Drowning by Numbers

No one but no one defines the phrase Art Film with a capital “A” the way Peter Greenaway manages to do; his exquisitely composed frames put Wes Anderson to shame, and his obsession with the human body put Matthew Barney to shame. Everything about him screams excess, and yet… he’s such a good filmmaker, he can make the most incomprehensible narrative totally compelling, and each of his creations deserve your utmost attention from the first to last frame.

Which is why it’s a shock and a shame that my personal favorite of all his films, Drowning by Numbers lies buried somewhere, un-streamable by human hands. Until now, of course. A film about three generations of women all named Cissie Colpitts, Drowning by Numbers is obsessed with games- crazy, meticulous games full of bizarre rules and numeric fixations. All three Cissies (played by Joan Plowright, Juliet Stevenson and Joely Richardson, respectively) carry the film with grace and charm, lending a beautiful human element to Greenaway’s formalist insanity. There’s a satirical silliness in the many games our protagonists play throughout the narrative, lending a sense of fun that deflates any artistic pretensions you might imagine would be oozing out of this Greenaway masterpiece.

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