I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

Psychedelic Subversion of the Image: Peter Greenaway


by Jeff LaPrade
July 12, 2016

Peter Greenaway has been making films since the mid 1960’s, is known for his subversive use of the image, and finds the boundaries of film through fifty years experience and experimentation. Network Awesome has two Greenaway shorts for us, “Intervals” and “Water Wrackets”. Both a few decades old, they give us a tiny glimpse into the creative mind. If we take a look at the average hollywood narrative, Greenaway goes for a production that is everything orthodox modern film is not. Formally trained as a painter ,“I was much more influenced by the aesthetics of painting than by direct associations with filmmaking products.”** The fundamentals of his original art medium, painting, shine through in his film making. This fact has not stopped him from embracing technology as a medium for art as he continues incorporate new layered multimedia formats.

“Intervals” initially sticks similar to the beginnings of surrealist films, reminiscent of "An Andalusian Dog". In particular with its quick cut scenes, but as it plays on the film gives way to a more narrow range of subject matter than its early avant garde counterparts. Walls, bare, graffitied, shopfronts and tattered adverts superimposed with people and emptied again. All of this accompanied first by an isolated metronome and some italian educational sounding recordings. A strange intensity comes with this production, that left me with an eerie paranoid feeling, and a specific disdain for anything Coca-Cola related. “Intervals” is a key example of Greenaway’s push away from the conventional film making techniques of the 1960’s. He himself refers to “Intervals” as:

"Very abstract, an attempt to make a movie without narrative using the figure 13, the harmonic structure Vivaldi used in The Seasons. It was made in Venice and combined images from both the Biennale - representing the high culture of painting in Europe - and the Film Festival, largely through graffiti on the houses in Venice."***

"Water Wrackets" was mainly inspired by “Lord of the Rings”

"From my enthusiasm for J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. I invented a fictitious early population for that area called Wrackets. The Wrackets belonged in the swamps, the Mariotts lived in the hills, there was another group who lived in the forest; I was going to develop a very serious bogus anthropological-archaeological study of these mythical characters."****

The films is mind blowing in its creative mundanity and has a bit more structure than the preceding film. Greenaway here creates a fictional documentary of a land and its inhabitants, there is still the familiar sporadic cut scenes but here the narration ties together these otherwise random views of nature. Fall in love with the tribe described during the Ben Stein esque narration, it almost felt like I was in 9th grade watching Peter Jennings documentaries again, only exponentially more entertaining due to the fictional culture discussed. Weird and captivating in a very similar fashion of today’s Tim and Eric only OLD TYME, just as experimental but more calculat Kaufmann. Ansel Adams would burn out houses on mountains he did not want in the landscape portraits to capture a fictional non fiction, a fake perfection. Greenaway uses film in a way familiar to this, creating a mental landscape portrait of a time labeled in an unintelligible manner, a perfect made up history. The story is intricate and full of jargon, like a science fiction novel, so pay close attention to all of the minute details. I found it funny how even after knowing it is all fake, my mind still connects the narration directly to the images, as if they are the very swamps being discussed. I

Contrasting against the “Intervals”, Greenaway's diversity shows clearly. “Every medium needs to constantly re-invent itself.”* There is an expression of a sentiment similar to the bhat-gvita across these works, that is in reference to being continually original. To see that his work is consistent in change we have to see at least a few of the films, the exact opposite of say, Wes Anderson’s stylistic uniformities. Consistently stepping outside of the box helps pave the way and allow that freedom to those to come next. May I recommend a low or very high dose of psychedelics for these.

Jeff LaPrade was born in Dirty Jersey but spent most of childhood in a suburb of Oakland.  Sticking to the skate parks, he developed a love for the underground and DIY culture.  Diversely motivated, he spends his focus designing cloths, producing photo shoots and writing about whatever comes to mind.  Despite his love for writing, Jeff earned his B/S in Physics from San Francisco State University in 2011.  Since then he has worked as a Solar Engineer,  Nuclear Weapons Detector Engineer, a vegetarian cook, has self published a book, and is a regular contributor to realizeculture.com and Swoop Magazine.  Now he resides in Venice Beach, soaking in the rays, writing until his fingers bleed and tutoring local children in the off time.