zed and two noughts - start of new peter greenaway series on r2

Discussion in 'DVD' started by andrew markworthy, Feb 26, 2004.

  1. andrew markworthy

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    Picked up the first release in what promises to be a comprehensive series of Peter Greenaway movies on R2, issued through the BFI (British Film Institute).

    Zed and Two Noughts, Greenaway's second feature film, is in many ways his most opaque movie (and this is against stiff competition). The plot in brief: separated siamese twins lose their wives in a car accident in which another woman in the car loses a leg. The twins have an affair with this woman (who is persuaded to have her healthy leg amputated for the sake of symmetry whilst posing for facsimiles of Vermeer paintings), who produces twins, and then dies. The twins are engaged in doing time lapse photography of decaying zoo animals, and as the summation of their work, decide they will kill themselves and photograph their decay.

    Most people by this stage have either decided 'my kind of movie' or (*far* more commonly) 'pretentious drivel'. It's difficult not to form strong opinions about Greenaway's work. However, I would strongly urge you to see this movie and play the director's commentary. It reveals a large amount of the rationale behind the movie, and you begin to realise that it makes perfect sense once you learn the visual grammar being employed. By conventional narrative rules the movie is overblown and trite, but Greenaway is using the film not to 'tell a story' in the conventional sense, but rather to present a series of tableaux exploring fairly heady stuff (the uses of light; the idea of symmetry; Darwinian evolution). Arguably there is rather *too* much going on - in his later movies and in his first and most accessible (The Draughtsman's Contract) things are more pared-down. However, it is well worth seeing. I wasn't a huge Greenaway fan and bought this disc on a whim, but I'm glad I did.

    The transfer and sound are both okay, but a bit 'soft' (having said this, I saw the movie when it first opened and it appeared 'soft' then as well). There are some good extras - the commentary (wonderful) and various additional things (film of rotting fruit and animals glimpsed in the film - warning, don't watch after a heavy meal!; a copy of the press release giving a synopsis of the movie; excerpts from a 'making of' documentary).

    The next movie to be released will be Draughtsman's Contract in a couple of weeks' time.
     
  2. DonaldB

    DonaldB Supporting Actor

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    The best buy for Greenaway fans is this French box set from mk2, which includes exact ports of the bfi's two short film compilations released a few months ago, as well as Zed and The Draughtsman's Contract. It's out now, it's affordable, and it's beautiful.
     
  3. andrew markworthy

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    Donald, thanks for this (curses, have just shelled out for ZOO, so not really affordable in my case [​IMG] ).
     
  4. Charlie O.

    Charlie O. Supporting Actor

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    Is this version any better then the region 1 release?
     
  5. DonaldB

    DonaldB Supporting Actor

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    DVDBeaver.com has a comparison of the two editions here.
     
  6. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    Donald; are the extras in French? The commentary, the preface?

    ---
    So many films, so little time...
     
  7. DonaldB

    DonaldB Supporting Actor

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    John, those are all in English, with optional subtitles in a multitude of different languages.

    The contents of the French mk2 discs are identical in every way to the UK bfi discs - same audio and subtitle options, same extras, same menus, same transfers. The only thing different is the cover art.
     
  8. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    Wonderful; many thanks Donald.

    ---
    So many films, so little time...
     
  9. JonathanG

    JonathanG Stunt Coordinator

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    crap! and I just bought Zed, looks like I might have to splurge and buy the French box set.
     
  10. Martin S

    Martin S Stunt Coordinator

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    When i saw these BFI releases i was pretty excited and hopeful that my personal favourite, DROWNING BY NUMBERS, would be released. The only DVD version of this so far has been pan and scan and mono(!!) from Australia.
    Unfortunately, on contacting the BFI, I was told they don't have the rights for it. Not sure if any other Greenaway is getting a release from them. Damn!!
     
  11. andrew markworthy

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    If it's of any interest, I received the BFI version of Draughtsman's Contract yesterday.

    The restoration is superb. There is a wonderful demonstration comparing the current version with previous issues and to say the least it's stunning.

    Fans will be consoled that the movie remains as difficult to understand as ever. Peter Greenaway does an informative director's commentary, but infuriatingly refuses to explain who did the murder, insisting that it's all there in the film if you look hard enough. Well I've seen the movie so many times my head aches, and I'm still not certain. However, one mystery is solved in the commentary regarding the naked guy who imitates statues throughout the movie:

    He is a servant paid to imitate classical stuatuary by the owner who was too tight-fisted or impecunious to bring back real statues from his Grand Tour.


    It's well known by Greenaway fans that the original cut of the movie was much longer (circa 4 hours) and apparently rather easier to understand. Alas, all we get are three discarded scenes (though they are informative). There are also a couple of brief 'behind the scenes' shorts shot at the time, a copy of the press kit (go to the extras menu and play around with the direction buttons - you'll find it eventually; incidentally, am I the only person fed up with being treated like a kid with Easter eggs? Just put them on the menu for f***'s sake).
     
  12. andrew markworthy

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    Martin, I feel your pain, I really do. What is really chew-the-furniture annoying is that this is a movie that really needs extras. Indeed, there is an excellent short film that accompanies Drowning By Numbers which explains a lot of the hidden messages, the visual allusions, etc. It was shown on Channel 4 (the Brit TV channel that sponsored a lot of Greenaway's movies) around the time of its first TV broadcast.
     

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