“I don’t think we’ve seen any cinema yet. I think we’ve seen 100 years of illustrated text” — Peter Greenaway
Now available: Joseph by Peter Greenaway — the script for the new, forthcoming film.
His work is iconic. He’s controversial. He’s outspoken. He’s (arguably) a visionary. Artist-filmmaker, Peter Greenaway is the most unique voice in British ‘art house’ cinema. He is most well-known as the director of The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982), and The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989), among many other films. With an oeuvre spanning a tireless six decades, his work quite often polarizes opinion: some might say, “you either love him, or you hate him”.
Indeed, it seemed that (until recently) the British film industry and audiences had deliberately neglected and marginalised their home-grown ‘enfant terrible’ of cinema (his aesthetic ‘vision’ became more accepted in Europe, particularly in the Netherlands where he’s produced many of his films). Certainly since the late 1980s, Greenaway became rather unfashionable in the UK: rival filmmakers and critics tried to alienate him with ferocious bad reviews. Then in 2014, for a moment, this bizarrely changed when Greenaway was awarded the BAFTA for Outstanding British Contribution To Cinema. Especially for fans of this uncompromising auteur, it was an extraordinary and rather odd, bitter-sweet event. But then, maybe it was long overdue that Greenaway finally received official recognition for his work? However he does what he does, not for back-slapping film industry accolades, but…for Art’s sake. He’s not mainstream and has never played by the rules. Any true fan knows that.
Greenaway, in fact, has an art school background and trained as a painter in the 1960s (it seems few people are aware of this). It is this education and subsequently his enduring passion for Art History which informs and runs deeply through his work in film, video, painting, drawing, writing, museum installation, and theatre stage design (among various other mediums). He has always been a risk-taker and experimenter, pushing the boundaries and indefatigably challenging the definition and ontology of cinema. Thus, he moves quite happily between art forms: from his days in the 1970s experimenting with Structuralist cinema (H is for House, 1973), to his major ‘artist-auteur’ museum installations of the 1990s (The Physical Self, Museum Boymans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 1991), and far beyond.
Always operating at the frontier of visual media technology, Greenaway’s 1991 film, Prospero’s Books (based upon Shakespeare’s The Tempest), for example, pioneered the new video Hi-Vision and Paintbox computer softwares, which enabled him to overlay multiple moving and still pictures with animations and calligraphy. The visual results are sumptuous. This insatiable and critical curiosity about ‘what cinema is’ its technologies and its true potential, further evolved into his ‘VJ’ing’ experiments in the 2000s, and his audio-visual ‘digital installations’ of recent years (The Towers/Lucca Hubris, Lucca, 2013).
So, the diversity of Peter Greenaway’s work is perhaps more than you initially thought? Anyway, let’s go back to his films…and back to books…
Our esteemed client publisher, Dis Voir has collaborated with Greenaway for almost 20 years on the publication of his entire film scripts. It really is an exclusive (and still growing) collection of books which we are delighted to be distributing. Individually and as a set, the books offer a fascinating insight into the narrative workings of his feature films. You can order the ‘Peter Greenaway Scripts Series’ (and other Greenaway books) online here.
Earlier this year Greenaway released his new film, Eisenstein in Guanajuato – a fictional account of the pioneering Russian filmmaker’s travels in Mexico.
“It doesn’t matter what the technology is – no one will watch a Peter Greenaway film anyway” — Alan Parker
Oh dear… well, as we said, Greenaway certainly divides opinion! Now, it’s over to you, dear reader. What do you think?