Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Belly of an Architect

In yesterday's review, I mentioned a Greenaway film is most successful when Greenaway, Nyman, and Vierny are not all working together. While this didn't quite hold true for The Draughtsman's Contract (missing Vierny), it certainly holds true for The Belly of an Architect. Of the seven Greenaway films I have seen, this film falls the shortest. But, I am not entirely sure why.

Yes, Nyman's music is missing from the film. The music is still quite beautiful. Vierny is in charge of photography, but this time is a lot less in charge. The film takes place in Rome. Vierny does not have the control of the space as he did with A Zed & Two Noughts. For this film, Vierny must work with the architecture and the lighting that is already made available. This is not to complain about the images. In fact, The Belly of an Architect has some of the most beautiful shots I have seen. The film uses Rome as a character. Quite possibly the main character. The way people stand so small against the city's backdrop is a very powerful experience.

So, why does this film fail? It doesn't contain the same obsessive cataloguing of a typical Greenaway film. In fact, I'm not sure I spotted any form of cataloguing. The plot is fairly focused. It moves along at a slow speed, but it is always present. And, the female character isn't a typical Greenaway woman. In most films, the woman is in charge. While she may not always seem to have the power, by the films end it is clear who holds all the cards. Some could argue this is true for The Belly of an Architect. And, in a way, it is true. Again, not in typical Greenaway fashion.

Am I arguing against this film because Greenaway has changed things up a bit? Sadly, yes. I enjoy Greenaway for all his neuroses and all his obsessive needs. The Belly of an Architect isn't quite up to par with these expectations.

Anyone interested in the career of Greenaway should definately view this film. But, it is not for the casual viewer.


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