Reviewed bysuskifiedVote: 9/10/10
One of my favorite Greenaway films. Story, visuals, metaphor, acting,music...it's got it all. The visuals of Rome are stunning. Wim Mertens'musical accompaniment is brilliant and on par with any modernminimalist composition. After years of seeing his TV roles, I wascompletely floored by the depth and authenticity Brian Dennehey broughtto the main character. I've watched this film at least a dozen timesover the years and enjoy it thoroughly each time. Unlike a previousreviewer, I don't see the need to judge this film based on how much itresembles previous or subsequent Greenaway films. "Belly of AnArchitect" is not as abstract as some of the other Greenaway films, butthat shouldn't be viewed as a negative. The film is great and rich inits own right. I highly recommend it.
Reviewed bychaos-rampantVote: 8/10/10
I always know I can turn to Greenaway for nested worlds. He's one offew who can - not always mind, but the few occasions are precious -align the notions of image, how they project outwards to form what weknow of reality - an empty field of anxious, random forces tossing usaround - and the interior springwell from where these images flow outand which reveals ourselves to be in control of them. The play isusually given to us by some sort of fiction passing as real, or acharade within another, a story within itself, so that we may bedirected from the confines of the narrow frame into a broader view thatincludes it.
The idea is especially powerful in the context of architecture, that weuse form to project outwards a set of ideals but, having understoodourselves eventually circumscribed by structures that describe us, wecan then use them to describe the inner landscape.
So indeed, we stroll around one such interior Rome, where earlierdecadence or glory, or masks thereof, greeting us from marblebalustrades and rows of pillars reflect inside. A city so ornatelydecorated and cast in stone, as though man would outlast his follies.
Into this comes an American architect - the man whose folly is to buildthings that last - to stage an exhibition for some obscure Frencharchitect who died 180 years ago. Italians are not too happy that hehasn't picked one of their own, but they oblige to finance nonetheless.
There are two broad ideas that Greenaway is careful to lightly caress,tease out their potential implications, but finally circumnavigate. Thefilm would have been lesser had it settled on either, or is perhapsgreater for encompassing both.
One is the doubling; the architect begins to imagine himself as hisolder counterpart, writing letters to him in the form of privateconfessional; then begins imagining himself as emperor Augustus,trapped in the same ploy of marital infidelity and murder. Hereplicates these stories around him. So these people overlap and aremirrored with bellies, bellies aching with the toll of creation. Atthis point you may think it is all going to be another film about thecreative person losing himself in the mind, merging life withnarrative.
The other is, as always with Greenaway, about all this as doubling forthe making of the film. It's a film-within device, make no mistake. Sothe visionary artist is increasingly frustrated by lackeys, ignorantmoney-men, virulent antagonists scheming to usurp him; energy is wastedin duplicitous dinner parties and idle, but always more or lessvenomous, chit-chat, until eventually finds himself embittered andalone in his own set.
But it is not merely about the price of genius, or a satire of thecontemporary civilized arena that it has to bleed into.
Look for the scene with his doctor in front of the busts of emperors;each bust a face and story, one decadent and evil, another perhapsfamed as wise, but all inadvertently gone. A little further down is abust without name, it could be anyone's, and whatever story will beinscribed upon it, it's again only destined to join this gallery offiction. It is important to see these follies, but more important tosee the continuity.
So it is this acceptance on the part of the architect, the man whobuilds things not only to last but to be beautiful in time, of the turnof the wheel, decline through rebirth. It is powerful stuff to see; thescene in the police station near the end, where he is simply asked nameand age, whether married or not. He is free to go then. He has beenjotted down in the ledgers.
The final scenes in the exhibition center echo with this casualdismissal of a life lived, a casual but sweet, relieving it would seem,departure after so much grief with nothing to weigh on the shoulders.He attends the exhibition, the work of a lifetime, from the balustradeabove, from the vantage point of not being involved anymore. Everythinglooks like a small ceremony from there. So this is the nested worldthat matters; not the exhibition, but the creative life on theego-redemptive journey through life at large, purging itself of itself,after the painful struggle to master the world building pantheonsfinally submitting to be the mastered world, transient, as it comesinto being and goes again.
As he goes, new life is born down below - and plays, again and again itwould seem, before the colossal marble structures.
It is perhaps the ideal Greenaway film; the self-referential tics areall present, the framework ornate, but instead of chaotic it is allmastered into a pillar that supports, unifies vision. The architect -on more levels than one - coming to terms with the architecture of atransient life.
Reviewed byRed-BarracudaVote: 5/10/10
You always know going into a Peter Greenaway film that, for better orfor worse, you are going to get something a bit left-field. The Bellyof an Architect is really no different in this regard. This one tellsthe tale of an American architect who travels to Rome with his youngwife to supervise an exhibition celebrating the 18th century architectEtienne-Louis Boullée. Very soon after arrival both he and his wifeexperience contrasting activity in their bellies, for him it is severeabdominal pains while she falls pregnant. To complicate matters, theysoon begin affairs with other people. The film essentially then detailsthe architects mental deterioration, which includes writing postcardsto his long deceased doppelganger Boullée.
This one has to go down as one of Greenaway's more accessible films. Ithas an actual story that is underpinned by a good central performancefrom Brian Dennehy. But its maybe the very fact that it skirts so closeto realistic drama that is one of the main problems, as Greenaway isusually best when he does precisely the opposite. The story is reallyquite boring and the acting aside from Dennehy not all that good Chloe Webb being particularly flat as his wife; look out also forStefania (Suspiria) Cassini sporting an unfamiliar cropped 80's barnet.The visuals, while certainly nicely composed, aren't all thatmemorable. Given that the setting is Rome, there are many shots of thatcities peerless architecture, although that all gets almost a bittravelogue to a certain extent. I think this film, therefore, is onefor Greenaway devotees almost exclusively as in order to get a lot outof it you have to be interested in his ideas. While I have likedseveral of his films, I can't deny that, even in the cases of the onesI liked most, his films can be somewhat annoying. Dennehy really helpsdraw us in to events though and makes a good stab at involving us butit's difficult to care too much about these stiff characters populatinga narrative that is both distant and very cold emotionally. Boulléehimself is a typically absurd Greenaway figure, in that very little ofhis architecture ever came to be built, so it's difficult to everimagine a high profile retrospective of his work ever happening. Hisrounded, domed buildings mimic the belly of the title, as does hisname. So there are many links and symmetries in the story if you are atall interested in that kind of thing. But, while some of thephotography was nice and it did have a good score from one of themembers of Kraftwerk, it was overall a little tedious for me.
An American architect arrives in Italy, supervising an exhibition for a French architect, Boullée, who is famous for his oval structures. Through the course of 9 months he becomes obsessed with his belly, suffers severe stomach pains, loses his wife, exhibition, his unborn child and finally his own life.