Peter Greenaway: A Documentary (1992)

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Released 1-May-2009

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1992
Running Time 60:00
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By None Given

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI ? Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Peter Greenaway: A Documentary is a 50 minute feature about the work of this legendary British filmmaker that is, at times, as curious as the maestro himself.

Released in 1992 it is haphazardly put together and lacks anything like a central narrative. Despite this it is still a film that any fan of Greenaway will want to watch and is a welcome addition to the Greenaway Collection.

The film begins with a masterclass to some English film students. Greenaway attempts to explain the central tenets of his work - not an easy task. For although Greenaway is fond of explaining his ideas in the simplest of terms, as though he was making episodes of Noddy, his films are anything but simple. They are dazzling and inventive, shocking and surprising but never simple. An artfully placed series of title cards just about sums up his interests: the alphabet, number counts, statistics, mathematics, language, lists, science and religion.

Although Greenaway has had a modest feature film output he has made numerous short films. As the documentary chronicles these shorts there are a number of blank screens suggesting that the film has been lost forever. A pity. He began his feature career with The Draughtsmans' Contract and thereafter put out a film every two or three years. The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover was undoubtedly his commercial highwater mark though fans differ on his creative peak. As surely as he had ascended to some measure of mainstream success he descended again focussing on his beloved art whilst the films became more and more obscure becoming, like The Baby of Macon, close to unwatchable. It is the artist, not the audience, who should suffer for their art!

This film was shot in 1991 after The Cook and but just before Prospero's Books had unnerved the Shakespeare fans looking for a faithful interpretation of The Tempest. What they got was Sir John Gielgud speaking (just about) every line form the film and oceans of bare flesh. In fact the last 23 minutes of this film consists of a a short called A Walk Through Prospero's Library. It is the extended opening sequence from Prospero's Books, and is at once dizzying and frustrating and weird.

In fact , the documentary looks at his early films and his art projects as well as an inventive TV project on the life of Charles Darwin but does not really show anything from his feature films. As said, an oddity, but worth a watch.

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Transfer Quality


   Peter Greenaway: A Documentary is presented on a single layer DVD and comprises only 50 minutes of content.

It is in a 1.33:1 ratio.

The quality of the film varies. The early sequences are shot on video at a masterclass and are poor in quality. The film is The final 23 minutes, being a specially devised sequence, are of film quality.

There are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The sound for Peter Greenaway: A Documentary is Dolby Digital 2.0 running at 224 Kb/s.

This is adequate for a film that largely consists of interview material. The film is not narrated. All the dialogue can be heard clearly. This is so not just because of the quality of the sound transfer but the fact that Greenaway is such a perfectly enunciated person.

There is no score for the film bar some stock music and the creepy soundscape of the Prospero's Books segment.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


No extras.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   This DVD is not available individually in any Region.


   Peter Greenaway: A Documentary is worth a watch but viewers should be aware that it really is only 37 minutes long and the rest is a short film, and a pretty dense and trying one at that.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Monday, June 22, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

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