Sunday, September 27, 2009

Rembrandt via Greenaway

Peter Greenaway’s Nightwatching (Koch Lorber) is another visually stunning but dramatically diffuse cinematic concoction from the British director, whose conceit for this 2007 drama (which, like his self-indulgent trilogy The Tulse Luper Suitcases, went unreleased in America) is that Rembrandt painted his masterpiece “The Night Watch” with clues to the cover-up of a murder among Amsterdam’s elite. It’s all grandiosely foolish, even if it allows Greenaway to stage sequences with a Rembrandt-like palette (as he did with Vermeer in A Zed and Two Noughts). For all his pretentiousness, Greenaway’s most successful narrative film—his 1982 debut, The Draughtsman’s Contract—was also the simplest visually. He’s usually short on ideas to fill standard two-hour films (although The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover and Prospero’s Books came close). What Greenaway’s films need is for an enterprising distributer to box them as a Blu-ray set, the best way to appreciate his extravaganzas. Happily, Koch Lorber doesn’t skimp on extras: interviews with the director and his three lead performers are included, and Rembrandt’s J’Accuse!, Greenaway’s entertaining art-history faux-documentary whodunit (premiering at Film Forum in October) on a bonus disc. There’s a whopper of a faux pas, however: the director’s name has been misspelled twice—on the extras menu and on the back of the DVD cover. Oops!
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