Sunday 23 November 2014

Peter the Great

Paul Whitington

Published 13/07/2014 | 02:30

Peter Greenaway

Back in the 1980s, Peter Greenaway was the enfant terrible of British cinema, an archly aesthetic and intellectual filmmaker whose work reflected his background in fine art but also included the recurring themes of sexual pleasure and violent death.

In controversial films like The Belly of an Architect, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover and The Baby of Macon, he used impeccable compositions to shock, provoke and engage his profoundly middle-class audience.

Greenaway is now 72, and a few years back annou-nced he intended to top himself if he gets to 80. Meantime, though, he's keeping busy, and his new film is part of a trilogy based on the lives of the Dutch Masters.

Goltzius and the Pelican Company tells the typically racy story of Hendrick Goltzius, the 16th Century engraver and painter who raises money to fund his art by hiring out actors to enact six sexual Biblical taboos for a wealthy benefactor. It's part arthouse, part porno, and sumptuous to look at – in other words, typical Greenaway. It's currently screening at the IFI.

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