Peter Greenaway Criticism - Essay

Peter Greenaway and Karen Jaehne (interview date 1984)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Greenaway, Peter, and Karen Jaehne. “The Draughtsman's Contract: An Interview with Peter Greenaway.” Cineaste 13, no. 2 (1984): 13–15.

[In the following interview, Greenaway discusses The Draughtsman's Contract, focusing on the film's emphasis on dialogue and language.]

[Jaehne:] Many of the new British filmmakers are focusing on chapters in history that appear to be “turning points”—Ghandi's India, England between two wars in Chariots of Fire. The Draughtsman's Contract is also a historical recreation—in fact, so deliberately so that you appear to be making or, rather, overstating a point. What is the...

(The entire section is 2570 words.)

Peter Greenaway and Don Ranvaud (interview date summer 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Greenaway, Peter, and Don Ranvaud. “The Belly of an Architect.Sight & Sound 56, no. 2 (summer 1987): 193–96.

[In the following interview, Greenaway discusses The Belly of an Architect and the importance of the characters and the setting in the film.]

Peter Greenaway's new film [The Belly of an Architect], which opens in London in the autumn, relates the confrontation in Rome of two architects, one of whom is a historical figure, the other a fictional character. The historical figure is Etienne-Louis Boullée (1728–99), a visionary French architect whose latent influence can be detected in the neo-classical monumentality of the...

(The entire section is 3169 words.)

Coco Fusco (review date February 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Fusco, Coco. “Requiem for an Architect.” Art in America 76, no. 2 (February 1988): 31–35.

[In the following positive review, Fusco argues that The Belly of an Architect can be seen as an allegory about the inner workings of the art world, particularly how art “products” are packaged for public consumption.]

Since the Neo-Classical revival of the 18th century, English artists and intellectuals have escaped to Italy seeking sun, sensuality and the sources of Western art. As a young painter in the 1960s, Peter Greenaway also made the obligatory pilgrimage to Rome and found inspiration there in the architecture. But when the...

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Suzanne Moore (review date 9 September 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Moore, Suzanne. “Filming by Numbers.” New Statesman & Society 1, no. 14 (9 September 1988): 48–49.

[In the following review, Moore examines Greenaway's preoccupation with order in Drowning by Numbers and criticizes his stereotypical characters.]

Peter Greenaway is a clever, cultured man who makes clever, cultured films. So clever, in fact, he managed to get a special programme on Channel 4 just to explain his latest effort. Fear of Drowning is both a guide to, and an analysis of, Drowning by Numbers. In it he sounds like a man with a plan, someone with a trick or two up their sleeve: precious, pretentious and profound—rather...

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Anthony Quinn (review date 9 September 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Quinn, Anthony. “Painting by Degrees.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4458 (9 September 1988): 991.

[In the following review of Drowning by Numbers, Quinn offers a negative assessment of Greenaway's sparse characterizations and empty plot.]

The director's notes in the rather lavish press kit to Drowning by Numbers inform us that the film is about “the conspiracy of women.” This theme is not a new one for Peter Greenaway: the brash arriviste Mr Neville is undone by the aristocratic mother and daughter in The Draughtsman's Contract (1982), and The Belly of an Architect (1987) charted the slow, sad disintegration of a man...

(The entire section is 527 words.)

Peter Greenaway and Ruth Perlmutter (interview date winter 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Greenaway, Peter, and Ruth Perlmutter. “Peter Greenaway: An Inter-Review.” Post Script: Essays in Film and the Humanities (winter 1989): 56–63.

[In the following interview, Greenaway discusses his filmmaking techniques and the place of cinema in the world of art.]

In his new film Drowning by Numbers, Peter Greenaway resumes the preoccupations of his previous films that often earned him accusations of mannerism, elitism, and intellectual exhibitionism. As in his earlier feature films, The Falls (1980), The Draughtsman's Contract (1982), A Zed and Two Noughts (1986), and The Belly of an Architect (1987), Greenaway shows an...

(The entire section is 2531 words.)

Sean French (review date autumn 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: French, Sean. “Spit Roast.” Sight and Sound 58, no. 4 (autumn 1989): 277–78.

[In the following review, French offers a positive assessment of The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover, complimenting the film's visual style.]

Eating is a constant theme in the films of Alfred Hitchcock. More oddly, as Donald Spoto observed in his biography, lavatories recur to a quite obsessive degree throughout his oeuvre. During his conversations with François Truffaut, Hitchcock, the greatest of cinematic gourmets, spoke of an ambition to make a film that would portray the life of a city through its food. It would show the raw ingredients being transported...

(The entire section is 1093 words.)

Suzanne Moore (review date 20 October 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Moore, Suzanne. “Body Horror.” New Statesman & Society 2, no. 72 (20 October 1989): 48–49.

[In the following review, Moore praises the visual style in The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover, but criticizes the film's lack of substance.]

This week I don't need an excuse. I can talk serious crap. I mean excremental culture, I mean the new Peter Greenaway film. Which is, after all, about eating and shitting and dying and fucking, but not necessarily in that order. It is about the capacity of human beings to turn everything they consume into shit. It is about greed and evil and revenge. It's the bottom line according to Greenaway, bottom...

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Alan Jenkins (review date 3 November 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Jenkins, Alan. “Rutting and Rotting.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4518 (3 November 1989): 1212.

[In the following mixed review of The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover, Jenkins argues that the character of the “Thief” is neither believable nor original.]

“The naughty bits and the dirty bits are very close together,” blurts Albert Spica, the villain of this piece, a few minutes into it; and thereafter we are seldom allowed to forget how much eating owes to death and sex to food, and how all flesh bears the taint of corruption.

Peter Greenaway's rich, dark fantasy, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover,...

(The entire section is 664 words.)

Leonard Quart (review date 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Quart, Leonard. Review of The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover, by Peter Greenaway. Cineaste (1990): 45–47.

[In the following review, Quart argues that The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover is solely “an exercise in style,” and that the film, though aesthetically pleasing, is superficial.]

Peter Greenaway is an English director whose films have always aimed at provoking an audience. In the past, excepting the critical success of his first feature, The Draughtsman's Contract (1982), his films have failed to receive commercial distribution in the U.S. With the success of his Jacobean-style, black comic fable, The Cook,...

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Stuart Klawans (review date 7 May 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Klawans, Stuart. Review of The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover, by Peter Greenaway. Nation 250, no. 18 (7 May 1990): 644–46.

[In the following review, Klawans offers a negative assessment of The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover, calling it “a film of ideas by a man who hasn't really got any.”]

Albert Spica doesn't know much, but he knows there's a connection between sex and food. It's the sort of Freudian tidbit of which a gangster—or any upwardly mobile lout such as Albert—may feel proud. Similarly, he's proud of owning an elegant restaurant, Le Hollandais, and an elegant wife, Georgina, and abuses them both—for their...

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John Simon (review date 14 May 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Simon, John. “Bon Appetit!” National Review 42, no. 9 (14 May 1990): 52–56

[In the following review, Simon examines the weaknesses of The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover, referring to the film as “altogether undesirable.”]

Peter Greenaway's latest, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, & Her Lover, is a film whose detestableness is heralded by its ponderous title. Have you noticed, by the way, the depredations of the ampersand on film titling? It is a dependable harbinger of disaster, as recently in Stanley & Iris, and now in what I'll shorten to CTW&L. Why those ampersands? It wasn't Romeo & Juliet...

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Richard Alleva (review date 1 June 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Alleva, Richard. “Something to Gag On.” Commonweal 117, no. 11 (1 June 1990): 351–53.

[In the following negative review, Alleva argues that although The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover can be viewed as a political allegory, Greenaway's over-indulgences in the film quickly become annoying.]

The English film director Peter Greenaway is a startling picture maker and a lousy storyteller. In Cinematic Utopia he would be commissioned to create short, abstract works packed with dazzling and abrasive images linked together only by formal aptness and some kind of dream logic. But, because he works in a business which produces mainly fictional...

(The entire section is 1365 words.)

Stanley Kauffmann (review date 4 June 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Kauffmann, Stanley. “Tales of Two Cities.” New Republic 202, no. 23 (4 June 1990): 24–25.

[In the following excerpt, Kauffmann offers a negative assessment of The Belly of an Architect, criticizing Greenaway's lack of focus and commenting that “absolutely nothing is accomplished in this film.”]

The success, or at least the notoriety, of Peter Greenaway's latest film, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, & Her Lover, has prompted the release of one of the films he made between The Draughtsman's Contract and the new one. The Belly of an Architect was done in 1987, and its release adds to the puzzlements of Greenaway's career....

(The entire section is 645 words.)

Michael Wilmington (review date 22 June 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Wilmington, Michael. “Dreams Razed in The Belly of an Architect.Los Angeles Times (22 June 1990): F8.

[In the following negative review, Wilmington criticizes the sense of artificiality in The Belly of an Architect.]

Like a jewel with a huge flaw, Peter Greenaway's The Belly of an Architect simultaneously dazzles and disappoints. Made in 1986, and released now in the wake of the art-house success of The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover, it's another of Greenaway's comic-erotic parables about the artist's nightmare: struggling to produce or celebrate something timeless and perfect, weighed down by the boils and lusts and...

(The entire section is 627 words.)

Richard Blake (review date 23 June 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Blake, Richard. “Metaphor.” America (23 June 1990): 609–13.

[In the following review, Blake offers an unfavorable assessment of The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover, calling it “a most unpleasant experience to subject the psyche to.”]

The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover is not a very good film. In fact, it would probably have slipped all but unnoticed into a few “art” houses and vanished without a trace, had it not been for the publicity it received for its X-rating from the Motion Picture Association of America (M.P.A.A.). The producers complained about the “censorship” and decided to release the film as...

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Edmond Grant (review date October–November 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Grant, Edmond. Review of The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover, by Peter Greenaway. Films in Review 42, nos. 10/11 (October–November 1990): 488–90.

[In the following review, Grant argues that the elements of political allegory in The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover cannot adequately emerge because of the film's highly stylized form.]

Although it seems unusual, and highly pretentious, to call vulgarity “aesthetic,” the brand of vulgarity practiced in this masterfully overdone work [The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover] from director Peter Greenaway is just that. Which is not to say that it's pretty, or to...

(The entire section is 1336 words.)

William F. Van Wert (review date winter 1990–1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Van Wert, William F. Review of The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover, by Peter Greenaway. Film Quarterly 44, no. 2 (winter 1990–1991): 42–50.

[In the following review, Van Wert confronts Greenaway's critics by arguing that The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover cannot be analyzed in the traditional manner because of the way that Greenaway views a film as “a total work of art.”]

D. H. Lawrence once defined pornography as the confusion, due to anatomical proximity and cultural interdict, of the reproductive organs with the excretory organs. The scandal is that the confusion still reigns and conspires to give Peter Greenaway's...

(The entire section is 5662 words.)

Peter Greenaway and Marcia Pally (interview date 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Greenaway, Peter, and Marcia Pally. “Cinema as the Total Art Form: An Interview with Peter Greenaway.” Cineaste 18, no. 3 (1991): 6–11, 45.

[In the following interview, Greenaway discusses the critical response to his films and his approach to filmmaking.]

Born in England in 1942, Peter Greenaway attended what he calls “a minor English public school that preserves the worst traditions—fagging, burning the pubic hair of new boys, that sort of Godawful activity.” After completing the Forest Public School, Greenaway resisted his parents' plan to send him to university and went instead to the Walthamstow School of Art in east London. He exhibited for...

(The entire section is 5564 words.)

David Wills and Alec McHoul (essay date spring 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Wills, David and Alec McHoul. “Zoo-logics: Questions of Analysis in a Film by Peter Greenaway.” Textual Practice 5, no. 1 (spring 1991): 8–24.

[In the following essay, Wills and McHoul examine how A Zed and Two Noughts functions as an “intellectual exercise,” arguing that the film's more traditional elements—plot, character, themes—come across as contrived.]


The forms of texts that we might call, for want of a better word, postmodern, are not unfamiliar to us. We can immediately call to mind Joyce, the nouveau roman, so-called metafiction, Pynchon, DeLillo and so on. And we can argue about the applicability...

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Peter Greenaway and Adam Barker (interview date May 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Greenaway, Peter, and Adam Barker. “A Tale of Two Magicians.” Sight and Sound 1, no. 1 (May 1991): 27–30.

[In the following interview, Greenaway discusses how he developed the idea for Prospero's Books, how high-definition television influenced the look of the film, and the differences between male and female protagonists in his work.]

Flaunting their erudition and relishing their overt staginess, Peter Greenaway's films divide audiences. There are those prepared to entertain his conceits and play the game, and others for whom a Greenaway film is about as exciting as a guided tour through an ancient museum where the catalogue has been lost. What is...

(The entire section is 3303 words.)

Jonathan Romney (review date September 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Romney, Jonathan. Review of Prospero's Books, by Peter Greenaway. Sight and Sound 1, no. 5 (September 1991): 44–45.

[In the following review, prefaced by a plot summary, Romney comments on Greenaway's use of new film techniques in Prospero's Books and examines how the film merges images with theme.]

The early seventeenth century. On a secluded island, Prospero, the deposed Duke of Milan, sits in his palace surrounded by a retinue of magical spirits, and begins to improvise the text of Shakespeare's The Tempest. As he speaks the lines, the action unfolds. … A storm blows up at sea, threatening the boat carrying Alonso, King of Naples,...

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David Nokes (review date 13 September 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Nokes, David. “Spell-bound.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4615 (13 September 1991): 19.

[In the following review, Nokes argues that although the central character's performance in Prospero's Books is laudable, the film relies too heavily on technical effects.]

Dryden wrote of Shakespeare's apparent lack of book-learning, “he needed not the spectacles of books to read nature; he looked inwards, and found her there.” Peter Greenaway disagrees. In Prospero's Books, he assumes the spectacles of books to furnish The Tempest with a highly learned gloss. His myriad visual allusions are like a thousand illuminated footnotes decorating the...

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Howard A. Rodman (essay date November–December 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Rodman, Howard A. “Anatomy of a Wizard.” American Film 16, no. 10 (November–December 1991): 35–39.

[In the following essay on the making of Prospero's Books, Rodman talks with Greenaway about how he manipulated visual images for the film using high-definition equipment.]

Tokyo, the Shibuya District. On a sunny midday in February, the streets are dense with purposeful pedestrians. But if the image is Japanese, the text is English: Signage—massive, outsize, in paint, in neon, in pulsating arrays of electric-bulb dot matrix—shouts out Coke, Amtrak Discotheque, Newport Beach Fashion's Island.

Just across the avenue at the edge...

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Richard Alleva (review date 31 January 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Alleva, Richard. Review of Prospero's Books by Peter Greenaway. Commonweal 119, no. 2 (31 January 1992): 25–26.

[In the following negative review, Alleva praises John Gielgud's performance in Prospero's Books, claiming that it saves an otherwise “shallow” film.]

Peter Greenaway, a self-preening postmodernist who couldn't articulate the simplest story to save his life, has made an adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest called Prospero's Books. Wisely coasting on his small but undeniable flair for Felliniesque imagery and, even more wisely, hiring Sir John Gielgud to play Prospero, Greenaway has managed to give us a...

(The entire section is 723 words.)

Nathaniel Bird (review date January–February 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Bird, Nathaniel. Review of Prospero's Books, by Peter Greenaway. Films in Review 43, nos. 1–2 (January–February 1992): 49–50.

[In the following review, Bird praises the stunning visuals of Prospero's Books, but acknowledges that the film may be inaccessible to most audiences.]

One thing must be said about Peter Greenaway: he is unique among today's filmmakers. While most of America is content to watch not only the same film genres over and over (a spate of age-reversal films, back-to-the-past films, science-fiction westerns, undersea horror, etc.) but, worse, the continuation of the same film over and over (The Godfather Part...

(The entire section is 934 words.)

Peggy Phelan (essay date May 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Phelan, Peggy. “Numbering Prospero's Books.Performing Arts Journal 41, no. 2 (May 1992): 43–50.

[In the following essay, Phelan analyzes the important role that numbers and numerical structures play in Prospero's Books.]

James I, like many powerful men, had a short attention span. Like the “target audience” for most contemporary Hollywood films, James preferred fast action, elaborate scenery, and good music with a simple plot. Given the politics of theatrical patronage it is not surprising that Renaissance drama lost out to the masque as the King's favorite mode of nationalist art. Before the masque triumphed, however, theatre tried to...

(The entire section is 2096 words.)

Geoffrey Macnab (review date September 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Macnab, Geoffrey. Review of The Baby of Mâcon, by Peter Greenaway. Sight and Sound 3, no. 9 (September 1993): 41.

[In the following negative review, Macnab argues that the acting and the technological innovations in The Baby of Mâcon fall short of Greenaway's previous films.]

Early in this nativity play-within-a-film, a doddering prelate peers under the skirts of a young, would-be Madonna, trying to ascertain whether or not she is a virgin, but comes out stumped. “I don't know what I'm supposed to be looking for,” he says. His confusion is likely to be shared by audiences as they survey the picture as a whole. An unwieldy mix of Mariolatry...

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Peter Greenaway and Nick James (essay date November 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Greenaway, Peter, and Nick James. “Body Talk.” Sight and Sound 6, no. 11 (November 1996): 14–17.

[In the following essay, James and Greenaway explore the concept of “visual language” in Greenaway's The Pillow Book.]

No single way of describing Peter Greenaway's new film, The Pillow Book, is adequate to its combination of schemes and experiences. The film derives from the classic Japanese text The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, a diary written by a tenth-century court lady, containing reports of lovers, aesthetic observations and lists of favoured objects or activities. Excerpts from this appear in the film, but Greenaway wanted to find a...

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Mariacristina Cavecchi (essay date 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Cavecchi, Mariacristina. “Peter Greenaway's Prospero's Books: A Tempest between Word and Image.” Literature Film Quarterly 25, no. 2 (1997): 83–90.

[In the following essay, Cavecchi studies how Greenaway's use of technological devices in Prospero's Books mirrors the illusions that Shakespeare originally created in The Tempest.]

In [Prospero's Books,] Greenaway develops and focuses on the aesthetic and mannerist aspects of the Shakespearean text, while he does not seem to care too much about the other very important Shakespearean themes, such as power or history.1 As far as it is possible to generalize about the relation...

(The entire section is 4298 words.)

Kenneth Turan (review date 6 June 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Turan, Kenneth. “Greenaway's Pillow Book is Another Exercise in Style.” Los Angeles Times (6 June 1997): F11.

[In the following negative review, Turan argues that the beautiful visuals in The Pillow Book do not make up for the film's “mechanical” style.]

Despite its arresting visual style, its wave after wave of creative and hypnotic images, The Pillow Book, as its name hints, slowly but inexorably leads to sleep.

Written and directed by Peter Greenaway, The Pillow Book is more coherent and plotted than his last film, the understandably little seen The Baby of Mâcon. But it shares with that and...

(The entire section is 645 words.)

John Simon (review date 14 July 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Simon, John. Review of The Pillow Book, by Peter Greenaway. National Review 49, no. 13 (14 July 1997): 53–55.

[In the following review, Simon offers a positive assessment of The Pillow Book, calling the film “overwhelming” and “blissfully liberating.”]

Crazy, as is well known, comes in two forms: like a fox and like a loon—madness with method in it, or just plain dementia. The British filmmaker Peter Greenaway partakes of both: some of his films come across more foxy than loony, others the reverse. The Pillow Book, his latest, is on the cusp: you are never sure whether it is the work of a coolly cerebral prestidigitator or an...

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Jacqui Sadashige (review date December 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Sadashige, Jacqui. Review of The Pillow Book, by Peter Greenaway. American Historical Review 102, no. 5 (December 1997): 1598–599.

[In the following review, Sadashige discusses the geographical and temporal movement in The Pillow Book.]

The flourishing of feminine vernacular literature that occurred during the Heian period (794–1185 CE) produced two Japanese “classics”: Murasaki Shikibu's epic The Tale of Gengi and the Makura no Shōshi (“pillow book”) of Sei Shōnagon. It is from the latter that Peter Greenaway's latest film derives both its title and its structuring premise. Like its tenth-century model—a diary-like...

(The entire section is 824 words.)

David Drew (review date 4 December 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Drew, David. “Athwart the Paradise of the Idea.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4992 (4 December 1998): 18–20.

[In the following review, Drew traces the history of Christophe Colomb and discusses Greenaway's reinterpretation of the opera.]

The new staging of Christophe Colomb by Saskia Boddeke and the British filmmaker Peter Greenaway is the first in Germany since Erich Kleiber conducted the world premiere at the same house sixty-seven years ago, and the first in any capital city since then. Despite the notable absence of the Staatsoper's musical director, Daniel Barenboim, the team lead by Georg Quander—the Intendant—has set an example...

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Chantal Cornut-Gentille D'Arcy (essay date April 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: D'Arcy, Chantal Cornut-Gentille. “Peter Greenaway's The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover.Literature Film Quarterly 27, no. 2 (April 1999): 116–25.

[In the following essay, D'Arcy examines The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover as a commentary on gender roles and political Thatcherism.]

In spite of a deceptively simple title that conjures up all the charm of a folk tale, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover is, to say the least, a complex film so divergent in its various implications as to defy the possibility of any single explanation. However, it is precisely the multiplicity of possible interpretations that...

(The entire section is 6302 words.)

Richard Falcon (review date January 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Falcon, Richard. Review of 8[frac12] Women, by Peter Greenaway. Sight and Sound 10, no. 1 (January 2000): 48–49.

[In the following review, Falcon offers a negative assessment of 8[frac12] Women, arguing that the film is limited by Greenaway's self-referential style.]

8[frac12] Women sets out its organising principles in the title while the director Peter Greenaway offers in the press notes his customary auto-exegesis for baffled critics, explaining that the film is constructed around an intentionally comic parade of eight and a half archetypes of male sexual fantasy, as represented in western art practice down the ages. For each figure, a...

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Peter Greenaway and Hugh Aldersey-Williams (interview date March 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Greenaway, Peter, and Hugh Aldersey-Williams. “Peter Greenaway: Against the Tyranny of Cinema.” Graphis, no. 2 (March 2000): 96–104.

[In the following interview, Greenaway discusses what he sees as the four “tyrannies of cinema”—the text, the actors, the camera, and the frame.]

Peter Greenaway's work typically provokes mainstream critics into revealing their cozy preference for all films to be essentially the same: “dramatic” stories, told in dialogue form, with famous actors playing clear roles. Greenaway sees different potentials. His films for the cinema and television, helped in recent years by the prolific use of digital media technology,...

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Kevin Thomas (review date 26 May 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Thomas, Kevin. “Rich Characters, Absurdist Humor in 8[frac12] Women.Los Angeles Times (26 May 2000): F14.

[In the following positive review, Thomas praises 8[frac12] Women, noting that it is “one of Greenaway's most amusing and accessible” films to date.]

Peter Greenaway's 8[frac12] Women is a nod to Fellini—and that “half” turns out to be a typically dark Greenaway twist. No artistic temperaments could be more different than those of Greenaway and Fellini. Greenaway is the detached, pitiless intellectual whose magistral experimental flourishes can be recondite in the extreme, whereas Fellini is the lyrical, compassionate...

(The entire section is 672 words.)