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Goltzius and his pelican company are a band, or troop, of entertainers who wish to set up a printing press to produce enlightening pictures of 'art', the sort of art that gets pulses racing. Well they happen upon the kingdom of The Margrave of Alsace. Where Goltzius sets out to seduce him into funding his entrepreneurial activities and create some money into the bargain.In order to do this he is needed to place on few plays of a 'Biblical' nature for the titillation of their imminent (hopefully) financier. The plays all examine the latent sexuality of the stories, and in doing so challenge the hypocrisy of the sixteenth century religious establishment. The plays lead to public debate that begins out as gratis speech and later descends into anything but. In the meantime the on scene sexual displays receive hotter and lewder to a mission where the 'legitimate voyeurism' of the audience is replaced with something more akin to mob rule or directorial influence. As the analysis falls away it is replaced by accusation and retribution and the audience become the users in what is ever closer to recreation of sins of the past and nothing to do with public debate and discourse.Now this is a movie from Peter Greenaway ('The Cook, the thief, his wife and her lover') who is known for making controversial stuff. This has full frontal nudity throughout with on screen copulation aplenty. The storyline is mostly developed with a running narrative from Goltzius to camera. There is , at the beginning, a lot of comparisons to art history and portrayals of the characters from the Bible from Adam and Eve to Sodom and Gomorrah. Also most of the shots are overlaid with another scenes that add additional animation but can become distracting.The camera angles are often split and even bent to give the concept that everything is in 'the round'. The concept of moving in circles is a constant detail with even a circular scene - even the chamber melody users rotate.So is it any good? Well it is so art-house that to not like it marks one as being in bed with the Philistines. But this is two hours of often alienating camera devices and 'art' nudity, which will not be to everyone's taste and the language is fairly 'earthy' too. It was amusing in places, challenging in others and almost self indulgent in territories too. It was far from ordinary and, as far as alternative cinematic experiences go, it was one to be remembered. If you like your cinema a bit cutting edge and not scared to challenge a several taboos I think you will be a fan, if your tastes are more 'vanilla' then might wish to give it a miss - either method it is a movie I am glad to have experienced.
Right then: Confusing shots involving projecting writing onto the actors and sets, making the action difficult to discern? Check. Copious nudity, including from bodies you'd rather remained covered up? Check. A suspicion that the author aims primarily to shock? Double - no, triple - check. That's right, 'Goltzius and the Pelican Company' is other movie from Peter Greenaway.This is now more available than many Greenaway movies in that the plot line is fairly simple to follow, presented as it is in a good, linear fashion: it's the Sixteenth Century, and Dutch engraver Goltzius tries to encourage Alsace's Margrave (a sort of hereditary military commander in the Holy Roman Empire) to invest in his printing press by staging a series of plays. Convinced that any fresh technology is inevitably used for lechery (good mission - I've often wondered how long after the invention of the Internet the first pornographic site appeared), Goltzius uses his theatrical company to enact stories from the Old Testament (Adam and Eve, Lot and his daughters, David and Bathsheba, etc). But it isn't long before the actors' own ambitions and desires overshadow the biblical stories...There's lots of gimmicks here that don't create sense: for instance, the Margrave's former wet-nurse (who, as the Margrave is played by F Murray Abraham - dob: 1939 - gotta herself be pushing ninety at the very least) apparently being heavily pregnant in some scenes, but not in others. But you're wasting your time getting worked up about such things where Greenaway is concerned - you have to take him as you search him. As is to be expected from one of his productions, the costumes are sumptuous, the staging curious and the acting at times over-blown. There are some saying (to this non-religious reviewer) pokes at organised religion, as different boys of the cloth debate the meanings and content of Goltzius' plays. There's also a sly streak of humour running through it which is welcome, as is at least some of the nudity - but not all of it: next time, F Murray, please hold your backside in your trousers, there's a nice chap...
In the early 1990s Peter Greenaway was a cult figure for cinephiles in Russia. I remember Prospero's Ebooks changing my perception of what cinema can be. It was a treat so visually rich that at first I had a trouble to digest it. Then The Cook, the Thief... and The Baby of Mâcon came as an attack I had been prepared for. It was an utterly enjoyable experience though to receive emotionally involved was quite difficult. Then there was a decade of different experiments for the director that took him to the places, times, and forms that did not everytime manage to receive me through the lengthy hours of his films. Goltzius and the Pelican Company has turned out to be a well balanced work. We can play here the major details of the Greenawayness, such as constant visual and audio aggression breaking all taboos, yet matched with equal dose of grace, satire and self-irony. Using the fine art works similar to the movie themes contributes, as usual, considerable impact to the picture. It makes us feel the legacy of the Western classical tradition integrally interwoven into the film. And apart from the formal aesthetic achievements, which are type of standard for most of Greenaway's works, in Goltzius and the Pelican Company there is a certain emotional rhythmic structure reaching its top with an nice Dance of Salome scene. So I have found it not merely a formal exercise in cinema language as the newest master's movies often tend to be, but also an emotionally involving (at least as much as you should expect from a Greenaway) coherent story.Still I think it may not work for an audience fully unacquainted with the author's works, so I suggest to watch a trailer before purchasing a ticket.
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