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The Draughtsman's Contract  [DVD]
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THE DRAUGHTSMAN'S CONTRACT
A film by Peter Greenaway
Peter Greenaway became a director of international status with this witty, stylised, erotic country house murder mystery. In an apparently idyllic 17th century Wiltshire, an ambitious draughtsman is commissioned by the wife of an aristocrat to produce twelve drawings of her husband's estate, in return for which he will receive payment, board and bed hers. Extravagant costumes, a twisting plot, elegantly barbed dialogue and a score by Michael Nyman make the film a treat for ear, eye and mindDVD extras include a Director Commentary, a film introduction by Peter Greenaway, an interview with Michael Nyman, behind-the-scenes footage, deleted scenes, a stills gallery, theatrical trailers for The Draughtsman's Contract and A Zed & Two Noughts, a feature on the film's digital restoration, plus hidden features
UK | 1982 | colour | English language, with optional French language dubbed version and optional French and Dutch subtitles | 104 minutes | Original aspect ratio 1.66:1 (16x9 anamorphic) | Region 2 DVD
"I try very hard never to distort or dissemble," says Mr. Neville (Anthony Higgins), a draughtsman of considerable talent contracted by a certain Mrs Herbert (Janet Suzman) to make 12 drawings for her absent husband of their English estate. Part of that contract involves Mr Neville taking his pleasure with Mrs Herbert. While Mr Neville aims for fidelity in his drawings, infidelity in private is quite another matter. The film becomes a cerebral puzzle when objects start appearing mysteriously in the subjects of Mr Neville's various drawings: a ladder that wasn't there before, a pair of boots standing in a field. Mr Neville's penchant for realism is stymied by these clues, which may or may not suggest the murder of Mr Herbert. Peter Greenaway seems to have directed this, his first art-house success, with the aim of exploring the failings of perspective in art and casting his doubtful eye on the possibility of "faithful" drawings such as those by which Mr. Neville makes his living. Greenaway was, after all, an art student, and must have known that drawing machines like the one Mr Neville uses in the film (which is set in 1694) led not only to the invention of photography, and therefore of film itself, but also to the renouncing of perspective that informs so much of 20th-century painting.
In the film, Greenaway overlays the story's mysterious elements with highly mannered tableaux, shooting each scene like a realistic, though sumptuous, painting, while his actors spout witty and complicated sentences, suggesting the falseness of surfaces. Mr Neville's faith in surface is his downfall, and Greenaway's triumph is in his distortions and dissemblings, the narrative lie that gets closer to the truth than any architectural drawing could. --Jim Gay, Amazon.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The plot is always unfolding, often subtly, with Greenaway never signposting events; always confident with the subjective power of the film to let his camera drift over the lush-vistas of the English countryside as Michael Nyman's grandiose-Purcell-influenced score resonates beyond the cinematic framework, to give the film an even greater sense of playfulness and frivolity. The acting is fairly standard, though this has never been a great concern for Greenaway, who instead is more interested in playing witty and arcane cinematic tricks with the audience, such as layering clues to the mystery within swathes of seemingly banal dialog and the almost two-dimensional compositions (created to mirror the sketches created by the titular draughtsman).Read more ›
It was a superb cinematic event then and the recent release of a digitally enhanced DVD marvelously re-captures the feeling. An excellent, informative director's commentary is the highlight of the DVD extras.
What makes it a great film? Firstly every component part, every individual involved, is out of the top drawer or at the peak of their powers. The atmosphere is extraordinary. Never has the English landscape played a greater role. Never has dialogue been more carefully crafted to create the mood of the time. Never has a painter's skill been so well brought to the creation of cinematic images. And the Michael Nyman soundtrack, a marvelous creation echoing Henry Purcell is, for me, unsurpassed - even by Morricone's haunting "Mission". It is a film to be watched with all your faculties concentrating fully and your efforts will be rewarded.
What's it about? In 1694 a confident young draughtsman of some talent eventually agrees to draw ten pictures of a country house for the wife of its owner in exchange for eight pounds a drawing, bed and board for himself and his servant, and ten private liaisons with the wife for sex. He is amazed when his terms are accepted as he made them extortionate not really wanting the commission.Read more ›
The DVD restoration work is exemplary - have the black areas on this film ever been so black! The extras are interesting, though not exhaustive. And from what I've heard of the commentary, it is, unlike so many easy-money wordless hour and a halfs (no, not halves, think about it), delivered by a director that not only adds to what he's talking about, but begins to become interesting in his own right.
So, okay, Greenaway dropped the ball pretty quickly, but he never scampered into novel writing (Parker, you fraud!) and he had the vision to praise Blue Velvet on TV in the mid-eighties whilst everyone was whining that it was a bit much (So you liked A Room with a View and Letter to Breshnez did you?).
I adore this film and have no trouble with its idiosyncrasies; in fact, I would be amazed to find a film I adored in which I did not find any idiosyncrasies, and so I award this the maximum five stars. This is not a film for everyone, but then, you are not everyone.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Lovely film and all credit to BFI and Channel 4 for showing you can make a quality film on a low budget. Read morePublished 5 months ago by The Village Bike
I can't pretend I have a clue what this film is about, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The costumes were great; the music fantastic; the acting hilarious and spot on. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Hairy_yan
Sublime adaptation. This is a real gem, superbly shot and acted. The remastering is excellent.Published 14 months ago by The Secretary