Back in his art house heyday, it took some time for the latest Peter Greenaway film to reveal itself as philosophically addled art porn for the coffee-table book set. Now, he can be seen plain at first sight. Progress. His latest, barely released Stateside, follows Revolutionary Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein thru his post-Hollywood sojourn in Mexico, buggering up an interminable project on The Soul of the People while learning the joys of buggery from his handsome bi-sexual guide. (The ‘Unrated’ film is either ‘Hard-R’ or ‘Soft-X.’) Greenaway shows little interest in the massive filming Eisenstein did (the actual footage has been stitched together to miserable effect more than once), concentrating largely on Eisenstein’s erotic awakening and general dissipation. That, and the usual crap about artist as idiot savant, with buckets of artsy display canceling itself out; think late Federico Felllini meets late Ken Russell. Greenaway, who never met a showy composition he didn’t like, here shows a particular fancy for triptychs. (Give a man a digital camera . . . ) But besides missing the big picture of Eisenstein’s response to a different sort of People’s Revolution (earthy/sensual), Greenaway also mangles plenty of little details, the Jewish Eisenstein is uncircumcised (plenty of chances for foreskin spotting); Mary Pickford & Douglas Fairbanks get placed at Universal Studios instead of self-owned United Artists; Eisenstein lenser Eduard Tisse handcranks at half-speed; Eisenstein even loses a major film (OLD AND NEW) from his C.V. Then, like gravy on a blue-plate special, Greenaway covers up his mess with a soundtrack full of Prokofiev, mostly LOVE OF THREE ORANGES and ROMEO AND JULIET, nothing from the Eisenstein films.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: There’s better Eisenstein in the tale of his aborted Hollywood film @ Paramount, AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY/’31. A project taken over by Josef von Sternberg and later famously remade by George Stevens as A PLACE IN THE SUN/’51. Oops! EISENSTEIN IN HOLLYWOOD, just announced as Peter Greenaway next project. Yikes!