Tuesday, 17 November 2015


Formalism is fun in Peter Greenaway's Eisenstein in Guanajuato, less a loosening of this filmmaker's directorial didacticism than a reinvigoration of it! This is a limber examination of the process of producing works of art, primarily for the screen, expressed mainly through Greenaway's own appraisal of the techniques he employs herein. You can almost sense his inquisitiveness, something close to indecision in the brash stylistic choices he puts to memorable use throughout this film, and how they each encourage a new interpretation on the material that Greenaway presents us. He places these formal concerns in unusual isolation in Eisenstein in Guanajuato, stranded amid a narrative directness and a thematic simplicity that will be new to those better versed in recent Greenaway than in his older works. There is what happens, the basic details of the plot, and there is the particular presentation of that plot through creative technical and artistic manipulation; it's typically dense (how many sex scenes can you recall that relate their inherent carnality to complex colonial histories?) yet bracingly frivolous. Eisenstein in Guanajuato is the most lively this filmmaker has permitted himself to be in too many years, embracing the surprising joy to be mined in all this formal experimentation. The fake 3D effects are carefully layered, other camera effects delightfully disorientating, and Greenaway even seems to turn split-screen editing into structural punchlines. But before, and beyond, all this innovation is a highly effective dedication to drama, a warmth to the director's touch that extends an inviting hand to the viewer, and permits us to fully appreciate what's being achieved here. The film is sexy, funny, beautifully lit and excellently performed. It's strictly arthouse fun, naturally - it's too strictly strict to be anything else - but it's fun all the same.