Early shorts (1969-78, Peter Greenaway)

Neat DVD. Glad I resisted temptation to buy it, but made a nice rental. Now if I can carve out four hours in two days to watch the second disc…

INTERVALS is pure formalism, edits of precise length set to an even beat, all shot in Venice but with no glimpses of water. PG says the rhythm is something to do with an Italian piece of music, just to make it even more rigorous.

The next four juxtapose grainy old films with off-kilter narration, looking progressively less like home-movies as PG starts getting a bit of a budget. H IS FOR HOUSE is actually a home movie, with a narrator reciting related and unrelated words that begin with the same letter. WINDOWS tells of 37 people who fell to their deaths from windows during a certain year in a certain province. WATER WRACKETS is very nice shots of water with a fake Tolkien-esque background story on the narration. DEAR PHONE, the most diverting of the four, alternates shots of red phone booths with shots of the pages the narrator reads from, stories of people obsessed with the telephone.

Dear Phone

A WALK THROUGH H was the best one here (fortunately, since it’s some 40 minutes long). A journey through “H” (heaven/hell?) with 92 maps, incl. backstory on the maps, the people they were acquired from, and the narrator’s spiritual guide, Tulse Luper. Almost the whole movie was motion close-ups of the maps themselves (and sometimes of the windmills that appeared as the maps faded), with bookend segments showing a gallery in which each map was displayed. Way to turn a painting career into a film career. Gives me real hope that the three-hour The Falls won’t be boring, as it seems it should be from its description. Oh, as the narrator is an ornithologist, we got some nice shots of birds too.

A Walk Through H

Was a fun disc, with scans of paintings and video introductions by PG, and gave nice insight into the genesis of the cataloguing fetish he expressed colorfully in Prospero’s Books and Drowning By Numbers. I’m into the head-smashing repetition of the Michael Nyman scores in his films, too. Still don’t get why some critics say his early stuff is wonderful and everything since (1985? 89?) is crap. Adrian Martin calls him “a totally vacuous phony”, and I know Sam hates PG too. Maybe one day it’ll hit me all at once, and I’ll sing the praises of Cache, late Woody Allen, Carl Dreyer and Robert Bresson while damning Prospero’s Books, Robert Rodriguez and Steven Spielberg.

A Walk Through H