movie film review | chris tookey
harsh reviews
An A to Z of the World's Deadliest Movie Reviews From Affleck
to Zeta Jones
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 
Peter Greenaway
Writer, Director, The Draughtsman’s Contract (1989)
So pretentious, hollow, and odious that it set my teeth on edge; I had the urge to throw something equally rotten back at the screen. It was an attempt at a bawdy, witty, nasty Restoration comedy bolstered with the savagery of Jacobean revenge tragedy. But the comedy was not witty enough, the tragedy was gratuitously grafted on, and the whole thing made no sense. What could be more flavorous than an olla podrida of smuttiness, obscurantism, and self-congratulation?
(John Simon, National Review)
A load of posturing poo-poo.
(Alan Parker, director)
Peter Greenaway's first critical success made an impression because of the way it looked: elegant, formal, austere. Emperors' new clothes have never been worn with more confidence. But it is a murder mystery without a solution, an essay in precious pomposity with cardboard characters, abominable dialogue, and the pace of a drugged snail. It is familiarly known among Greenaway's detractors as The Draughtsman's Con-Trick; a more appropriate title, in view of its strenuous attempts to emulate Revenge Drama, might be 'Tis Pity He's a Bore.
(Chris Tookey, Daily Mail)
Writer, Director, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989)
I have always considered the interior decorator one of the more sinister influences on modern life, particularly when, like Peter Greenaway, he sets himself up as a social-metaphysical moviemaker. The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover is part post-modern vomitorium, part pseudo-Bunuelian existential parable, and altogether undesirable.
(John Simon, National Review)
What's offensive about [it] isn't its violence or its visceral shocks but the patrician arrogance, the smug aestheticism, the snobbishness that suffuses every frame.
(Terrence Rafferty, New Yorker)
Clunkingly banal when it is not being ludicrously pretentious.It is a measure of Greenaway's failure that he takes such delight in his anti-hero's monstrosity and shows so little sympathy for the other characters (Greenaway's attitude towards the wife, in particular, is one of the most disgustingly sadistic prurience) that I came away worrying not so much about capitalism, as about Mr Greenaway.
(Chris Tookey, Sunday Telegraph)
Writer, Director, Drowning by Numbers (1991)
So suffocatingly intent on High Art that we wonder why some accomplished actors consented to appear in it. What persuaded Joan Plowright and Juliet Stevenson and Bernard Hill to accept their roles? This self-adulating pussycat picture gives them and other actors plenty to do, but none of it is even vaguely related to character or story or credible feeling. The actors are all mobile mannequins, posing in different ways for Greenaway's exhibitionism.
(Stanley Kauffmann, New Republic)
What is it about Greenaway's films that makes the flesh crawl? I think it's his apparent loathing of the human race. Unable to watch the humiliating spectacle of that fine actor, Bryan Pringle, cavorting drunk and naked in a tin bath in what must be the worst performance of his career, I switched channels. An hour or so later I switched back, to see if he'd sobered up, to find a chubby, ten-year-old boy sitting up naked in bed, surrounded by bloodstained sheets. I seem to remember two alarmed women entering the room, and asking what had happened. “I've circumcised myself,” replied the boy, “with a pair of scissors.” Is this gross, or is this gross? I remember Michael Nyman, who composes most of Greenaway's film scores, telling me that he usually supplies the director with reams of music, not necessarily composed for any particular scene, which Greenaway cuts into arbitrary chunks according to his needs. It seems to me that Greenaway treats the human race in much the same way. And he is more interested in shit than soul.
(Ken Russell)
Writer, Director, Prospero’s Books (1991)
Greenaway's technique could aptly be described as anti-cinema... a painterly, collage-like notion... and irredeemably banal.
(David Noh, Film Journal)
Greenaway floods the screen with erotic pageantry that overwhelms more than clarifies the narrative. A viewer may ogle the naked male and female figures flashing or floating across the screen with only a hint as to what the hell is going on.
(Bruce Williamson, Playboy)
Greenaway is master of the deeply incomprehensible, pretentious British film. [He] does indeed have a stunning visual gift. But I just wish he would stop creating cold, clinical movies that place a claustrophobic anally retentive slant on our vision of the world and are not very entertaining besides.
(Sue Heal, Today)
Some directors have interpreted The Tempest as being about colonialism, or mid-life crisis, or the conflict between nature and civilisation: Peter Greenaway's approach in Prospero's Books is simply to emphasise the extraordinary affinity between Prospero, Shakespeare, Sir John Gieigud and himself. Greenaway's determination to leave nothing unillustrated makes Shakespeare's play, already his richest and heaviest in verbal imagery, utterly indigestible. Instead of being a piquant blend of textures, the result when mixed in the Moulinex of Greenaway's psyche is bland and monotonous. The Tempest is brought further down to earth by Greenaway's writing, which is as awful as ever: lame interpolations in Civil Service prose jar with some of the finest verse Shakespeare ever wrote, while the humourlessness of Greenaway's direction destroys even the famous drunk scene between Trinculo, Stephano and Caliban.
(Chris Tookey, Sunday Telegraph)
Greenaway had no idea what the play was about.
(John Gielgud, 1996)
Writer, Director, The Baby of Macon (1993)
Greenaway tells this story with his usual self-satisfied and gross pomposity, mixing ornately stylised visuals with truly unpleasant moments. Despite the unfiltered gore and cinematic dare, however, the film is stultifyingly boring, as murky and static as a painting badly in need of restoration. Little is said about just how bad Greenaway is at composing dialogue. Give it a miss.
(Stephen Amidon, Financial Times)
Here is one of the worst screenwriters in the world, with a cloth ear for dialogue, utter narrative incompetence, and no interest in character except as melodramatic mouthpieces. And, like the dreariest adolescent, he seems concerned to elicit no reaction from his audience except shock, disgust and admiration for his cleverness. A picture which is intended, if Greenaway's production notes are to be taken seriously, to be some kind of meditation upon the connection between greed and child abuse stands instead as a horrible example of audience abuse: an exercise in film-making decadence, the product of a barbaric, unfeeling aestheticism. Here is a man who delights in talking dirty and rubbing our noses in sexual humiliation. Watching this movie is about as pleasurable, and rewarding, as being subjected to a 120-minute dirty phone call.
(Chris Tookey, Sunday Telegraph)
Writer, Director, The Pillow Book (1996)
Can there be five words in the English language more calculated to empty a cinema of sensible human beings than “A Film By Peter Greenaway”? Channel 4 and the Eurimages fund of the European Community are among those responsible for indulging him in his latest adventure into the wilder realms of the pretentious. Familiar Greenaway obsessions are on display - especially his voyeurism, vanity (artists are like Gods and, what’s more, jolly good in bed) and contempt for commerce. The film’s main following will probably be among gays who go to ogle the full-frontal male nudity, and stay to be perplexed by the homophobia. There is also a little half-baked feminism, which suggests an unhinged version of The Piano. For a “personal” film-maker, Greenaway’s view of the world is astonishingly impersonal. None of the characters is remotely recognizable as human. The actors are reduced to zombies. Greenaway’s dialogue is, as always, unspeakable. The result is a kind of cold, desensitised, self-consciously aesthetic pornography.
(Chris Tookey, Daily Mail)
Writer, Director, 8 ½ Women (1999)
A complete nonstarter. The desires of the flesh deserve to be studied through the use of flesh-and-blood characters, rather than Greenaway’s ciphers. His film is utterly vacuous, and - in its smug, inept attempts at Ortonesque dialogue - hugely irritating.
(Edward Porter, Sunday Times)
Greenaway can compose pictures and play games with numbers and lists but he has not integrated them in a film which has anything worthwhile to say. Nor can he write believable dialogue. Pretentious, distasteful and tedious in about equal measure.
(Tom Aitken, Tablet)
De Sade for the nursery. A childish movie, crude in every possible way and one felt embarrassed for the actors involved.
(Philip French, Observer)
As slow, pretentious, nasty and unwatchable as a movie can get. There isn't even the visual panache that has made some of his previous work almost bearable. It is hard to understand what Greenaway is driving at: satirising the male sexual appetite or indulging it. The fantasies on display include sado-masochism, transvestism, bestiality (with a horse and a pig) and sex with nuns, dwarves and (though it's hard to be sure) amputees. The script is a rambling, incoherent mess, as excruciatingly banal as it is inexplicably pleased with itself. Almost every line is stilted and unspeakable. Some quite reputable actresses including Amanda Plummer and Toni Collette allow themselves to be photographed without a stitch on. The effect, however, is not so much erotic as emetic. Mr [John] Standing in the nude - a vision we are called upon to witness with depressing frequency - resembles a crumpled bag of flour, upon which someone, in an improbably festive spirit, has hung one of last Christmas's cocktail sausages. Mr Greenaway getting in touch with the sicker sides of his sexuality is an even less appetising sight.
(Chris Tookey, Daily Mail)
Key to Symbols