Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Rembrant's J'Accuse...! (2008)
From a little box superimposed over much of the film, Greenaway staunchly explicates his mastery of the painting under discussion. There is no arguing with his authority on the subject matter nor in his deconstruction of the 34 mysteries embedded within the painting. His affection for the painting, as well as what it represents, is clear. Why he finds the need to float atop its beauty as a disembodied talking head is still unclear. Perhaps from this vantage point we are less liable to disagree with our host. Regardless of his questionable presence, snobbishly looking down his nose at the audience, his argument is sound and convincing.
A two-hour discussion about a single frame may seem overkill for any tech savvy rug-rat born this side of the 1970’s. The mass onslaught of images has long ago oversaturated our visual palette and left us partially desensitized to its power. This is what the film is really about; yet leave it to Greenaway to support his argument with obsessive deconstruction of a truly complex and multi-faceted work of art.
The visually decadent style we are used to in Greenaway’s fictional narrative finds its well-known source. He restages the painting and excavates particular elements both in live action and animated cutouts. The visual intricacies are managed one by one, slowly but surely revealing a larger story. As the fourth most famous painting in history, the time spent with it is justified. Needless to say, the shear intrigue Greenaway reveals justifies itself. Rembradnt’s lauded use of light, the ambiguous and gender-ambiguous details, the x-rays that reveal edits by the artist, and the use of looks to tell the audience a story all contribute to the complexity of this 1642 masterpiece.
Despite Greenaway’s unnecessarily scolding demeanor, his thoughts are justified. The modern looker has lost a degree of skill in reading the painted image while at the same time compensated for it with literacy in other areas, say, motion picture. And regardless of the director’s unending presence, the film is fascinating, entertaining, and endlessly intriguing in the complexity it reveals. Highly recommended to those interested.