Skip to main content

Every new technology is expensive, and sooner or later every new technology gets into bed with lechery.


The Seattle Independent Film Festival has landed, again. I don't have the time or money to attend this year, but just cannot stay away. And I started off my festival with a Peter Greenaway film, Goltzius and the Pelican Company

If I were forced to pick just one film as my favorite, it would be Peter Greenaway's 1996 motion picture, with the emphasis strongly on picture, The Pillow Book. After I assumed that his other works would similarly resonate, but was so very, very wrong. Since, I've developed a bit of a love/hate relationship with Greenaway's cinema having been completely confounded by a few, respecting others, completely disgusted and repulsed by one, occassionally bored, but then completely charmed and delighted by the previous film seen at SIFF in 2009, Rembrandt's J'Accuse. I wasn't sure I was up for the Greenaway gamble, but when a pair of free tickets landed in my lap, I couldn't stay away.


With Goltzius and the Pelican Company, Peter Greenaway has liberally embellished the story of Hendrick Goltzius's voyage to Italy in 1590. In this bit of revisionism, Goltzius and his entourage of artists, craftsmen, and players accompanied by their wives, pay a visit to the Margrave of Alsace. There a bargan is made. In exchange for entertaining the Margrave's court with a collection of bawdy Biblical stories, Goltzius would receive the funds for a printing press and be able to create an illustrated version of the Old Testament and the works of Ovid. What follows is the performance of a series of biblical tales that embody six sexual taboos: voyeurism, incest, adultery, corruption of youth, prostitution, and finally necrophilia. 


So much about Goltzius and the Pelican Company is familiar to Greenaway disciples. It has neo-classical sensibilities, but it is completely modern in message and execution. As with its predecessors, sets are elaborately constructed and carefully framed, with most shots perfectly symmetrical. This is layered with scrolling text, framed images, titles, creating a absorbing and often overwhelming amont of contectual information to digest. This constant barrage of imagery is so classically beautiful, that I tend to forgive it for not being completley digestible upon first viewing. I've grown to expect to only get an outline of the work in a first viewing, but find I am so taken by the sound and look of Greenaway's cinematic canvas, that I don't mind never feeling that I have delved much beyond the surface meanings of his texts. The surface is sure a lovely to gaze upon. 


But it is easy to descern that there is much below Goltzius's surface. As the players act out the biblical stories, the impact on the court and Margrave put into motion a series of events that equal the immorality and lack of decency.  By the end, Lott's seduction at the hands of his daughters is one of the least provocative theatrical presentations. Once the scholars and law makers start to collide in their interpretations and debates about the truths behind Goltzius and companies liberal interpretations of the biblical tales... well, things get really interesting.


One final note on this work. I've long appreciated the classical beauty of Peter Greenaway's compositions, but while the movies are often very erotic, I have never found the films to be. Something is different with Goltzius and the Pelican Company. There is something very erotic and seductive about this film. Maybe that says more about this viewer, than the film, but I'm suspicious that it might be due to the decision to include not just full frontal nudity and simulated sex, but nudity from actors with erections. For this reason, I do not expect this film to find distribution, so catch it at a festival before it is buried deep somewhere. 




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Horror?

From Blogger I apparently have no clue what a horror movie is. Or at least, when the challenge rolls around and I take the leap and attempt to watch 31 horror movies, I suddenly feel as if I have no idea what that means. There are times when it is obvious that a movie is horror; Friday the 13th, Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre . Once I dive into the challenge, I begin to question whether the movies I'm seeing really count. This year, I've seen Buried, Carrie, Clean, Shaven, Nosferatu (1922), Scanners, Sisters , and I sell the Dead . Nate protested Sisters, saying DePalma's movie about a pair of disturbed Siamese twins isn't a horror movie. And he has a point, but how is one supposed to choose movies without having seen them before to really know whether they are horror? Especially since I'm only using the challenge to catch up on movies that I should see because they are classics and to re-watch a few others that need to be revisited. But picking the

My attempt at Filmspotting's Top 5 List

I just finished listening to Filmspotting podcast, episode #296, and I've been inspired to begin a small project. My concept of great cinema has changed now that I live in a place with so many choices. When I lived in Anchorage, I primarily saw movies at the local Art House, Capri Cinema. Rand, being an out gay man, tended to show a lot of GLBT cinema as well as the better known independent/art house films. The years I lived in Columbia, I watched more mainstream film and really, just about everything that came to town that sounded at all interesting. But in Seattle, the choices are overwhelming by comparison. Sometimes I'll see a classic film, or a film with a lot of buzz, and there are a lot of foreign language films, because of the wide variety of cinema I have access to, I am now a very devoted fan of Asian cinema. The filmmakers in Hong Kong, Korea, China, Japan, Thailand are incredible. And this isn't at all limited to the genre films that have made Asian film

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhastan

Right after seeing Sacha Baron Cohen's film, Borat, I was disappointed. I didn't laugh nearly as hard as I had hoped and it wasn't quite as outrageous as I had expected. But in retrospect, I have to admit the comic brilliance of Borat. Sacha Baron Cohen has adeptly created a film about a fictional man, Borat, from a fictionalized Kazakhastan and used this creation to show the hipocracy of America. Using tactics pioneered by reality television shows, Borat travels across America on a quest to find his true love, Pamela Anderson. On this journey, he meets numerous people who share their thoughts about a multitude of things, exposing the way some Americans really believe about race, class, homosexuality and the other sex. It is a very interesting film. Sure, it gets laughs from ambushing Pamela Anderson with a wedding bag, traveling with a bear, and a bit of naked wrestling, but this film is also very smart in its sly portrayal of the wealth of prejudices that are ali