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Peter Greenaway, CBE (born 5 April 1942, Newportmarker, Monmouthshiremarker, Walesmarker) is a Welshmarker film director. He is currently professor of cinema studies at the European Graduate Schoolmarker in Saas-Feemarker, Switzerlandmarker.

Early life

Peter Greenaway's family left South Wales when he was three years old (they had moved there to begin with to avoid the Blitz) and settled in Essex, Englandmarker. He attended Forest Schoolmarker in North-East London. At an early age Greenaway decided on becoming a painter. He became interested in European cinema, focusing first on the films of Bergman, and then on the French nouvelle vague film-makers such as Godard, and most especially, Resnais.

Work in film and the arts

In 1962 Greenaway began studies at Walthamstowmarker College of Art, where a fellow student was musician Ian Dury (later cast in The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover). Greenaway trained as a muralist for three years; he made his first film, Death of Sentiment, a churchyard furniture essay filmed in four large London cemeteries. In 1965, he joined the Central Office of Information (COI), working there fifteen years as a film editor and director. In that time he created a filmography of experimental films, starting with Train (1966), footage of the last steam trains at Waterloo stationmarker, (situated behind the COI), edited to a musique concrete composition. Tree (1966), is an homage to the embattled tree growing in concrete outside the Royal Festival Hallmarker on the South Bankmarker in London. By the 1970s he was confident and ambitious and made Vertical Features Remake and A Walk Through H. The former is an examination of variations of arithmetical editing structure, and the latter is a journey through the maps of a fictitious country.

The visual hallmark of Greenaway's cinema is the heavy influence of Renaissance painting, and Flemish painting in particular, notably in scenic composition and illumination and the concomitant contrasts of costume and nudity, nature and architecture, furniture and people, sexual pleasure and painful death. His most familiar musical collaborator is composer Michael Nyman, who has scored several of Greenaway's films.

In 1980, Greenaway delivered The Falls (his first feature-length film) – a mammoth, fantastical, absurdist encyclopedia of flight-associated material all relating to ninety-two victims of what is referred to as the Violent Unknown Event (VUE). In the 1980s, Greenaway's cinema flowered in his best-known films, The Draughtsman's Contract (1982), A Zed & Two Noughts (1985), The Belly of an Architect (1987), Drowning by Numbers (1988), and his most successful (and controversial) film, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989).

In 1989, he collaborated with artist Tom Phillips on a television serial A TV Dante, dramatising the first few cantos of Dante's Inferno. In the 1990s, he presented the visually spectacular Prospero's Books (1991), the controversial The Baby of Mâcon (1993), The Pillow Book (1996), and 8½ Women (1999).

Later work in film and the arts

In the early 1990s, Greenaway wrote ten opera libretti known as the Death of a Composer series, dealing with the commonalities of the deaths of ten composers from Anton Webern to John Lennon, however, the other composers are fictitious, and one is a character from The Falls. In 1995, Louis Andriessen completed the sixth libretto, Rosa – A Horse Drama.

Greenaway has completed the artistically ambitious, The Tulse Luper Suitcases, a multimedia project with innovative film techniques that resulted in five films. He also contributed to Visions of Europe, a short film collection by different European Union directors; his British entry, is The European Showerbath. Nightwatching, a film on Rembrandt was released in 2007. Nightwatching is the first feature in the series "Dutch Masters", with the next project titled as "Goltzius".

On 17 June 2005, Greenaway appeared for his first VJ performance during an art club evening in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, with music by DJ Serge Dodwell (aka Radar), as a backdrop, ‘VJ’ Greenaway used for his set a special system consisting of a large plasma screen with laser controlled touchscreen to project the ninety-two Tulse Luper stories on the twelve screens of "Club 11", mixing the images live. This was later reprised at the Optronica festival, London.

On 12 October 2007 he created the multimedia installation Peopling the Palaces at the Royal Palace of Venaria that will remain open for 3 year and that animate the Palace with 100 videoprojectors.

'Nine Classical Paintings Revisited'

In 2006, Greenaway began an ambitious series of digital video installations, “Nine Classical Paintings Revisited,” with his exploration of Rembrandt's Night Watch in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. On 30 June 2008, after much negotiation, Greenaway staged a one-night performance 'remixing' da Vinci's The Last Supper in the refectory of Santa Maria delle Graziemarker in Milan to a select audience of dignitaries. The performance consisted of superimposing digital imagery and projections onto the painting with music from the composer Marco Robino.

Greenaway exhibited his digital exploration of The Wedding at Cana by Paolo Veronese as part of the 2009 Venice Biennial. An arts writer for the New York Times called it “possibly the best unmanned art history lecture you'll ever experience,” while acknowledging that some viewers might respond to it as “mediocre art, Disneyfied kitsch or a flamboyant denigration of site-specific video installation.” The 50-minute presentation, set to a soundtrack, incorporates closeup images of faces from the painting along with animated diagrams revealing compositional relations among the figures. These images are projected onto and around the replica of the painting that now stands at the original site, within the Palladian architecture of the Benedictine refectory on San Giorgio Maggioremarker. The soundtrack features music and imagined dialogue scripted by Greenaway for the 126 “wedding guests, servants, onlookers and wedding crashers” depicted in the painting, consisting of small talk and banal chatter that culminates in reaction to the miraculous transformation of water to wine, according to the Gospels the first miracle performed by Jesus. Picasso's Guernica, Seurat's Grande Jatte, works by Jackson Pollock and Claude Monet, Velázquez's Las Meninas and Michelangelo's The Last Judgmentmarker are possible series subjects.

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Documentaries and mockumentaries



Television



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