The Films of Peter Greenaway

Sex, Death and Provocation

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About the Book

British filmmaker Peter Greenaway says life offers only two subjects: “One is sex and the other is death.” Greenaway uses both and romanticizes neither; indeed, his goal is the antithesis of the sanitary and sentimental portrayal of humanity. Although his films have met with outrage from some viewers, cult audiences praise them for insightful messages: that people are detached from violence because they fail to see others’ bodies as identical to their own; that predatory capitalism has caused humans to lose sight of our shared physicality and mortality; and that taboos are simply a system allowing people to exercise power over others.
This book examines nine of Greenaway’s feature films, dedicating a chapter to each: The Draughtsman’s Contract; A Zed and Two Noughts; The Belly of an Architect; Drowning by Numbers; The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover; Prospero’s Books; The Baby of Mâcon; The Pillow Book; and 8 ½ Women. The author examines the characters and plot, studies the structure and elements of the story, explores Greenaway’s motives and reactions, and reveals audience reactions, including comments from viewers. A filmography lists films written and directed by Peter Greenaway from 1962 to 2004.

About the Author(s)

Douglas Keesey is a professor of film and literature at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California. He lives in Cayucos.

Bibliographic Details

Douglas Keesey
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 239
Bibliographic Info: filmography, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2006
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2517-4
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8100-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      v

Preface      1

Introduction: Carnal Knowledge and Systemic Ignorance      3

1. An Eye for an Eye in The Draughtsman’s Contract      9

2. Zoos and Ooze in A Zed & Two Noughts      24

3. Death by Design in The Belly of an Architect      42

4. Body Count in Drowning by Numbers      62

5. Consumed with Revenge: The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover      81

6. Recovering the Native Body in Prospero’s Books      99

7. Birth and Other Obscenities in The Baby of Mâcon      125

8. Sex and Text in The Pillow Book      148

9. Male Sexual Fantasies of 8½ Women      182

Filmography      209

Chapter Notes      215

Bibliography      223

Index      229

Book Reviews & Awards

“an excellently documented and reasoned dissection of Greenaway’s films”—Midwest Book Review.