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Peter Greenaway

Peter Greenaway

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: April 5, 1942 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: United Kingdom Profession: director, screenwriter, producer, editor, painter

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

One of Britain's leading auteurs, Greenaway trained as a painter before spending eleven years, beginning in 1965, as a film editor. During this period he began making short, highly formalist films influenced by structural linguistics, ethnography and philosophy. After shorts such as "Window" (1975), which displayed his fondness for lists (in this case cataloguing all the people who died in a small village by falling out of windows), Greenaway attracted some attention for such vivid medium-length works as "Vertical Features Remake" and the humorous "A Walk through H" (both 1978). He began to garner considerable acclaim on the international festival circuit, and in 1980 made his first feature-length film, a "documentary" set in the future, "The Falls" (1980), chock-full of his trademark riddles and conundrums as he relates the lives of 92 victims of the "Violent Unexplained Event." Greenaway hit the limelight in 1982 with the release of his feature, "The Draughtsman's Contract."An acclaimed study of 18th-century sexual intrigue set in an English country house, "The Draughtsman's Contract" staked out its director's central concerns with formal symmetries and parallels; each element of the plot was...

One of Britain's leading auteurs, Greenaway trained as a painter before spending eleven years, beginning in 1965, as a film editor. During this period he began making short, highly formalist films influenced by structural linguistics, ethnography and philosophy. After shorts such as "Window" (1975), which displayed his fondness for lists (in this case cataloguing all the people who died in a small village by falling out of windows), Greenaway attracted some attention for such vivid medium-length works as "Vertical Features Remake" and the humorous "A Walk through H" (both 1978). He began to garner considerable acclaim on the international festival circuit, and in 1980 made his first feature-length film, a "documentary" set in the future, "The Falls" (1980), chock-full of his trademark riddles and conundrums as he relates the lives of 92 victims of the "Violent Unexplained Event." Greenaway hit the limelight in 1982 with the release of his feature, "The Draughtsman's Contract."

An acclaimed study of 18th-century sexual intrigue set in an English country house, "The Draughtsman's Contract" staked out its director's central concerns with formal symmetries and parallels; each element of the plot was mirrored and repeated several times in order to create an elaborate, baroque structure which proved popular with critics and public alike. All in all, it was a superb if extremely dry meditation on the construction of perception, desire and of the difference of time past.

Although "Contract" put the English art film back on the map, Greenaway's next three features did not meet with comparable success. "A Zed and Two Noughts" (1985), "The Belly of an Architect" (1987) and "Drowning by Numbers" (1988) are undermined in the eyes of some by their rigid formalism, though they remain intriguing and visually absorbing. "Belly" brought forth fully Greenaway's interest in obsession and its possibly violent manifestations, while "Drowning" kept audiences watching the screen in search of numbers while crazed puns peppered a story of three generations of women, all with the same name, who murdered their husbands by drowning them.

The director returned to a more accessible form with "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover" (1989), a visceral study of haute cuisine, adultery and murder centered on a riveting performance by Michael Gambon as a sadistic, foul-mouthed gangster. Thanks to its relatively conventional narrative and its violent, controversial imagery, "The Cook" brought Greenaway his first substantial recognition in the US. His "Death in the Seine," also released in 1989, was one of Greenaway's fine and pedantic catalogue films, a potently morbid taxonomy of all drowning victims in the Parisian river between 1795 and 1801 that ended up not being bought by British TV as promised.

Greenaway followed with "Prospero's Books" (1991), a film which elicited a great variety of opinion, from claims of the work's near divinity as an intertextual late modernist revision of Shakespeare's "The Tempest" to a view of it as an airless work, a connoisseur's film, jam-packed with visual marginalia and pretense. Here the listing was of the 24 tomes the Bard's wizard brought with him to his island of exile. This prolific period was capped by "Darwin" (1992), a strenuous revision of the biopic genre, and "The Baby of Macon" (1993), another grim semi-satire set in an imaginary court of the Medicis in 17th century and the second part of a historical trilogy that started with "Prospero's Books."

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

3.
8.
  8 1/2 Women (1999) Director
9.
  Lumiere Et Compagnie (1996) Featured Director
10.
  Pillow Book, The (1995) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Act of God (2009)
2.
 Act of God (2009)
3.
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Family moved to Essex when Greenaway was two
:
Raised in Chingford
1964:
Exhibited paintings at the Lord's Gallery in England
1965:
Began working as film editor (including editing several documentaries for the Central Office of Information)
1966:
Directed first film, "Train"
1975:
Filmed "Windows"
1978:
Edited, directed, scripted, designed, and made maps for own film, "A Walk Through H"
1978:
Produced first film (also directed, scripted, and photographed), "Vertical Features Remake"
1980:
First feature-length film, the semi-documentary, "The Falls"
1982:
First completely fictional feature-length film and first American release, "The Draughtsman's Contract"
1989:
Helmed the controversial drama "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover"
1991:
Directed John Gielgud in "Prospero's Books", a loose adaptation of Shakespeare's "The Tempest"
1996:
Crafted the visually stunning, if emotionally chilly "The Pillow Book"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Walthamstow College of Art: -

Notes

Created an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government in 1998

There is a website devoted to Greenaway at www.december.org/pg

"Cinema is far too rich and capable a medium to be merely left to the storytellers." --Peter Greenaway (Production notes for "A Zed & Two Noughts")

"Peter Greenaway makes movies that offer viewers little comfort; his plots are not the sort that can be wrapped up with one final, lingering kiss. His films are deeply carnal, but the sexuality he depicts yields little pleasure. And it seems, he delights in filming bodily functions. Yet when the English director insists that his is a 'cinema of esthetics,' one has to agree. Mr. Greenaway designs his movies to be beautiful." --Karrie Jacobs in THE NEW YORK TIMES, April 21, 1991

Greenaway has produced several paintings, novels and illustrated books.

"Cinema is more powerful than the other so-called serious arts. We must insure that it contains challenging and provocative ideas." --From THE NEW YORK TIMES, February 6, 1994

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Carol Greenaway. Potter. Separated.
companion:
Saskia Boddeke. Director.

Family close complete family listing

daughter:
Hannah Greenaway. Art student.
daughter:
Jessica Greenaway. Art student.

Bibliography close complete biography

"L'Avant Scene"
"A Zed & Two Noughts" Faber and Faber
"Being Naked--Playing Dead: The Art of Peter Greenaway" Manchester University Press
"The Films of Peter Greenaway"
VIEW COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

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