Peter Greenaway’s cinema: the quintessential paradox of British Art Cinema outside Britain

Zeenat Saleh

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Abstract :
L'œuvre de Peter Greenaway est considérée comme marginale car elle est à l'opposé du courant de réalisme social qui est propre aux cinéastes britanniques en général. Ses références sont pour la plupart liées à l'Art européen qu'il intègre subtilement dans ses films. Ainsi, Le Cuisinier, le Voleur, sa Femme et son Amant, film réalisé en 1989, est un hommage rendu par le cinéaste à l'Age d'Or de la peinture flamande. A l'instar de nombreux cinéastes européens, le cinéma de Greenaway repose sur une mise en scène très stylisée qui privilégie la forme et l'artifice par le biais de la distanciation qui écarte délibérément l'identification spectatorielle.
This paper will focus on Peter Greenaway as the ideal representative of the paradox which the artist himself incarnates. He subtly integrates European art in his 1989 production of The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover to show how artistic creation embodies the essence of immortality and how the narrative structure becomes subservient to the artist's aesthetic vision. Despite his extreme 'Britishness', Greenaway cannot be compared with most of his British contemporaries whose films often veer on grim social realism. It is the very 'Europeanness' which makes Greenaway an outsider.  He openly pays tribute to different periods in European art history: Franz Hals' table painting in The Cook... is the focal point of the diegesis. Greenaway shares other artistic preoccupations with European directors like Resanais or Ferreri in the use of deliberate distancing devices which render spectatorial identification and emotion difficult. His aesthetic principles totally belie the idea that film reflects reality. Artifice is hence central to an in-depth analysis of one of the major contributions to British art cinema.
Published : 2012-01-16

Citation

Zeenat Saleh, « Peter Greenaway’s cinema: the quintessential paradox of British Art Cinema outside Britain », Cycnos, 2012-01-16. URL : http://epi-revel.univ-cotedazur.fr/publication/item/255