An excellent Greenaway production!
Once again, Peter Greenaway has created a film that holds your
attention, and tells a story in a very captivating way.
What I found most ironic, and what really bowled me over, was how
"unexperimental" this film seemed. After his recent directorial forays
("8 1/2 Women" and the "Tulse Luper Suitcases" come to mind),
"Nightwatching" will seem unexpectedly boring in comparison. One might
anticipate a visual spectacle, an overwhelming of the senses as seems
to be Greenaway's modus operandi. The real richness of "Nightwatching"
is in the little things, the simplest of details, and the pure joy of
watching a master working within a more traditional cinematic
When I think of the impact "Nightwatching" had on me initially, I am
reminded of a similar experience when I recently viewed Lars Von
Trier's "Antichrist". I was rather caught off-guard by "Antichrist's"
lack of overt experimentation. But as someone who appreciates subtlety
and nuance in film, I felt my time was well-spent. Plus, there's
nothing I like more than walking away feeling as if I haven't been
spoon-fed a story, that I've been allowed to use my BRAIN, and fill in
the blanks a bit as the story moves along.
I find it doubly ironic that this film was released internationally in
2007, and only recently released domestically in the US (2010), and to
lukewarm reviews at best. Greenaway is an artist never to be
underestimated, and I implore you to give this film your utmost
attention. It's also kinda cool to see Greenaway "geek out" a bit --
he's so obsessed with Remembrandt and all things Dutch, enjoy!.
The Inner Eye and the Lover's Lens
In a way, Greenaway is my touchstone for deep film experience. It was
with him that I first studied the things that have since become part of
every viewing experience, from "Godzilla versus the Sea Monster" to the
more homeopathically transcendent meditations of Medem and Ruiz.
Each film is its own adventure, and that's part of the joy. Each film
is similar in reaching for a context outside of the ordinary context of
other films, so it helps if you are knowledgeable about the dynamics of
those contexts. Which of those that are more natural to you will color
which of his films you prefer.
I like his "book" films the best because I had prewoven worlds that he
just happened to encircle. All of his looping narratives and playing
with discrete objects, events and relationships strung and structured
capture me when they are prominent. I'm not crazy about his projects
when he drifts toward conventional narrative as he does here and away
from engaging in conceptual play.
This is more like "Draughtsman's Contract" or even "Cook, Thief" than
his more complex films, so many people will like it. Its also his
prettiest film since he lost his long time cinematographer.
If you don't know this film, its a simple fold: its about Rembrandt
creating a painting with deep, Greenaway-like meaning. The filmmaker
goes to great lengths to visually make his relationship to the film be
similar to Rembrandt's with the painting, and thereby fold us into the
thing because we see and hear (in great detail) viewers of that
painting react. And they punish our painter much like the filmmaker has
Threaded throughout is a rather touching story not unique in
Greenaway of a man and passion, and the woman and then women he
loves. And how passion and love, and creativity encompass one another
and drive that energy of life that we count on artists to use to break
mountains ahead of us so we can pass.
Its the women here. It is always the lovers who allow creativity, who
grow it and channel it. There is no real penetration of life without
it, and the night it brings. Just on the straight narrative alone, its
powerful. It works. The whole thing works, and could be a theatrical
success for a wider audience than usual.
The three lovers are redheads, of course.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching..