Monday, February 07, 2005

Peter Greenaway meditates on birds and immortality in THE FALLS (Revised Review)

My review of Peter Greenaway's first feature film, THE FALLS, has been re-edited and reposted for your reading pleasure over at the site.

Here's an excerpt:

Before he gained world-wide fame as the creator of THE DRAUGHTSMAN'S CONTRACT and THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE AND HER LOVER, Peter Greenaway learned his craft making experimental films for the British Film Institute (BFI). The last and longest was his fake documentary, THE FALLS, which rivals Andy Warhol's EMPIRE for the label of the "Gone With the Wind" of avant-garde film.

The conceit of the film is that a devastating disaster has struck the world sometime in the near past, concentrating its fury on the Northern Hemisphere. Its victims underwent bizarre changes. They began speaking invented languages ("RegisT, "Olevlit"), dreaming of water, changing shape and color to mimic birds, experiencing "sexual quadrimorphism" and various negative mutations and, barring accident or violence, were granted a dubiously Swiftian immortality by the "VUE Immortality Clause." If they do die, VUE victims desire burial underneath bird-scarers in order to fully terminate their relationship with birds.

The generally accepted epicenter of the disaster is the Boulder Orchard at the Tyddyn-Corn Farmhouse, located on the Llynn Peninsula in Wales. The disaster itself is regarded as the work of the world's birds, and acceptance or rejection of the "Responsibility of Birds" theory is a major dividing point for the victims of the VUE as well as a major policy point for the world's governments in dealing with the ongoing crisis.

Official laws and regulations dealing with birds prohibit bootlegging their eggs or even their dead bodies. In response to this, various criminal enterprises have sprung up, ranging from individual poaching by small-time criminals to full-blown terrorism and murder under the auspices of FOX (The Society for Ornithological Extermination) which is headed by the vilely villainous Dutch ex-bird counter for the Amsterdam Zoo, Aad Van Hoyten. His chief foe is the ornithologist, cartographer and fabulist Tulse Luper, who made his debut in Greenaway's short films VERTICAL FEATURES REMAKE & A WALK THROUGH H.

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