Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
First feature-length effort by Peter Greenaway, immediately positioning him as an artist to be reckoned with. Presented in faux documentary style, it takes place after an oft-mentioned V.U.E. (Violent Unknown Event) has occurred, afflicting humanity in a way that can only come from the imagination of someone who grew up in the nuclear age. People are speaking strange languages and taking on the physical characteristics of birds, continuing on with the societal necessities of writing, filming and drawing in an effort to create a post-V.U.E. culture. The narrators of the film go through the biographies of ninety-two people affected by the situation whose names all begin with the letters F-A-L-L, one by one using stock footage, photographs, shots taken by Greenaway himself and a whole heap of imagination to detail, in three hours and fifteen minutes, their various stories that include a few “interviews” with colleagues and experts. It’s terrific in description and constructed by someone with endless amounts of intelligence and patience, but to watch it requires tolerance that few viewers have. The pace is an even drone of low-key, smarmy humour that is almost impossible to take for for so long a running time, too light hearted to be smug or self-righteous but not outrageous enough to pass the time by either. Fans of Greenaway’s later work will want to see this keystone work in the development of his themes, including fascinations with numbers and lists, birds and the destructive aspects of physical transformation.