Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Film Club Returns Home

The plan was to have a final night of Film Club on Tour at Helen's waterside residence but, on the night, our hostess was (to use the vernacular) cream crackered after slaving away at Maker all day.

So, with a couple of phone calls to the usual suspects, the club convened back in its natural habitat of Millbrooker Towers' sitting room.
No, that's not Film Club gathered at Millbrooker Towers in the photo above; that's the first of a few stills from the film that I've culled from assorted sites around the interweb.

The feature presentation was Peter Greenaway's 1982 debut as director/writer, The Draughtsman's Contract. We've watched a few Greenaway films since Film Club started; Mrs The Millbrooker and I are definitely fans of his inimitable style. In as much as Greenaway does plot lines, The Draughtsman's Contract is typically elliptical and not overly easy to follow. Without going into "spoiler" territory, the period is late 1600s; an overly self-assured young artist is commissioned by the lady of a large estate to make twelve drawings of the estate in her husband's absence.
His contract includes a clause allowing him intimate access to his new employer and then the intrigues begin.What Greenaway tends to do is create a moving artwork rather than a smooth flowing cohesive narrative; The Draughtsman's Contract is no exception. There is incessant obscure plotting from every character and the viewer is (deliberately) left guessing at what is actually going on.
What Greenaway also tends to do is lay before you the most stunning of tableaux and simple, theatrical, surreal and gorgeous cinematography. Again this film is no exception; just allowing the colours and construction of each scene is an education in "how to".
As, indeed, is Michael Nyman's superlative soundtrack; there's a distinct temptation at Millbrooker Towers to add the CD of it to our collection.
There are some typically odd things going on in the background as a living sculpture pops up in unexpected places. His presence and his point are never explained; we are left to enjoy the absurdity.I have to admit that I didn't really follow what was going on for most of this film and, of all the Greenaways that I've seen to date, this is probably my least favourite. I adored The Pillow Book; The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover is a masterpiece of theatrical film making; Eight and a Half Women is a mind-blast of perversion and human exploration. This one, though, I felt could have made its intent clearer - perhaps I just missed the point altogether. I'd certainly like to see it again; this was Mrs The Millbrooker's second sighting of it and she loved it.

The Film Club scale: Dong took no fag breaks, but it would be fair to say he didn't delight in Greenaway's artfulness; Shazzerooneypoos made not a single wuffling noise and really liked the film (but couldn't quite explain why, which is entirely fair enough); Slocombe's pithy quote is "more absorbing than a Kleenex"; Frankenkeith turned up just as the closing credits had rolled so has no opinion on this one at all, but enjoyed some wine and Armagnac into the small hours of Monday morning.

Will you like it? Not a clue. But if you're a Greenaway virgin and want to give his work a try, I'd recommend one of the other titles that I've mentioned above for starters.

Here's a taster stolen from YouTube, it's quite a long excerpt but I do recommend you give it a go if for no other reason than to enjoy Nyman's music.

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