Overall | The Draughtsman's Contract (1982) | A Zed & Two Noughts (1985) | Peter Greenaway: A Documentary (1992)

Peter Greenaway Collection (1982)

Peter Greenaway Collection (1982)

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Released 1-May-2009

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Overall Package

   The Peter Greenaway Collection is an excellent starting point for those interested in this obscure British director.

It contains his first two full length narrative films The Draughtsman's Contract and A Zed and Two Noughts together with an interesting if haphazard documentary. Greenaway would continue to direct amazing, frustrating, odd features for many years after this august beginning. The Belly of an Architect and Drowning by Numbers both in the mid 80's drew greater audiences before The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover made him almost a mainstream director. But Greenaway was never particularly interested in mainstream success and his difficult films of the 90's saw the viewing public fade away. He now concentrates on art projects and makes the odd (no pun intended) film.

This collection gives viewers a chance to see two of his brightest and cheekiest achievements. The first picture subverts the English murder mystery into a perverse drama/comedy of sexual power and the second is a grab bag of art and style that is elusive and direct at the same time. Both benefit greatly from the contribution of composer Michael Nyman.

A worthy collection.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Other Reviews NONE
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Overall | The Draughtsman's Contract (1982) | A Zed & Two Noughts (1985) | Peter Greenaway: A Documentary (1992)

The Draughtsman's Contract (1982)

The Draughtsman's Contract (1982)

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Released 23-Jun-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Audio Commentary-Director Peter Greenaway
Introduction-by Peter Greenaway (9.56)
Featurette-Restoration (2.39)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Two Scenes (5.30), (4.55)
Deleted Scenes-Four Scenes
Interviews-Crew-Guardian Interview : Michael Nyman (6.39)
Gallery-Photo
Web Links
Easter Egg-Press Book
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1982
Running Time 103:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Peter Greenaway
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Anthony Higgins
Janet Suzman
Anne-Louise Lambert
Hugh Fraser
Neil Cunningham
Dave Hill
David Gant
David Meyer
Tony Meyer
Nicolas Amer
Suzan Crowley
Lynda La Plante
Michael Feast
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Michael Nyman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 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

    There's never been another filmmaker like Peter Greenaway. Bursting onto the art-house scene in 1982 with The Draughtsman's Contract he directed a string of astonishing, funny, infuriating films through the 80's, with each displaying a different level of audacity. In the 90's his films, like The Baby of Macon, became so wilfully obscure and distancing that they bordered on unwatchable (Nathan Lee of The New Yorker once joked that Greenaway's film 8 1/2 Women was seen by that many people!). Now he still makes the odd film but each is more in the nature of an art project than a work of cinema.

If there was a point of reference for Greenaway it could be found in American director David Lynch who saw a similar, although more commercial, rise to prominence in the 1980's. But where Lynch blends the mundane and the menacing to create a weird suburbia Greenaway is a cinematic prankster whose films, though sharing Lynch's penchant for abrupt shocking violence, are games and intellectual pursuits for the audience.

Greenaway had been making short films since the 1960's. He was a fine art student in England and the short films can be seen as an extension of his pure art ideals. The early 80's were a tough time for the British film industry despite the Oscar success of Chariots of Fire and Ghandi. Despite limited funding Greenaway made his first full length film, The Falls, in 1980 - a catalogue of 92 individuals all with "falls" in their name who suffered from Violent Unexplained Events. Quirky, droll and entirely different it marked Greenaway as a filmmaker to watch.

In 1982 The Draughtsman's Contract coalesced Greenaway's ideas and obsessions into a digestible work. Though he describes it in the commentary track as simply a "historical Agatha Christie", the film is much more and stands as one of the creative high points of the decade.

The plot, such as it is, is quite simple. Assured and arrogant Mr Neville (Anthony Higgins) is a successful draughtsman who is valued across the land as a sketch artist to the aristocracy, rendering their houses and estates on paper for perpetuity. Mrs Herbert (Janet Suzman) approaches him with a proposition - to draw her husbands estate for considerable reward. It seems that Mr and Mrs Herbert have become estranged and Mrs Herbert believes that the drawings will bring her husband back to the fold. Initially, unattracted to the proposition Neville accepts the offer only after Mrs Herbert agrees to his terms - that he will do 12 drawings of the buildings and grounds and Mrs Herbert will make herself available for his pleasure! The contract is duly written up by the scheming Mr Noyes (Neil Cunningham) who has had his own designs on Mrs Herbert for some time. Fortunately for the participants the cold and distant Mr Herbert is philandering in the south whilst the goings-on are going on.

Mr Neville is a stickler for detail and issues a series of commands that the areas he is to draw must be abandoned of servants and left in an unvaried condition from day to day. Small changes do appear, however. A coat here, an open window, a ladder. Initially displeased Neville begins to incorporate these elements into his drawings. When Mrs Herbert's daughter (Picnic at Hanging Rock's Miranda Anne-Marie Lambert) suggests to Neville that the objects could be interpreted as clues in a possible murder. The daughter is married to an equally haughty man, the German Mr Talmann. He, quite rightly, suspects that something is going on between the randy Neville and his wife.

Intrigue piles on intrigue but the arrogant Neville is too proud or naive to stop the course of events. When Mr Herbert is dragged from the pond all are suspect. Unlike the usual Christie, events are resolved on a dark night with maximum brutality.

The Draughtsman's Contract is a film built on artifice. The characters are drawn in broad strokes and the costumes are laced and the hairstyles bouffanted to ridiculous extremes. The effect is to create a strange world, alien yet recognizable, in which the characters are likes exotic chess pieces. The film may be too strange for some. The presence of a naked man painted as a statue is just one of the oddities on offer. But for sheer audacity and élan the film is hard to ignore and even harder to dislike. The actors romp through their parts and the script fairly crackles with rich and witty dialogue. No examination of the film could ignore the enormous contribution made by the music of Michael Nyman. The British minimalist not only scored Greenaway's early films to perfection but also created one of the most enduring scores in The Piano. Here Nyman works from grounds by Purcell to create a score of weirdness and familiarity that utterly suits the film.

This DVD is available as part of the Umbrella Entertainment Peter Greenaway Collection along with A Zed & Two Noughts and Peter Greeenaway: A Documentary. Those fans of Greenaway who don't own the films already should consider this an essential purchase.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

   The Draughtsman's Contract was shot on 16mm film blown up to 35mm for cinematic release. It was projected at a 1.66:1 European Widescreen ratio. This DVD preserves that aspect ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced.

The transfer for this DVD was freshly minted from a restoration project in 2003. The DVD contains an extra which compares an original extant copy of the film to the restored product.

Before anyone starts getting too excited about a demonstration quality DVD I should point out that the process of restoration has turned an unwatchable film into a watchable film. The original print was washed out , bedevilled by artefacts and generally about to fall apart. The new restored edition is still of only average quality and features a number of defects. There are still artefacts to be seen and a wobbly telecine in the opening credits. The blacks are really only shades of dark and detail is a little thin. Grain is not surprisingly present to some extent throughout.

I doubt that there is enough money around to deliver a 1080P restoration of the film. In the meantime we must be content that this DVD represents the best possible image quality for this somewhat obscure film.

The subtitles are in French but no English subtitles. There is one scene with a Dutch landscaper which is intentionally not subtitled.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The Draughtsman's Contract arrives on DVD with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack running at 224Kb/s.

This is consistent with the age and history of the film. It would have been nice to get a 5.1 remaster but beggars can't be choosers. The quality of the track is a little muddy and sometimes it is necessary to strain a bit to hear the dialogue. The fact that there are no English subtitles can make this a bit of a problem at times as the dialogue is rapid-fire.

The music of Michael Nyman is , of course, a key attraction here. Working from grounds by Henry Purcell Nyman twists these baroque delights into minimalist delights that convey the past and the future.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

This DVD features a wealth of extras.

Audio Commentary

Peter Greenaway is a man of commanding intellect. His commentary tracks are more like university lectures than Making of guides. After all, when was the last time you heard a director talking about the "Hugenot North-French lace-making tradition"? Despite this fierce intelligence Greenaway is anything but superior - he explains his films in a way that seems simple and obvious. This film, he says, is about land, money, hereditary rights and continuity. Although sometimes scene specific the commentary is pretty wide ranging and deals with all aspects of the production. Greenaway insists that it is possible to ignore all the artistic and literary references and just enjoy the film as a simple murder mystery. Maybe.

Introduction to the Film by Peter Greenaway

Greenaway explains how the Government funding for his film came about. Essentially he was devoted to the documentary style (if not content) of film. He was challenged to come up with a film where "the characters talked to each other". He describes how he formulated the ideas, found the house and chose the year 1694.

Featurette -Restoration

This short featurette shows how the past video masters of the film differ from the Restored "Hi Def" version produced in 2003 which forms the basis of this transfer. The difference is remarkable. The original video master looks like Mr Blobby's fighting in a snow storm. The final version is no masterpiece but it is a sizeable improvement.

Featurette-Behind The Scenes

This consists of two parts. The first is an on-set examination of the pomegranate scene with Greenaway working with the actors. It also shows the crew at work including make up and the continuity lady. Short but intriguing.

In the second of these extras Greenaway and actors Janet Suzman and Anthony Higgins talk about their characters and their motivations in becoming involved in the project. Suzman praises Greenaway though says that he is very cerebral and different from other directors she has worked with!

Deleted Scenes

There are four deleted scenes on offer. They are of not inconsiderable length. The first (Chairs) shows an obsessive Neville having all the spare chairs in the household brought out onto the grounds so that he can test each one to see which will suit his posterior best as a drawing chair. The second (Rain) shows a bored Neville waiting for the rain to stop so he can continue his drawing. The third (Misadventure) is a bedroom scene where Neville discusses with Mrs Herbert the eventual fate of his drawings if Mr Herbert doesn't return. The fourth (Watercress) is a short scene featuring another of Mr Noyce's stories.

All are in "original quality".

Interviews Michael Nyman Guardian Interview

Whichever way you cut it Michael Nyman has been integral to the films of Peter Greenaway. Here he is interviewed by a chap from The Guardian about his movement into film and the origin of his distinctive re-interpretation of classical pieces.

Gallery-Photo

A series of stills from the movie.

Web Links

This provides the link to the British Film Institute.

Easter Egg

There are two Easter eggs on this DVD. One is accessed through the extras menu. Simply hovering above the extras menu items reveals a link to a Press Kit containing a wealth of information about the film.

The second Easter Egg is a little more difficult to access. Once the Pomegranate Scene from the Behind the Scenes extras has been viewed a link appears to the right of it leading to a series of photos, articles and oddities. I am reliably informed that there are 95 pages of this material.

R4 vs R1

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

    This DVD has been released in PAL Regions with the same content. The Region 1 version, however, is short of the extras.

Summary

   The Draughtsman's Contract is an enjoyable romp with a high degree of British quirkiness. Commentators suggest that it represents the supreme example of a avant-garde filmmaker producing something which is commercial and palatable without losing his central ideals of art.

The DVD is not great to look at but does look and sound good enough for most fans.

The extras are exemplary.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Thursday, June 18, 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

Other Reviews NONE
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Overall | The Draughtsman's Contract (1982) | A Zed & Two Noughts (1985) | Peter Greenaway: A Documentary (1992)

A Zed & Two Noughts (1985)

A Zed & Two Noughts (1985)

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Released 30-Jun-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-Director Peter Greenaway
Featurette-?0,ZOO Extracts from Documentary(6.56)
Introduction-by Peter Greenaway (6.40)
Easter Egg-Snails, Photo Gallery, Decay and Press Book
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1985
Running Time 112:00
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (56:00) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Peter Greenaway
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Andréa Ferréol
Brian Deacon
Eric Deacon
Frances Barber
Joss Ackland
Jim Davidson
Agnès Brulet
Guusje van Tilborgh
Gerard Thoolen
Ken Campbell
Wolf Kahler
Geoffrey Palmer
David Attenborough
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI ? Music Michael Nyman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles French
Dutch
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    A Zed and Two Noughts, from 1985, remains one of the most intriguing British films of the 80's and, for many, the crowning artistic achievement of British director Peter Greenaway. Funny, dark, strange and unsettling, it entertains though sheer audacity. This DVD was released in 2004 but may be hard to track down now. It is available as part of the Peter Greenaway Collection in a three DVD set with The Draughtsman's Contract and a documentary about the filmmaker.

An automobile crash outside the front of an unnamed Zoo results in the death of two middle aged women. Their car was hit by a swan. As bad luck would have it they were married to brothers Oliver and Oswald (real life brothers Eric Deacon and Brian Deacon), behavioural scientists working at the Zoo. The brothers are devastated by the loss.

Lacking the ability to understand the randomness of the tragic event both try to understand the nature of death. Oliver begins by watching the zoo's collection of David Attenborough videos, trying to find the meaning of life through study. Oswald instead looks at death and begins a study, through time-lapse photography, of decaying living things. He starts with an apple and graduates up the food chain into animals.

Both become obsessed with the only survivor of the crash, one Alba Bewick (Andrea Ferreol). She has lost a leg in the accident. When awakened after surgery, and questioned as to how she feels, she replies : " Short of a leg"!

The Zoo itself is in decline. The shady manager Van Hoyten (Joss Ackland) is trying to eradicate black and white animals from the zoo. He is not above killing an animal here and there to sell to the brothers for their work (they are now working together). As they delve deeper into decay, and into Attenborough, the brothers grow more and more alike- it is revealed that they are twins. The zoo prostitute Venus de Milo ( Frances Barber) exchanges sexual favours for animal parts and longs to, well, be united with the zebra. Meanwhile the zoo controller (Geoffrey Palmer) is growing increasingly frustrated that the brothers seem to be releasing animals from the zoo.

Meanwhile, back at the hospital Alba forms a sexual relationship with the brothers. Her surgeon Van Meggeran wants to remove her other leg claiming that it is damaging her spine. He is apparently related to the famous forger of paintings in the style of Vermeer. To attempt to chart the plot any further is perhaps to descend into confusion. Greenaway is a lover of games, mathematics and erudition and the film positively crackles with off-beat dialogue and ideas. As an artist he creates compositions which emulate the styles of his favourite painters, in this case the Dutch master Vermeer. The film had international funding and was made with a cast that included many talented French and Dutch actors. The performances are in keeping with the intense stylization and artifice of the film.

With A Zed and Two Noughts Greenaway began his long association with cinematographer Sacha Vierny. Vierny had been a favourite of the avant-garde, shooting several films for Alain Resnais including Night and Fog, Hiroshima Mon Amour and Last Year at Marienbad and shot Belle De Jour for Luis Bunuel. The two are made for each other.

Rumour had it that the film was shot with light sources at the exact height of those in Vermeer's paintings. The truth is perhaps stranger. Greenaway and Vierny sat down and worked out how many different ways they could light the film. They came up with 26! So throughout the film eagle-eyed viewers will note that the light sources vary from morning, noon, night, moonlight, torch, fire, television, even rainbow. The compositions are impeccable and set up the idea of symmetry and twinship which is at the core of this film.

The wackiness of the script and the level of visual invention has led to the criticism that the film is too knowing and lacks any real heart. Partly true, as Greenaway is interested in the artifice, but I defy anyone not to be at least a little bit moved by the tragic irony of the ending as well as the inspired collaboration with composer Michael Nyman. It is in the meaningless struggle to understand death and fate - through decay and the history of life on earth- that we catch an echo of the infinite, the sublime point where meaning and style intersect. Peter Greenaway would go on to make the dark and brutal The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover and the frighteningly intelligent Prospero's Books, The Baby of Macon and The Pillow Book. In the commentary track Greenaway suggests that with each successive project he is still making the same film. That may account for the fact that his reputation is nowhere what it was in the 80's. He continues to teach and be involved in art projects.

Although A Zed and Two Noughts can be a strange and difficult watch at times it is, for me, a high point of 80's cinema which allowed avant-garde ideas to slip into the mainstream with wit and humour.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

   A Zed and Two Noughts was shot in the Netherlands on 35mm film. It was shown cinematically at the European Widescreen ratio of 1.66:1 (IMDB mistakenly records it as a 1.85:1 aspect ratio).

This DVD is in the correct aspect ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced.

A Zed and Two Noughts was originally released on DVD in Region 4 in 2004, this is a re-issue of that DVD and includes the identical extras. Prior to that release the only way to get the film was through Region 1. That version was in the correct aspect ratio but it was not 16x9 enhanced. Comparing the two versions doesn't show much difference in the considerable level of artefacts on show but there is an improvement in clarity from the letterboxed image to the 16x9 enhanced image. So too the PAL transfer appears a little less murky in its colours.

If ever a film was crying out for a high definition restoration it is A Zed and Two Noughts. In the commentary track Greenaway goes into great detail about the uses of light within the frames. In order to give the film a painting-like sense of depth Greenaway and Vierny used a lighting sequence of a.b.a.b. meaning that the light source would alternate darkness and light. The result is one of the most exquisitely lit and photographed films this side of Barry Lyndon. Unfortunately, the age and condition of the print diminish the effect that the film had at the cinema. It is grainy and soft throughout. The shadows are weak and diffuse and the colours are less than what one would like. The telecine wobbles from time to time. Still, there is enough quality left to convey most of the impressive colour palette and lighting effects used by the director and his cinematographer. In the commentary track Greenaway makes the interesting comment that the age of the cinematographer is largely over as the process of constructing a film is largely done in the editing suite.

Overall, the film is a marvel to behold.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

  The music for A Zed and Two Noughts is, of course, by British musicologist turned composer Michael Nyman. Although some may beg to differ for my money the score ranks equally with his music for The Piano. Whether it is the simple, central piano motif of a single struck key or the mad, hectic decay music Nyman's score is such a perfect accompaniment to the film that is is hard to imagine them apart. This is probably a result of the fact that Nyman worked with Greenaway from the outset rather than simply coming in to score the completed film. For fans of the soundtrack the remastered version is now available on music download services like iTunes and Bigpond Music. Aside from the Nyman the film features two creepy gramophone renditions of Teddy Bears Picnic and An Elephant Never Forgets.

The technical quality of the the soundtrack is fine. The dialogue can be heard clearly although the fact that the film was shot in Holland and featured a supporting cast of Dutch actors, speaking sometimes heavily accented English, can make for some difficulties in hearing all the dialogue. Greenaway never shied away from a multi-cultural cast and the inclusion of Andrea Ferreol adds another accent to the mix. It would have been nice to have a set of English subtitles instead of the Dutch and French set that are on offer.

Audi sync is mostly perfect.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

As with The Draughtsman's Contract there are an impressive array of extras available with this DVD.

Audio Commentary : Peter Greenaway

Peter Greenaway is a fine speaker. His approach to the commentary process is studied and intellectual. He is alive to the criticisms of the film, particularly the idea that there are really three stories in the film waiting to get out. Greenaway deals with the themes of the film and how he presents them in the movie. His knowledge and attention to detail is astonishing. The film was shot at the Rotterdam Zoo principally because it had one architect who designed all of the enclosures. He then shot the hospital interiors mainly because it was designed by the same architect. He points out that not long after a conversation with David Cronenberg in a coffee house the latter came out with Dead Ringers, a film that used the same ideas of twinship.

Perhaps the greatest feature of a Greenaway commentary is that he presents these extraordinary artistic ideas in a straight forward manner.

There are also a lot of minor asides about the process of making the film that many will find fascinating. One question, of course, is where they got the dead animals in particular the dead zebra? Another is how they got David Attenborough to lend his voice to the nature footage? Sorry, not telling!

Extracts from ?,O ZOO (6.56)

This apparently was a documentary filmed during A Zed and Two Noughts and separately exhibited. The extracts aren't really very cogent in isolation. They show bits from the flamingo scene, Greenaway working with his actors in the restaurant scene and some of the work done at L'Escargot.

Introduction by Peter Greenaway (6.40)

This introduction explains all the key concepts at work in his film including the ideas of twinship, herbicology and the manipulation of light. He ties Dutch painter Vermeer into cinema through a comment by Godard that Vermeer was the first cinematographer. He accepts that the film had the capacity to confound audiences at the time ( and probably still now).

Easter Eggs

There are four easter eggs on offer . They are accessed from the four corners of the record player in the middle of the screen. These are Snails, Decay, Gallery and Press Book. The latter is, not surprisingly a detailed press book for the film. The photo gallery consists of a series of black and white stills from the film. The Decay segment contains 6 time-lapse sequences from apple to zebra. To be watched before dinner! The Snails segment is a sheet of sketches in storyboard from of the final scene. It is possible to zoom in on the individual drawings.

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 possessed of equal qualities to the UK Region 2 release. The Region 1 release is, as said, not 16x9 enhanced.

Choose Region 4

Summary

    Like all of Peter Greenaway's films A Zed and Two Noughts has its devotees and its detractors. It is probably my favourite of his films perhaps because of the flawless integration of cinematography style and music.

This DVD will not disappoint fans although a detailed restoration would be on my wishlist.

The extras are again superb and the commentary track is a must listen.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Saturday, June 20, 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

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | The Draughtsman's Contract (1982) | A Zed & Two Noughts (1985) | Peter Greenaway: A Documentary (1992)

Peter Greenaway: A Documentary (1992)

Peter Greenaway: A Documentary (1992)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 1-May-2009

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
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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
Studio
Distributor

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.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

   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
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    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
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

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.

Summary

   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)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© 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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