei cade e si rompe il collo. Ora si trova all'ospedale, nuda, con il collo e la schiena sollevati da un macchinario. Confessa di aver rubato il cavallo.
All'ospedale Storey incontra una donna italiana, Giaconda, incinta del suo sesto figlio. La polizia sta indagando su di lei, perch‚ sospetta che venda i suoi bambini, cosa che infatti questa ammette di fare.
Griselda e' gia' a letto con Philip. Impersona la donna molto pia e religiosa.
Giac! onda chiede a Storey di sposarla, in modo da poter confondere gli ispettori.
Philip va a trovare Beryl all'ospedale e la porta all'opera, dove incontra la sua amica Palmira,una truffatrice amante del tenore (un uomo di colore). Storey convince Palmira ad unirsi al bordello e diventare la principale intrattenitrice sessuale del padre. Il tenore la accompagna al castello.
Un elicottero atterra nella tenuta del castello. Tutte le donne escono a guardare. E' Kito, la segretaria, che si unisce al gruppo.
In seguito arriva anche una nana di nome Giulietta.
Il bordello, in continua crescita, fa arrabbiare Clothilde, la vecchia e fidata cameriera del castello.
La suora ha creato una piccola cappella ed assume altre suore per praticare funzioni religiose. Mentre Beryl lava un maiale grande e grasso, la suora si spoglia e fa il suo dovere con Philip. .
Philip si dipinge la faccia ! di nero per assomigliare al tenore. Mio, Kito e Simato recitano il kabuki, ed i due uomini si vestono da donne. A Mio pero' non piace il loro travestimento, ed ha un attacco isterico.
Il giorno seguente Mio viene trovata morta nel fossato. I due uomini gettano il cadavere nel lago, non sapendo di essere spiati dagli investigatori..
Giaconda continua a fare bambini, ed i due uomini decidono di mandarla via.
Clothilde avvelena la bibita di Philip, il quale pero' viene salvato dall'ispettore di polizia che piomba in casa dicendo di essere sulle tracce di una truffatrice. Clothilde confessa e si fa arrestare, mentre il maiale beve la bibita avvelenata. .
Nella salagiochi Simato prende Kito in ostaggio (anche se questa non sembra dissentire molto) e ricatta i due uomini, i quali dopo una lunga attesa si arrendono. Si spogliano e firmano un contratto in cui cedono le salegiochi a Simato.
D! i nuovo un terremoto a Tokyo, e stavolta Kito rimane uccisa dalle macerie che cadono dai palazzi mentre va in bicicletta.
Philip non riesce piu' a sopportare l'ossessione religiosa di Griselda e scava una tomba. Griselda entra in convento e si rifiuta di parlare con loro.
Beryl monta un cavallo bianco e scappa via, nuda.
Philip muore nel suo letto mentre Palmira si adopera per dargli piacere e suo figlio li spia dal buco della serratura. Storey nega di avere spiato e si rifiuta di ammettere che il padre sia morto. Il tenore di colore va a prendere Palmira, mentre Storey rimane a guardare roso dalla gelosia.
Il castello e' finalmente quieto. Storey e' rimasto con Giulietta, la mezza donna sulla sedia a rotelle. Ciude la porta della stanza dove sono soli. Ultimo terremoto.

(Copyright © 2015 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of Use - Termini d'uso )