Peter Greenaway’s 1991 Prospero’s Books and Film Critics: From a Study of the ‘Dislikes’ and ‘Likes’ of French Reception to a Personal Reading of the Film as Found Footage Cinema

Par Raphaëlle Costa de Beauregard
Publication en ligne le 07 décembre 2020

Résumé

Peter Greenaway’s 1991 Prospero’s Books is still today a tantalizing film which divides audiences. The two main French journals of film criticism, the Cahiers du Cinéma and Positif, offer opposite views on Greenaway’s cinema expressing these divergent views explicitly. Major issues in these debates, such the ‘true nature’ of cinema, will be examined, supposedly quite foreign to the new possibilities of onscreen digital images, which characterize Greenaway’s film. Because Greenaway experiments with these, the film is appropriate for a general discussion of Shakespeare in the digital era. The collapsing of three enunciative functions in John Gielgud’s performance, as Shakespeare/Prospero/Greenaway, offers opportunities for experimentations with redesigning the digital image onscreen. This discussion will lead to a re-reading of Prospero’s Books in the light of ‘Found Footage’ cinema. This film genre appeared in the 1960s in the US, with an interest in postmodernist aesthetics, which seems to have been central to both Deleuze and Godard, whose works are greatly admired by Greenaway.

Le film de Peter Greenaway Prospero’s Books (1991) a longtemps été source de divisions dans la critique filmique française. Deux revues de cinéma d’une importance majeure, Cahiers du Cinéma et Positif, offrent un exemple particulièrement riche de ces débats dans les années 1980-1990. Au cœur de ces divergences, on trouve la querelle sur la « vraie nature » du cinéma, laquelle serait incompatible avec des applications permettant de manipuler l’image sur l’écran même. Or, avec cette adaptation à l’écran de La Tempête, Greenaway expérimente les possibilités offertes par ces nouvelles technologies, ce qui rend ce film approprié dans le cadre d’un débat sur Shakespeare à l’ère informatique. La mise en abyme de trois fonctions énonciatives du rôle interprété par John Gielgud, à la fois Shakespeare/Prospero/Greenaway, permet des expérimentations en matière de travail directement sur l’image numérique à l’écran. Enfin, cet article propose de relire le film à la lumière du genre dit de ‘Found Footage’ qui a vu le jour dans les années 1960 aux États-Unis, genre dont les principes esthétiques postmodernistes sont peut-être ceux qui fondent les liens entre la philosophie de Deleuze et l’art du cinéaste Godard, dont les œuvres sont justement très admirées par Greenaway.

Mots-Clés

Texte intégral

1Peter Greenaway’s 1991 Prospero’s Books is still today a tantalizing film which divides audiences. Two French journals of film criticism, the Cahiers du Cinéma and Positif, in particular, offer opposite views on Greenaway’s cinema which express these divergent views explicitly. The film clearly addresses a wider range of subjects than was initially apparent when it came out. A major issue among others is the fact that, in this film, Greenaway experiments with the new possibilities of onscreen digital images, which makes it an appropriate subject for a discussion of Shakespeare in the digital era. A third point for discussion in this paper suggests a new approach to our reading of Greenaway’s original creation, recalling ‘Found Footage’ cinema, an earlier aesthetic research in which a palimpsest of bits and fragments from films was a vehicle for intertextuality and intermediality. What Prospero’s Books showed provocatively in 1991 is that digital cinema is ‘true cinema’, which is to say, visual art, both in rendering real life and movement, but also a vehicle for emotion, artistic creation and re-appropriation by the artist.

I. Disliking Greenaway’s cinema in the name of the ‘essence of cinema’: a French concept

2Greenaway has undoubtedly not been considered as among the ten top filmmakers by French critics in the second half of the twentieth century, though his film Prospero’s Books drew their attention and raised controversies, as will be seen below. And still when, in 2002, Positif published an issue devoted to the best ten British films of the 1960s-2000s, surprisingly the name of Greenaway did not appear.1 As late as 2008, Eric Neuhoff wrote about “Les cent plus beaux films du monde”: “From Citizen Kane by Orson Welles to Napoléon by Abel Gance, 76 critics of the 7th art voted for their favourite classical directors”.2 He added that while Orson Welles won the contest, Clint Eastwood was not considered, nor was Wim Wenders, and Greenaway had no existence at all. An exhibition in the Louvres in 2011, entitled Le musée monde, showed that British cinema was generally underrated in French culture. In a 2011 Editorial in Positif, the same year, Michel Ciment wrote that British cinema was poorly appreciated in France, owing to deeply rooted prejudice, adding that François Truffaut thought ‘cinema’ and ‘British’ were contradictory terms, and that Godard declared that the British had never been able to make good films.3 The main reasons for this prejudice deserve to be examined, since they will bring to light several contradictions in the French – claiming they are the better judges in matters of cinema – reception of Greenaway’s opus, which in turn will enrich our understanding of these films, Prospero’s Books being the most fascinating among them.

1. Complaints against Greenaway as ‘auteur’

3Why should the reception of Greenaway’s 1991 Prospero’s Books in France be overtly negative? Personal dislike stands foremost among the arguments we read. In a paper in Libération, Eric Dahan spoke of his ‘opera’ 100 Objects to Represent the World in terms that were highly subjective. In his opinion, Peter Greenaway directed “operas of stage props”, with “conceptual jokes”, which he found irritating. For this film critic, Greenaway’s production was mere post-modernist art, which he compared to ‘shows’ by Meredith Monk and Steve Reich – “a mere framing of images, with modern music, a few actors, a lot of video and lighting effects” – and found systematic. He also complained about the lack of coherence of his show, and the use of commonplace clichés.4

4When the French Cahiers du cinéma did mention Greenaway, they were always highly critical of his work.5 I will give a brief summary here of Jean-François Baillon’s seminal study, because it is useful to understand the position of French film critics – the following references to the issues of the Cahiers are Baillon’s. Michel Chion in 1987 (Cahiers n°397) used the keyword ‘cinéaste conceptuel’ in his discussion of Greenaway’s The Belly of the Architect (1987) as a form of dismissal of what he called his ‘paranoiac inspiration’. He disagreed with Greenaway’s claim of being an independent innovator of film language. He explained that a ‘conceptual filmmaker’ must necessarily express his disbelief and irony as far as images as concerned, concluding however that such an assertion is naively unnecessary, since it has always been common knowledge that cinema is indeed an art of illusion. A year earlier, Vincent Ostria (Cahiers n°382) had made a similar point in 1986 about Z.O.O., declaring that Greenaway’s film was retrograde, since it used stills and, therefore, denied the movement of living beings. Later in 1989, Colette Mazabrard (Cahiers n°425) expressed the same kind of typically French rejection of any intellectual approach of cinema.

5For the Cahiers du Cinéma, it is this implicit consensus about the ‘essence of cinema’ which is used to argue that Greenaway is quite unable to understand what the 7th Art is about. As Baillon reminds us in the same article, Stephan Sarrasin (Cahiers n°412) sees Greenaway’s cinema as a symptom of modernity, which is proved by the cold intellectual speculation of its plots, an argument that is also developed by Camille Taboulay (Cahiers 448). The ban on Greenaway in the Cahiers appears to have been characteristic of the 1980s, a period when French film critics were reacting against the 1968s, including Deleuze and Foucault, but also against structuralism, while still opposing capitalism.6 Other clichés of these years in France are the opposition to gender and cultural studies, and, paradoxically, to a ‘postmodernism’ which, supposedly, would have come from the US.

6I propose here a classification of these judgments in order to name their dominant semantic polarities: the French utopia of a true ‘essence of cinema’ is paired off with what would be the essence of life, while its antithesis is metafiction and deconstruction. But, paradoxically, these ideas on what the true essence of cinema is about also imply a deep concern with aesthetics, defined in terms of realism, and truth, and quite foreign to mathematics and science. This is confirmed by the example of an influential French film critic such as Alain Masson who reacted to Greenaway’s cinema by voicing a similarly soulful ‘dislike’. For example, in two papers on Greenaway’s cinema, one on Z.O.O. and one on Prospero’s Books, the film critic complains that he is ‘offended’ by Greenaway’s cinema. In the case of Z.O.O., he is shocked by the re-appropriation of Vermeer’s paintings and the subversion of historical facts by creating a parent of Van Meegeren, the well-known painter of fake Vermeers, which creates a reflexive approach to the art of representing the real, and casts doubt on art as representation. I quote: “With the unnerving logics of nonsense, the narrative develops this theme […] And so on: objectivity is only dependent on a mere subject, representation becomes mere figuration, as if meaning could be visible”.7 While the analysis is of course quite shrewd, one is surprised by the obvious dislike and even contempt of the tone in which it is conducted. Further on, the author repeats his complaint: “with the power of logic in creating nonsense”,8 referring to Venus, the zebra and humans and, further on, he is clearly not amused by wordplay such as ‘father’ and ‘feather’. As a spectator, the film critic complains about the absence of narrative coherence and the lack of emotion, which results from distantiation. About Prospero’s Books, again Alain Masson complains about the absence of scenario, of a reliable space-time world, and even the transposition of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, as if it had missed what normal cinephile audiences expect: “Though Greenaway’s daring and intelligence have won him respect his latest film certainly does not call for admiration,” by which he means it is not true to the ‘essence of cinema’.9

2. Germaine Dulac and the ‘essence of cinema’ as a French 1920s concept

7The traditional French views on the ‘essence of cinema’ can be traced back to Early Cinema, and Germaine Dulac’s 1925 influential text: “L’Essence du cinéma – L’Idée visuelle”.10 In this text, the author argues that “a caste of artists has been born who is unwilling to express its sensibility and its intelligence in any of the pre-existing forms”, by which she means the six arts: painting, music, poetry, sculpture, dance and architecture. She also means literature and drama. These new artists have coined a name for themselves (and the 7th Art), “Cinéastes”; i.e., “Filmmakers, for whom the art of movement, as contained in cinema, is a unique form of expression.”11 The cinema reproduces visually the totality of movement, in which she includes interior movement, comparing cinema to music in particular. Because still in the 1920s, cinema was seen as wrongly composed of elements from the other arts, she claims that it is necessary to search for “the expansion of our sensitive being in an unexplored form.”12 She then defines cinema as

an eye wide open on life, an eye more powerful than our own and which sees things we cannot see. Truth, subtlety, logic, the grasping of the ungraspable […] cinema decidedly has its own place […] starting from an entirely scientific and material foundation, we can build the theoretical structure of a new art, the art of the visual idea with its roots in nature, in reality, and in the imponderable.13

8Another seminal definition of the ‘essence of cinema’ is of course Jean Epstein’s notion of ‘photogénie’, a word he borrowed from Louis Delluc.14 For Epstein, is “photogenic any aspect of things, beings or souls whose moral character is enhanced by filmic reproduction.”15 And yet, according to Jacques Rancière, when Jean Epstein is arguing that cinema is not story-writing, but impressions which connote emotions, when he sees “a smoking cigar as a threat upon the throat of an ash-tray,”16 he is actually reacting to a scene in a previous film, a melodrama by Thomas Harper Ince, The Honour of His House, starring Sessue Hayakawa.17

9One might wonder why the Cahiers critics of the 1980s say that Greenaway’s films are not ‘true cinema’ if such was the understanding of the ‘essence of cinema’ in the 1920s. Dulac’s criteria are those of a visual art, both in rendering real life and movement, but also artistic creation and re-appropriation by the artist“The integral film which we all hope to compose is a visual symphony made of rhythmic images, coordinated and thrown upon the screen exclusively by the perception of an artist.”18 Surely this is appropriate to describe Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books.

II. Liking Greenaway’s cinema and reading the films in terms of modern aesthetics

10By 2005, a major change took place in the French reception of Greenaway’s work, “France is a fervent admirer of Greenaway, if compared to the US, or even the UK”, Lawrence Gasquet writes.19 As will be argued now, this is largely the achievement of the film critics in Positif, the French journal that published many papers on Greenaway’s work, in particular interviews. In the above quoted Positif n° 302 (avril 1986), Michel Ciment published an interview of Peter Greenaway (London, December 2 1985) which he translated into French. The questions deal with Z.O.O., and Michel Ciment inquires about the new use of a narrative structure in this feature film, absent in Greenaway’s earlier shorts.20 Michel Ciment discusses the importance of symmetry, formal resonances between characters, and mentions Greenaway’s text: “The Obscene Animal Enclosure” published in 1983 in Time Out. He tells his French reader how Greenaway had mentioned the zoo in Berlin, which, by its situation within the city, allows the visitor to see a hippopotamus and a tramway together. Though unmentioned, Meliès’s famous chance editing of a bus and a hearse, thanks to which he discovered the possibilities of montage editing, comes to mind.21 Greenaway’s interest for hybrid forms is also combined with an interest in twins, repetition, gemelity, features that are explored in Z.O.O. and developed in Prospero’s Books.

11Moreover, the reader can find a French translation of Greenaway’s text in the same above quoted issue of Positif.22 The latter seems to have been published as a form of response to the Cahiers, as we are offered an objective, uncritical view of the filmmaker’s work, which gives great credit to his personal encyclopedic knowledge and his personal aesthetics. In my opinion, Z.O.O.’s aesthetics are well worth discussing dispassionately in detail.23 Within the same deliberate objectivity in its approach, Positif published a review of Prospero’s Books which also clearly establishes that his films are truly “the essence of cinema”.24 It is noticeable that the phrase “essence of cinema” is not mentioned nor other seminal terms such as “photogénie”, but this does not mean that they should be irrelevant. Rather it implies that these issues are clearly addressed by Greenaway’s work, not as specifically ‘French’ but rather as essential to filmmaking. Michel Ciment’s questions focus on the context of the film: Greenaway’s previous opus, before moving to questions about his specific use of language in the film. The uninterrupted monologue by Prospero uses Gielgud’s different voices as he speaks for the characters he is inventing, or for himself as an exile, and expresses strong feelings such as his anger against his brother, his hatred for despicable monsters (Sycorax, Caliban) and later, his change of mood to benevolence following Miranda and Ferdinand’s mutual love, a love which he has created but which grows out of his control.

1. Ut Pictura Poesis and experimenting

12My personal understanding of Greenaway’s experimenting with cinema and digital techniques in this film, and the way in which the painterly and cinematic special effects are combined to create visual poetics, is its relevance to the classical academic debate – apparently irrelevant to cinema – Ut Pictura Poesis, which has vindicated now the superiority of language, now of painting.

Image 10000201000001F400000119EEF9544661E2D62C.png

Fig.1. Prospero as the playwright creating his Utopia (DVD 00:51:55)

13To put it differently, the issue is to decide how images that are imagined by the poet are given shape by him in words and thus transmitted to the audience, and, conversely, how images can represent words (as for example in allegorical paintings).25 But the relation has also been seen as complementary, when, in illuminated editions of manuscripts, and later, engravings illustrating books such as Colonna’s The Dream of Polyphil, the two fields of language and image appeared on the same page. The complementary relationship also defined the genre of emblem books, and all belonged to the commonplace cultural background shared by Shakespeare and his audiences. Seen within this perspective, Greenaway’s film explicitly refers to this well documented classical debate [Fig.1 DVD 00:51:55] by the use of images within a post-modernist de-constructionist work.26 The filmmaker experiments with the possibilities of expressing the abstract ideas of language by ‘moving images’, ‘cinema’ from the Greek ‘kinema’, connoting both motion and emotion For example, he chooses to achieve the depiction of ideas by live figures (dancers on Michael Nyman’s baroque ostinato music, Ariel who is heard singing as he cavorts on a swing, or Caliban silently performed by the dancer Michael Clark). It is actually of interest to appreciate how these characters are forever tempted to control their bodily movements as an assertion of emancipation, and personal reflexion, a model which already exists in Shakespeare’s play with Ariel – the allegory of the ether. The flying, dancing, and contorting of figures are forever seen as a moment of birth, an exploration of freedom and a tension with their creator, which clearly suggests abstract ideas.27

14And yet, we are never allowed to forget that Shakespeare’s work is meant for the stage, and that we are attending a performance. Indeed, it has been a difficulty to preserve the achievement of the performance despite its metamorphosis into a film, and avoid the cliché of ‘filmed-theatre’. For this reason, sound mediates the co-presence of texts and images on the screen. From the opening sequence of the film, we see and hear Prospero experimenting with the sound of words, in the repetition of the word “boatswain”.28 The performance relates to the actor’s practising as much as the playwright imagining how his words will sound on the stage [Fig.3 DVD 00:02:06]. Between sound and image, “the recurring image of the inkwell is like a magician’s hat,” and expresses the translation from the space of the word to the space of the image.29 In addition, the scenario of the film relies on an extrapolation added to the source text, i.e. the visualisation of Prospero’s 24 books, which allows a remarkable exploration of digital experimentation between images and texts being welded within a cinematic continuum. Digital techniques allow the full, visual recreation of the Renaissance civilisation in buildings and costumes, as stages for the action to proceed, sometimes shown as if they arose in 3D from the book’s page and, implicitly, from the two dimensional screen [Fig.2 DVD 00:12:10].

Image 10000201000001F400000119DC576D89A0B9FDD5.png

Fig.2. Peter Greenaway Prospero’s Books Paintbox unfolding architecture (DVD 00:12:10)

15On account of such a complex multiplication of the codes of representation, there is a general metafilmic dimension to the film, a connotative effect which is also conveyed by the ‘reflexive’ mise-en-abyme of scenes within scenes, with a predilection for mirrors to achieve it. To create manifold manipulations of images and mise en abyme effects, Greenaway resorts to the very specific technique of the Paintbox machine, which he describes as “a library of some thousand or more small ‘field frames’.” He goes on to explain the fabrication of these field frames: “each some 8 by 6 centimetres – painted or drawn on paper in various media – paint, ink, graphite, pastel – in sequential book-form, stressing the painterly characteristics of mass, volume and colour in preference to line”.30 He adds that because these images were small, “the enlargement necessary to make them useful also enlarged the grain and texture of the paper thereby stressing their manufacture”.31 The manipulations of the images that Greenaway describes involve a mise en abyme of a different type, not as a frame within the frame but as an inscription from the library of filed frames.

2. Visual poetry

16This emphasis on the creative artifice, which is meant to draw the viewer’s attention to Greenaway’s craft as a filmmaker, fits within his understanding of the ‘essence of cinema’ as visual poetry. Herbert Coursen quotes Greenaway, who explains: “I always tend to feel the most sympathy for those works of art which do have that sort of self-knowledge, that say, basically, ‘I am an artificer’. […] [As for] a film of mine, it’s not a slice of life, it’s not a window on the world.” To this Herbert Coursen ironizes: “No danger exists that this film will be taken for a ‘slice of life’.”32 Another manipulation in the film is due to the ratio of the new Hi-Vision television image (approximately 1 to 1.78), a landscape ratio not far from the cinemascope ratio. The manipulation of the image, Greenaway says, was intended in order to record the selected field frame on a Hi-Definition rostrum camera and refashion and rebuild it to fit the 1.78 ratio of the new screen. Greenaway adds: “this process is swiftly managed on the paintbox by selecting desirable areas of colour and texture out of the frame and re-positioning and blending them”.33 In this stage of the fabrication of the final image, we are told that colour and texture can be blended. Greenaway comments: “sections of the textured framing of the original small drawing can literally be ‘picked up’, duplicated and re-deposited to extend the new framing”. The next step is when “a coloured 35 mm photographic transparency taken of a film […] is re-photographed on to tape on the rostrum camera linked with the paintbox. The image is electronically cropped to be used twice”. He goes on: “First it is enlarged three times to be used in the left foreground of the image and then, decreased by fifty per cent, it is placed in the right midground”.34 Earlier in his account of the making of the film, Greenaway uses as an example, the creation of a character who is added to the source text. Supposedly to suit Prospero’s wish to have a Fool in order to enliven his morning procession, the character of the Juggler is created. We see a female character juggling, and she eventually embodies a minor figure in the source text called Sycorax, a hybrid figure of a witch who is a fornicator at night, and an entertainer in daytime. I give here a quick summary of Greenaway’s character who comes to life thanks to a large television monitor and an electronic stylus and an acutely sensitive electronic pad. The metamorphoses of the female figure are conducted in an orange coloured skin who either juggles with eccentric objects such as a pebble with holes like eyes, or mathematical solids, or even her own stale milk to be more visible in the darkness of the night.35

17More remarkable still is Greenaway’s depiction of the mechanisms of the imagination, as Prospero is shown in the process of creating settings, characters and conflicts involving destruction, plotting, and the opposite, romance and innocence. In doing so, we also discover that Prospero sees himself as a performer: as a magician, a tyrant, a jealous father, and a stage manager. More generally, Greenaway wishes to explain the link between the advent of the digital era and the tradition of the poet magician who gives form to ideas, as expressed by Shakespeare in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.36

3. Prospero’s mind and emotions

18As Greenaway tells us, cinematic devices are used to represent Prospero’s mind and emotions. Three sources for the film are superimposed: Shakespeare’s text, Gielgud’s performance and Prospero’s magic. The effect of polyphony is conveyed by a rehearsing performance which means imagining how the written word ‘boatswain!’ – a call from Antonio on the ship during the storm – will sound on the stage (Shakespeare, and Gielgud) while the storm is an act of magic caused by Prospero who seeks revenge upon his brother Antonio [Fig.3 DVD 00:02:06].

Image 10000201000001F400000119AFDC28A6E0E6672A.png

Fig.3. Peter Greenaway Prospero’s Books ‘Ut Pictura Poesis’ Gielgud acting as Shakespeare writing, as Prospero imagining, in Greenaway’s creation (DVD 00:02:06)

19His emotions are either negative or positive, dysphoric or euphoric. His mind works with images in a Deleuzian manner (images/ideas/thoughts/plans/action). In the beginning of the film we see mirror-images carried by mirror-bearers:

Prospero’s imaginings-good and bad, fair and foul – are always ‘reflected’ in mirrors held by minions – minions and spirits of a Roman/Greek/Renaissance mythology […] as though a mirror was always necessary for Prospero to make his imaginings manifest.37

20This explanation by Greenaway is followed by a synopsis of what is screened (DVD 00:50:04):

We first see the seated Prospero reflected in the carried mirror…and then with a flash, the mirror changes through a slight angle and we see what Prospero sees in his mind’s eye […] the victims of the storm Prospero is conjuring up.38

21We even discover in his screenplay Greenaway’s own mind, as he considers different ways of shooting the scene, with parentheses and questions: (“Perhaps these victims of the storms – differently-lit – can stand – just out of the frame – in the same bath-water as Prospero – with their yellow-black light reaching out and shining on Prospero…?)”39 The complexity of the scene might be increased with the use of an additional light on Prospero, which would mean what Prospero has in mind, mainly the situation of the victims of ‘his’ storm who must therefore seek safety on his very island, and thus be within his reach to complete his revenge.

22The visuals are organized to represent ideas by means of the frames of the various mirrors, and their mood (euphoric/dysphoric) by the diegetic carriers of such frames. There is a suggestion that “the happier images are carried by putti and the darker images by leprous hags and disreputable fauns”, writes Greenaway.40 The frame is therefore a concept that addresses the film-viewer, an indication in the script by the stage-manager that we should perceive a difference of status between Prospero’s thoughts, and the concrete form they take within the diegetic world inhabited by the carriers, as if Prospero stood for Shakespeare (alias Greenaway) himself. From the point of view of the representation in the diegetic world of Prospero as a magician, these mirrors remind us throughout the film that we are always sharing Prospero’s creative powers in which there is no such a ‘line’ between his thoughts and the creation of a fantasy world, as if for a magician the mere act of thinking resulted in performing an act of creation.41 This is apparent in the repeated play on the limits of the embedded screens. In the scene when he must tell Miranda about her past, Prospero’s mind’s eye is represented in slow-motion images in pale colours: Greenaway tells us that the sequence signifies historical characters, whom we therefore expect to meet when they are stranded on his island, not creations from his thoughts like Ariel, “as though Prospero was conjuring them in the air for Miranda to see as tableaux [i.e. ‘tableaux vivants’] or as paintings”.42 We are in Miranda’s bedroom, and Prospero stares at the sleeping Miranda. Greenaway then introduces a new code, which the spectator is expected to notice:

Whereas the mirror-images were very ‘alive’ – being spontaneous imaginings from Prospero’s brain – these ‘picture-images’ are more controlled – in colour and composition – to correspond with a notion that they are images of long standing ruminated upon by a brooding Prospero.43

23A difference in diegetic time is thus encoded between Prospero as a story-teller illustrating the tragic events with ‘tableaux’ for Miranda to see the past world of his memories (DVD 00:17:32 and following), and his plan as a magician when he causes the storm to occur and then relents by initiating a life of happiness for Miranda (according to Greenaway and to commentators of the play, we move from a 17th century Jacobean revenge tragedy (Act I, II, III) to a romance of reconciliation in act IV and V).44

Image 10000201000001F4000001194D2CD4EE1AF4A522.png

Fig.4. Peter Greenaway Prospero’s Books Mirrors unfolding Prospero’s creations. The storm and the crew (DVD 00:04:07)

24Another way of seeing the film is to focus on the nature of cinema as a means of representation different from theatre [Fig.4 DVD 00:04:07]. It is interesting to see how the film erases the time that elapses between the written word and the performance of the idea, between the playwright conceiving his characters and the actors on stage performing their part. We see the playwright’s hand writing the text of the play on screen, from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, as we hear him voicing the words that are to be spoken. And when they are to be spoken by a character, as in the case of Miranda, these are echoed by the same voice, suggesting that they are being spoken simultaneously by the playwright and by his character. The 24 books (DVD 00:20:02 and following) are an instance of the double creativity of the magician, since we see written texts and images, some of them in animation cinema, as in the case of Prospero’s library in the film. In another interview, Greenaway comes back to the central idea that the 24 Books fashion Prospero’s mind and conversely depict the way his mind and imagination work: “Prospero’s Books is a film about, ‘You are what you read’. We’re all products of our education, our cultural backgound, which very largely is perceived through text. Text is so desperately important in this film”.45

III. Prospero’s Books: from Godard/Deleuze and Greenaway to my personal reading of the film as ‘Found Footage cinema’

25Within broader attempts by film critics to situate Greenaway’s opus, the debate between baroque and mannerist aesthetics has attracted their attention. Walter Moser in 2000 argues that his aesthetics is baroque,46 while others are rather convinced by his mannerist style. Greenaway himself favours the second genre, Agnès Bertin-Scaillet writes.47 This author goes on by quoting Michel Foucault and the aesthetics of ‘quotations by addition’.48 However, bearing in mind the discussion of Greenaway’s interest for the ‘intermediality’ of the relation between images and language in his films, and Prospero’s Books in particular, it is necessary to turn to Gilles Deleuze’s contemporary work on such a phenomenological ontology of cinema. Among other things, Deleuze has been seen as a ‘philosopher of cinema’ whose understanding relies on a definition of human experience as a connection between image and thought, i.e. language. To the reader who is familiar with the Deleuzian dichotomy between cinema as movement in The Movement-Image (Cinema 1) and as time in the earlier Time-Image (Cinema 2), the comments by Greenaway on the devices he uses to show the workings of Prospero’s mind – as a magician who creates a world of characters within cinematic continuum, i.e. moving images – suggest an implicit awareness of this dichotomy. Deleuze distinguishes between the ‘movement image’ that is narrative, for a subject/object relation to move from an initial to a final situation and the ‘time-image’ which is a pure ‘haptic’ optical-aural moment, of both creation and reception. The use of mirrors discussed above seems to illustrate this pairing off between pure haptic moments, inside the mirrors, and their travelling by the carriers. Though the image itself in the mirrors can be subjected to metamorphoses. The same is true for the above quoted Juggler alias Sycorax, when the character exhibits a relatively stable form it has the ‘haptic’ quality of a moment, and when it undergoes metamorphoses it becomes ‘narrative’, by assuming a succession of moments.

26In 1977, an issue of the Film Journal IRIS was devoted to Gilles Deleuze: Philosophe du cinéma.49 In this volume, which has an important paper by D. N. Rodowick,50 another critic, Timothy Murray, draws a parallel between Greenaway and Deleuze in which he addresses the topic of baroque aesthetics as a philosophical issue.51 Murray writes that, in Prospero’s Books, Greenaway creates both visual delight and exasperation with contamination and ‘chaos’, what he calls ‘Chao-Errancy’. I quote: “its imaginative proliferation of images, textures, and electronic folds whose hallucinatory presence is conjoined in the monad, Prospero, and folded anew in the dramatic text which Prospero continually pens and voices throughout the film.”52 Keywords such as ‘presence’, ‘proliferation’, ‘images’, and ‘textures’, all characterize a paradigm that the author calls ‘electronic folds.’ One identifies in succession major issues such as phenomenology, structuralism, semiotics and the “tactile image”,53 which situates Greenaway’s opus in a variety of ways.

Image 10000201000001F400000119BF875C2A28AC6D05.png

Fig.5. Peter Greenaway Prospero’s Books Ferdinand and Miranda seated, servants in procession offering them presents, three women standing and singing, the crowd: four planes within a single screen, with an additional female body in the nude in a different scale on the right: a total of five superimpositions and scales within the depth, from medium long shot, medium shot, medium close-shot and close shot, close-up (DVD 01:27:25)

27Two years before the publication of IRIS n°23 on Deleuze and cinema, the Cahiers du Cinéma n° 497 had also published ten pages on Deleuze and cinema. In this issue of the Film Journal, Serge Toubiana develops a parallel between “the essence of cinema” and Deleuzian aesthetics. He presents Deleuze as the only contemporary philosopher who really loved cinema, and conceived the world in the mode of representation, a flow of images where the visible and the invisible, images and thoughts, are connected.54 In the same issue, Jean Narboni claims that the Cahiers had exchanges with Gilles Deleuze from 1976 until his death in 1995. He argues that Deleuze liked Godard, and appreciated Godard’s cinema for reasons that have been very influential:

We were delighted by this interview on Six fois deux. He opens up new ways of thinking about Godard’s cinema which have since been repeated and quoted […] creative stammering, a lesson on words and things […] the invention of a foreign language in his native language.55

28A third article by Thierry Jousse argues that, as a philosopher, Deleuze extols the essential movement of the mind and thus finds a similitude between the mind and the act of filming. The mind conquers cinema […] isolating affects, cristals, percepts which are produced by the very act of shooting.56 One also finds in this issue of the Cahiers a page written by Deleuze himself in which he refers to cinema as memory: “as Bergson has shown, memory is not a present image that would appear after the perception of the object, but the visual image that coexists with the present perception of the object.”57

29Moreover, by choosing to adapt Shakespeare’s romantic comedy The Tempest, for the screen,58 Greenaway could explore a typically Deleuzian question: the ambiguity of the so-called ‘absolutism of knowledge’.59 The polarity between the encyclopedic knowledge of books and the evil, destructive religious and political power, which they could provide an individual with, is typical of the Renaissance. While the trope of the dangers of knowledge appears in The Book of Genesis with the three key symbols of evil and sin – the serpent, the apple and Eve – it is central to Marlowe’s Dr Faustus and Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist, the latter play being contemporary with Sakespeare’s The Tempest, three texts which all reveal a fascination for esoteric knowledge, i.e. a quest for its elusive, and therefore ambiguous, essence. 

30In Shakespeare’s The Tempest “while Prospero’s passion for esoteric knowledge costs him his dukedom, his manipulation of the esoteric magic of his books wins it back.”60 On the diegetic level, as a form of progress in the narrative of Prospero’s mind and emotions, Greenaway’s use of 24 Books is ambiguous: it is both fascinating and satirical. In his study of Leibniz, the baroque ideal of encyclopedic knowledge is discussed by Deleuze in the Book of Monads. “The book of monads, in letters and little circumstantial pieces that could sustain as many dispersions as combinations. The monad is the book or the reading room. The visible and legible, the outside and the inside, the facade and the chamber.”61

31From the point of view of the film’s aesthetics, however, in my opinion, the close connection between Deleuze and Godard – and Greenaway’s openly declared interest in Godard’s cinema –62 could be re-interpreted in the light of a conception of cinema which recalls the ‘Found Footage’ American Avant-garde cinema of the 1960s. The newly available digital technology seems to have allowed Greenaway to use techniques that define ‘Found Footage’ as a film genre, and, arguably, such an influence would already be apparent in his work from the very first shorts. The first ‘Found Footage’ films that appeared in this particular now widely recognized film genre date back to 1960s.63 Its aesthetics uses fragments of films edited in sequels which claim to be newly rediscovered bits from lost films.64 In Greenaway’s film, the technique goes as far as edting shots of different time-movement relationship. When Miranda and Ferdinand are seated with their backs to us, we see in depth either still characters such as three women singing a chorus, or servants walking in a procession offering a portion of the meal one after the other, while on the frame within the frame appears a quick close up of a female nude and in depth a medium long shot of a crowd of guests, an audience as well as possible subjects to a future prince [Fig.5 DVD 01:27:25]. Four characteristics of the genre are identified: the first person narrative, the mockumentary, the collage of new footage, and surveillance footage.65 Prospero’s Books never wavers from a single point of view of the camera and a single voice-over narrative, until the very last sequence in which the characters’ voices are heard, as foils to the writer-poet-painter avenger’s ruling voice-over and, thus, as a device which highlights the dominant first person point of view. The 24 Books and their animated contents are pseudo-documentary, or mockumentary, sequences in which their existence is supposedly ‘revealed’ by the screen-image. As to the editing of fragmentary pseudo-realistic scenes within the embedding mockumentary of the 24 Books – such as Caliban’s birth, or the arrival of Ferdinand, or, more striking still, the arrival of Alonso and his team and their encounter with Caliban – it proceeds from similar editing practices of Found Footage cinema. Surveillance footage is also present in the overall motif of surveillance, which characterizes Prospero’s relation to other inhabitants of the island who are creations from his mind, such as the four Ariels.

Image 10000201000001F400000119CAFF8C4BFBB97161.png

Fig.6. Peter Greenaway Prospero’s Books The triad: Gielgud as Shakespeare/Prospero/Greenaway (DVD 00:00:21 and 01:58:57)

32The issues which have been examined such as the French Film Journals’s rejection or appreciation of Greenaway’s films have led to a debate about the literary and painterly genres of Baroque and Mannerist aesthetics, which is clearly omnipresent in Michel Nyman’s music66 and therefore relevant to the two artists’ relationship in the creation of a Nyman/Greenaway cinema. The reflexion about the necessarily subjective understanding of what “the essence of cinema” might be has therefore appeared relevant to a discussion of French theory and critical reception of film adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays. To Deleuze and Godard and, by contamination, in Greenaway’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Tempest, the essence of cinema ” is a notion that emerges in post-modernist terms. In Prospero’s Books, what Shakespeare’s Tempest is about – the ‘ut pictura poesis’ conflict being translated into onstage drama – is re-appropriated as experimenting with the new visual technologies of the digital era. Moreover, examining the characteristics of the Found Footage genre, I have become convinced about the deeper contamination of Greenaway’s aesthetics by the 1960s Found Footage experimentation of American Avant-Garde and Underground cinema, leaving open the question of Godard and Deleuze’s own resonance with these artistic productions. In conclusion, I also wish to recall a highly significant moment in the film, in which the ‘indivisible triad’ image/thought of Shakespeare/Prospero/Greenaway is emphatically screened in an emblematic close up. At that moment of the film, we see Gielgud’s face ‘thinking’ and ‘emoting’ as Prospero contemplates using his Books as the film opens, and burning them as the film draws to its end Fig. [5 DVD 00:00:21 & 01:58:57]. Such an indivisible triad actually de-territorializes the source text in a typically Deleuzian fashion, since it seems to be “using illusion in order to produce one’s being, to construct a site of hallucinatory presence.”67

Filmography

33Prospero’s Books, 1991: Neth./Fr./It/UK. 120 mn. Dir. Peter Greenaway, Prod. Jan Roelfs, Phot. Sacha Vierny, Music: Michael Nyman, Cast: Prospero (John Gielgud), Caliban (Michael Clark), Antonio (Michel Blanc), Miranda (Isabelle Pasco).

Bibliographie

BAILLON, Jean-François, “Peter Greenaway: cinéma contre-nature”, Études Britanniques Contemporaines, n°0 [sic], Montpellier, Presses Universitaires Montpellier, 1992. http://ebc.chez-alice.fD: Godard, Greenaway et Pera, L’OBS, 27 avril 2014, accessed 27 Novembre 2019.r/index.html, Ebc07, accessed on 10/08/2019.

BARTHES, Roland, Mythologies (1957), Paris, Seuil, 1970.

BATE, Jonathan, “The Humanist Tempest”, in Claude Peltrault (dir.), Shakespeare, La Tempête: Études critiques, Actes du Colloque de Besançon 1993, Besançon, Faculté de médecine de Besançon, 1994, p. 5-20.

BERTIN-SCAILLET, Agnès, Peter Greenaway: Fête et défaite du corps, Avant-Scène Cinéma, n° 417/418, décembre 1992/janvier 1993, p. 99-132.

CAVECCHI, Mariacristina, “A Tempest between Word and Image”, Literature/Film Quarterly, vol. 25, n°2, 1997, p. 83-89.

CHION, Michel, “Greenaway, cinéaste conceptuel”, Cahiers du Cinéma, n°397, juin 1987, p. 31.

CIEUTAT, Michel, and Jean-Louis FLECNIAKOSKA (dir.), Le Grand Atelier de Peter Greenaway, Strasbourg, Université des Sciences Humaines de Strasbourg & Les Presses du réel, 1998.

CIMENT, Michel et Jean-Michel Place, Ouvrage collectif: Positif n° 500, octobre 2002, cinquante ans de cinéma par 87 collaborateurs.

CIMENT, Michel, Dossier “Londres au cinéma”, Éditorial, Positif, n°610, décembre 2011, p. 4.

CIMENT, Michel, “Une conflagration de l’art. Entretien avec Peter Greenaway”, Positif, n°368, 1991, p. 38-46.

CIMENT, Michel, “Peter Greenaway – Dossier réuni par Michel Ciment”, Positif, n°302, avril 1986, p. 27-51.

COSTANTINI-CORNÈDE, Anne-Marie, “Pictorialité et pictorialisme dans Prospero’s Books de Peter Greenaway”, Shakespeare à l’écran, Études Anglaises, avril-juin 2002, n°2, p. 157-166. https://www.cairn.inforevue-etudes-anglaises--2002-2-page-157.htm.

COSTANTINI-CORNÈDE, Anne-Marie, “De La Tempête à Prospero’s Books: vertige des sens et fragmentation du sens”, Patricia Dorval, dir. Shakespeare et le cinéma, Actes du congrès Société Française Shakespeare, 1998, Montpellier, Université Paul Valéry Montpellier III, 1998, p. 57-76.

COSTA de BEAUREGARD, Raphaëlle, “Les premières adaptations de Shakespeare à l’écran et le Film d’Art français (1908-1911)”, Shakespeare en devenir - Les Cahiers de La Licorne - N°11 - 2016 | Shakespeare en devenir. [En ligne] Publié en ligne le 22 novembre 2016. URL: http://shakespeare.edel.univ-poitiers.fr/index.php?id=999

COSTA de BEAUREGARD, Raphaëlle, “Peter Greenaway’s Film Adaptation of The Tempest: Prospero’s Books (1991) and the Screening of Caliban, Caliban [Online], 52 | 2014, Online since 22 April 2015, accessed 13 July 2017. URL: http://caliban.revues.org/578; DOI: 10.4000/caliban.578

COSTA de BEAUREGARD, Raphaëlle, “A Zed and Two Noughts: Z.O.O.(1985 film de Peter Greenaway) : les paradoxes de l’ostinato dans la musique de Michael Nyman”, in F. Sounac et N. Vincent-Arnaud (dir.). Musique et littérature II: Poétique de l’ostinato, Champs du Signe, n°31-32, Toulouse, Éditions Universitaires du Sud, 2012, p. 213-224.

COSTA de BEAUREGARD, Raphaëlle, “Green apples and red prawns: the colour of time in Peter Greenaway’s Z.O.O. (1985)”, Journal of British Cinema and Television (Edinburgh University Press). 2010, vol. 7, n°1, p. 82-94. https://www.euppublishing.com online journal accessed 31 November 2019.

COSTA de BEAUREGARD, Raphaëlle, “Perception and Affect in Peter Greenaway’s Z.O.O. ”, Michel Rémy (dir.), Cycnos, vol. 26, n°1, 2010, p. 61-72.

COURSEN, Herbert R., “T’is nudity: Peter Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books”, Watching Shakespeare on Television, London, Rutherford, Fairleigh Dickinson, Associated University Presses, 1993.

CUSSET, François French Theory - Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze & Cie et les mutations de la vie intellectuelle aux Etats-Unis, Paris, la Découverte, 2003.

DAHAN, Eric, “Greenaway. Sans objet avec son ‘Opera d’accessoires’ le cinéaste enfonce quelques portes ouvertes de l’art conceptual,” https://www.liberation.fr/auteur/3909-eric-dahan, accessed on 28/08/2019.

DANKS, Adrian, “The Global Art of Found Footage cinema”, in Linda Badley, R. Barton Palmer, & Steven Jay Schneider (eds.), Traditions in World Cinema, Edinburgh, Edindurgh University Press, 2005, p. 242-253.

DELEUZE, Gilles, “Extrait du dernier texte écrit par Gilles Deleuze”, Cahiers du Cinéma n°497, décembre 1995, p. 28.

DELEUZE, Gilles, Cinéma I: L’Image-Mouvement, Paris, Éditions de Minuit, 1983.

DELEUZE, Gilles, Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, transl. Hugh Tomlinson & Barbara Habberjam, London, The Athlone Press, 1986.

DELEUZE, Gilles, Cinéma 2: L’Image-Temps, Paris, Éditions de Minuit, 1985.

DELEUZE, Gilles, Cinema 2: The Time-Image, transl. Hugh Tomlinson & Robert Galeta, London, The Athlone Press, 1989.

DULAC, Germaine, “L’Essence du cinema: L’Idée visuelle”, Les Cahiers du Mois, 1925, in Germaine Dulac, Écrits sur le cinéma (1919-1937), Prosper Hillairet (dir.), Volume 5 de Classiques de l’avant-garde, Paris, Edts. Paris Expérimental, 1994. English translation by Philip Simpson, Andrew Utterson, Karen J. Shepherdson, (eds.), Film Theory: Critical Concepts in Media and Cultural Studies, London, Routledge, 2004, p. 57-62.

EPSTEIN, Jean, “De quelques conditions de la photogénie”, Cinéa-Ciné-pour-tous, 19 août 1924, p. 6-8, translated by Tom Milnes, “On Certain Characteristics of Photogénie”, Afterimage, 10, Autumn 1981, p. 20-23.

EPSTEIN, Jean, Bonjour cinéma, Paris, Éditions de la Sirène, 1921. Puis republié dans Écrits sur le cinéma, Paris, Seghers, 1974.

FISHER, Jaimey, “Deleuze in a Ruinous Context: German Rubble-Film and Italian Neorealism”, Gilles Deleuze: Philosophe du cinema, IRIS, n°23, Spring 1977, p. 53-74.

GASQUET, Lawrence, “Narrating by numbers: Peter Greeenaway et la question de la primauté du texte au cinema”, in Liliane Louvel et Henri Scepi (dir.), Texte/Image: nouveaux problèmes, Colloque de Cerisy, Rennes, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2005, p. 153-170.

GREENAWAY, Peter, “Prospero’s Books”: A Film of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, London, Chatto & Windus, 1991.

JOUSSE, Thierry, “D comme Deleuze”, Cahiers du Cinéma, n°497, décembre 1995, p. 26-27.

LANIER, Douglas, “Drowning the Book: Prospero’s Books and the Textual Shakespeare”, in Robert Shaughnessy (ed.), Shakespeare on Film, Contemporary Critical Essays, New Casebooks, New York, St. Martin’s Press, 1998, p. 173-195.

LOUGUET, Patrick, “Travelling as Strolling about and other modes of Introducing Movement in Prospero’ s Books”, Michel Remy (dir.), Cycnos, vol. 26, n°1, 2010, p. 143-155. Online https://www.liseuse.harmattan/978/-2-296/ accessed on 10/08/2019.

MAHEU, Fabien, “Cinema, Painting and Digital Technology: Peter Greenaway’s Hybrid Images”, Michel Rémy (dir.), Cycnos, vol. 26, n°1, 2010, p. 127-142. Online https://www.liseuse.harmattan/978/-2-296/ accessed 10/08/2019.

MASSON, Alain, “Représentation et figuration sur Z.O.O.”, Positif n° 302, avril 1986, p. 28-30.

MASSON, Alain, “This insubstantial pageant: Prospero’s Books”, Positif n° 368, octobre 1991, p. 36-37.

MAZABRARD, Colette, “La culture et le bouillon”, Cahiers du Cinéma, n°425, p. 64.

MOSER, Walter, “Puissance baroque dans les nouveaux médias. À propos de Prospero’s Books”, CiNéMAS, vol. 10, n°2-3, p. 39-63, 2000. https://erudit.org/fr/revues/cine/2000-v10-n2-3cine1881/024815ar/ accessed 7/8/2019.

MURRAY, Timothy, “You Are How You Read: Baroque Chao-errancy in Greenaway and Deleuze”, Gilles Deleuze: Philosophe du cinema, IRIS, n°23, Spring 1977, p. 87-107.

NARBONI, Jean, “… une aile de papillon”, Cahiers du Cinéma, n°497, décembre 1995, p. 23-25.

NEUHOFF, Eric, “Les cent plus beaux films du monde”, Le Figaro, Culture, 18/11/2008. https://www.lefigaro.fr/cinema/2008/. Accessed 22/08/2019.

OSTRIA, Vincent, “La surface du néant (Z.O.O. 1985)”, Cahiers du Cinéma, n° 382, avril 1986, p. 51-52.

ROBIC, Jean-François, “Greenaway, chimère. La réception de l’œuvre de Greenaway”, in Michel Cieutat et Jean-Louis Flecniakoska (dir.), Le Grand Atelier de Peter Greenaway, Strasbourg, Université des Sciences Humaines de Strasbourg et les Presses du réel, 1998, p. 25-28.

RODGERS, Marlene, “Prospero’s Books – Word and Spectacle – An Interview with Peter Greenaway”, Film Quarterly, vol. 45, n°2, 1991, p. 11-19.

RODOWICK, D. N., “La critique ou la vérité en crise”, Gilles Deleuz: Philosophe du cinéma, IRIS, n°23, Printemps 1977, p. 7-13.

SARRAZIN, Stephan, “Une certaine tendance ‘néo’ (Drowning by Numbers, 1987)”, Cahiers du Cinéma, n°412, p. 45-46.

SIMPSON, Philip, Andrew Utterson, Karen J. Shepherdson (eds.), Film Theory: Critical Concepts in Media and Cultural Studies, London, Routledge, 2004, p. 52-56.

SHAKESPEARE, William, The Tempest, ed. Stephen Orgel, The Oxford Shakespeare, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1987.

SOBCHACK, Vivian, Carnal Thoughts: Embodiment and Moving Image Culture, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2004.

TABOULAY, Camille, “Prospero’s Books (1991)”, Cahiers du Cinéma, n°448, octobre 1991, p. 74-75.

TOUBIANA, Serge, “Le cinéma est deleuzien”, Cahiers du Cinéma, n°497, décembre 1995, p. 20-21, in “Hommage à Deleuze”, p. 20-30.

Notes

1 Positif n° 500, Octobre 2002, Cinquante ans de cinéma par 87 collaborateurs.

2 Eric Neuhoff, Le Figaro Culture, 18/11/2008, “De Citizen Kane d’Orson Welles à Napoléon d’Abel Gance, 76 professionnels du 7e art ont élu leurs classiques préférés. […] Le grand gagnant est Citizen Kane. […] Clint Eastwood est aux abonnés absents. […] Wim Wenders a disparu corps et bien. […] Peter Greenaway n’existe pas,” in “Les cent plus beaux films du monde”, www.lefigaro.fr/cinema/2008, accessed on 22/08/2019.

3 Michel Ciment, Dossier Londres au cinéma, Positif, 610 (décembre 2011), Éditorial, “Le cinéma anglais est peu apprécié, victime de préjugés tenaces”. He adds the following quotes by François Truffaut: “cinéma anglais, deux termes antinomiques”, and by Jean-Luc Godard: “Les Anglais n’ont jamais rien su faire avec leur cinéma”, in his H(istoire (s) du cinéma”.

4 Éric Dahan, “Greenaway. Sans objet avec son ‘Opéra d’accessoires’ le cinéaste enfonce quelques portes ouvertes de l’art conceptuel”: “Opéra d’accessoires de Peter Greenaway, plus ou moins horripilant metteur en scène de cinéma anglais à qui l’on doit des jeux conceptuels (et fortement ‘chiffrés’) […] des projections d’images, de la musique contemporaine, quelques figurants, de la vidéo, des éclairages très recherchés”, https://www.liberation.fr/auteur/3909-eric-dahan, accessed on 28/08/2019.

5 Jean-François Baillon, Études Britanniques Contemporaines, n°0 [sic], Montpellier, Presses Universitaires de Montpellier, 1992, “Peter Greenaway: cinéma contre-nature”, http://ebc.chez-alice.fr/index.html, Ebc07, accessed on 10/08/2019.

6 François Cusset, French Theory - Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze & Cie et les mutations de la vie intellectuelle aux Etats-Unis, Paris, la Découverte, 2003, p. 335.

7 Alain Masson, “Représentation et figuration sur Z.O.O.”, Positif n° 302 (avril 1986), p. 30-31, “Avec la logique déroutante et irréfragable du nonsens, le fil du récit prolonge cette thématique […] Et ainsi de suite : la constitution de l’objectivité dépend d’un sujet ; la représentation est assujettie à la figuration, c’est-à-dire à la prétention du visible au sens.”

8 Id.

9 Alain Masson, “This insubstantial pageant: Prospero’s Books”, Positif n° 368 (oct. 1991), p. 36, “Sa hardiesse et son intelligence suffisent à lui gagner l’estime, mais le nouveau film de Peter Greenaway ne mérite pas l’admiration.” As will be seen, by 2005, it seems that some change in French opinion occurred, mostly in the French film journal Positif.

10 Germaine Dulac, “L’Essence du cinéma - L’Idée visuelle”, Les Cahiers du Mois, 1925, in Germaine Dulac, Ecrits sur le cinéma (1919-1937), Prosper Hillairet (dir.), Volume 5 de Classiques de l’avant-garde, Paris, Edts. Paris Expérimental, 1994. For the English translation, see Philip Simpson, Andrew Utterson, Karen J. Shepherdson, Film Theory: Critical Concepts in Media and Cultural Studies, London, Routledge, 2004, p. 57-62.

11 Germaine Dulac, op. cit., p. 58.

12 Id.

13 Germaine Dulac, op. cit., p. 60.

14 Jean Epstein, “De quelques conditions de la photogénie”, Cinéa-Ciné-pour-tous, 19 (August 1924), p. 6-8, translated by Tom Milnes, “On Certain Characteristics of Photogenie”, Afterimage, 10 (Autumn 1981), p. 20-23. See also Philip Simpson, Andrew Utterson, Karen J. Shepherdson, Film Theory: Critical Concepts in Media and Cultural Studies, London, Routledge, 2004, p. 52-56.

15 Germaine Dulac, op. cit., p. 52.

16 Jean Epstein, Bonjour cinéma, Paris, Éditions de la Sirène, 1921, in Écrits sur le cinéma, Paris, Seghers, 1974, p. 86.

17 Jacques Rancière, La fable cinématographique, Paris, Éditions du Seuil, 2001, p. 7-14. The film The Honour of His House/Soupçon tragique does not appear in wikipedia in Thomas Ince’s filmography, but does appear on wikipedia as a film with a French title Soupçon tragique, (1918) on the entry for Sessue Hayakawa www/fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sessue_Hayakawa#comme_acteur, accessed on 13 October 2019.

18 Dulac also expresses, in these lines, the privileged relation between cinema and music, though she does not quote Rhythmus by Richter.

19 Laurence Gasquet, “La France est une fervente admiratrice, par rapport aux USA ou même au Royaume Uni”, “Narrating by numbers: Peter Greeenaway et la question de la primauté du texte au cinema”, in Liliane Louvel et Henri Scepi (dir.), Texte/Image: nouveaux problèmes, Colloque de Cerisy, Rennes, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2005, p. 158.

20 Michel Ciment adds a footnote in which he quotes his earlier interview published in Positif, n° 276, February 1984, p. 9, on Drowning by Numbers.

21 Louise_du_forum_des_images L’OBS>RUE89>CHRONIQUES PARISIENNES, Published 18 novembre 2016 à 22h52. As the story goes, having seen Lumière’s first shorts, Méliès got hold of such a camera despite Lumière ‘s refusal to sell him one, and shot a short film of the Paris place de l’Opéra. Back home, projecting the film, he discovered an omnibus turned into a hearse. The reel got stuck and as the bus was leaving a hearse followed and got in front of the camera. The effect struck Mélies as a wonderful magic trick which he then used in many of his films, and to this day is still credited for having invented montage editing and the metaphor in cinema. https://www.nouvelobs.com, accessed 31 November 2019.

22 Positif, n°302, avril 1986, p. 41-45.

23 Raphaëlle Costa de Beauregard, “Perception and Affect in Peter Greenaway’s Z.O.O.”, Cycnos, vol. 26, n°1, 2010, Michel Rémy (dir.), p. 61-72. See also my “Green apples and red prawns: the colour of time in Peter Greenaway’s Z.O.O. (1985)”, Journal of British Cinema and Television (Edinburgh University Press), March 2010, vol.7, n°1, p. 82-94. https://www.euppublishing.com, accessed 31 November 2019.

24 Positif, n° 368, octobre 1991, p. 30-46.

25 Ut pictura poesis” is a Latin phrase by Horace: “Ars Poetica” meaning ‘poetry resembles painting’”. Leon Golden, “Reception of Horace's Ars Poetica”, in Davis, Gregson (ed.), A Companion to Horace, Oxford, Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, p. 400.

26 Lawrence Gasquet, “Narrating by numbers: Peter Greeenaway et la question de la primauté du texte au cinéma”, in Liliane Louvel et Henri Scepi (dir.), Texte/Image: nouveaux problèmes, Colloque de Cerisy, Rennes, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2005, p. 153-170.

27 Raphaëlle Costa de Beauregard, “Peter Greenaway’s Film Adaptation of The Tempest: Prospero’s Books (1991) and the Screening of Caliban”, Caliban [Online], 52 | 2014, Online since 22 April 2015, accessed on 13 July 2017. URL: http://caliban.revues.org/578; DOI: 10.4000/caliban.578.

28 Peter Greenaway, “Prospero’s Books”: A Film of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, London, Chatto & Windus, 1991, p. 43.

29 Mariacristina Cavecchi, “A Tempest between Word and Image”, Literature/Film Quarterly, vol. 25, n°2 (1997), p. 84.

30 Peter Greenaway, op. cit., p. 29.

31 Id.

32 Herbert R. Coursen, “T’is nudity: Peter Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books”, Watching Shakespeare on Television, London, Rutherford, Fairleigh Dickinson, Associated University Presses, 1993, p.167; quoted in Anne-Marie Costantini-Cornède, “Pictorialité et pictorialisme dans Prospero’s Books de Peter Greenaway”, in Shakespeare à l’écran, Études Anglaises, avril-juin 2002, n°2, p. 163. https://www.cairn.inforevue-etudes-anglaises--2002-2-page-157.htm.

33 Peter Greenaway, op. cit., p. 32.

34 Id.

35 Peter Greenaway, op. cit., p. 28-31.

36 “The lunatic, the lover and the poet / Are of imagination all compact […] / The poet's eye, in fine frenzy rolling, / Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven; / And as imagination bodies forth / The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen / Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing / A local habitation and a name”, William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream (V.1.7-17), ed. Harold F. Brooks, The Arden Shakespeare, London, Routledge, 1979, p. 103-104.

37 Peter Greenaway, op. cit., p. 49.

38 Id.

39 Id.

40 Peter Greenaway, op. cit., p. 66.

41 Id.

42 Id.

43 Id.

44 Peter Greenaway, Positif n°368, 1991, p. 40. The film-script is divided in three sections : past, present, and future. Greenaway, op.cit. p. 37. The past is about Prospero creating the storm with the text of the storm scene from the play.

45 Marlene Rodgers, “Prospero’s Books – Word and Spectacle – An Interview with Peter Greenaway”, Film Quarterly, vol. 45, n°2, 1991, p. 15.

46 Walter Moser, “Puissance baroque dans les nouveaux médias. À propos de Prospero’s Books”, CiNéMAS, vol. 10, n°2-3, p. 39-63, 2000, https://erudit.org/fr/revues/cine/2000-v10-n2-3cine1881/024815ar/, accessed on 7/8/2019.

47 Agnès Bertin-Scaillet, Peter Greenaway: Fête et défaite du corps, Avant-Scène Cinéma, n°417/418, décembre 1992/janvier 1993, p. 99-132.

48 Michel Foucault, Les Mots et les choses, Paris, Gallimard, 1966, p. 45, quoted in Agnès Bertin-Scaillet, ibid: “Le maniérisme n’est pas seulement un courant artistique auquel il se réfère: il définit également une conception de l’expression artistique et un mode d’écriture. Greenaway semble avoir fait sienne la formule de Foucault pour qui « la seule forme de liaison possible entre les éléments du savoir, c’est l’addition.”

49 Gilles Deleuze: Philosophe du cinéma, IRIS, n°23, 1997.

50 D. N. Rodowick, “La critique ou la vérité en crise”, Gilles Deleuze: Philosophe du cinema, IRIS, n°23, 1997, p. 7-23.

51 Timothy Murray, “You Are How You Read: Baroque Chao-errancy in Greenaway and Deleuze”, Gilles Deleuze: Philosophe du cinema, IRIS, n°23 (Spring 1977), p. 87-107.

52 Ibid., p.88.

53 Vivian Sobchack, Carnal Thoughts-Embodiment and Moving Image Culture, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2004, p. 54-55.

54 Serge Toubiana, “Le cinéma est deleuzien”, Cahiers du Cinéma, n°497, décembre 1995, p. 20-21.

55 Jean Narboni, “… une aile de papillon”, Cahiers du Cinéma, n°497, décembre 1995, p. 24 : “cet entretien sur Six fois deux nous a éblouis. Il y ouvre des lignes de pensée sur Godard qui, depuis, ont été souvent reprises, citées, répétées […] le bégaiement créateur, la leçon de mots et de choses, […] l’invention d’une langue étrangère dans sa propre langue”.

56 Thierry Jousse, “D comme Deleuze”, Cahiers du Cinéma, n°497, décembre 1995, p. 27 (“elle conquiert donc le cinéma [...] isoler les affects, les cristaux, les percepts qui sont produits par l’acte même de filmer”).

57 Gilles Deleuze, Cahiers du Cinéma, n°497, décembre 1995, p. 28 (“car, comme le montrait Bergson, le souvenir n’est pas une image actuelle qui se formerait après l’objet perçu, mais l’image virtuelle qui coexiste avec la perception actuelle de l’objet”).

58 The Tempest is among the favourite Shakespeare plays which were adapted in Early Cinema. See Raphaëlle Costa de Beauregard, “Les premières adaptations de Shakespeare à l’écran et le Film d’Art français (1908-1911)”, Shakespeare en devenir - Les Cahiers de La Licorne - N°11 - 2016 | Shakespeare en devenir. [En ligne] Publié en ligne le 22 novembre 2016.URL: http://shakespeare.edel.univ-poitiers.fr/index.php?id=999.

59 D. N. Rodowick, “La critique ou la vérité en crise », Gilles Deleuze: Philosophe du cinéma, IRIS, n°23, 1997, p. 7-23.

60 Timothy Murray, op. cit. p. 87.

61 Gilles Deleuze, in Timothy Murray, op. cit., p. 91.

62 Alexandre Boussagon, “‘3x3D’: Godard, Greenaway et Pera”, L’OBS, 27 avril 2014, www.nouvelobs.com, accessed on 27 November 2019.

63 Shirley Clarke’s The Connection (1961) is believed to have initiated a particular mode of Found Footage, the horror film. On the other hand, Jonas Mekas and American Avant-Garde cinema as well as American Underground Cinema claim to renew the classical conception of cinema in their 1960s productions. https://www.foundfootagecriticcom/found-footage-film-genre/ accessed on 27 Nov. 2019. On American Underground Cinema, see Céline Murillo, Le Cinéma de Jim Jarmusch – Un monde plus loin, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2016.

64 This is the central motif of Theodore Roszak’s remarkable and fascinating novel Flicker (1991), Chicago, Chicago Review Press, 2005.

65 Adrian Danks, “The Global Art of Found Footage cinema”, in Linda Badley, R. Barton Palmer, & Steven Jat Schneider (eds.), Traditions in World Cinema, Edinburgh, Edindurgh University Press, 2005, p. 242-253. See also above quoted https://www.foundfootagecriticcom/found-footage-film-genre/, accessed on 27 Nov. 2019.

66 Raphaëlle Costa de Beauregard, “A Zed and Two Noughts: Z.O.O. (1985), un film de Peter Greenaway: les paradoxes de l’ostinato dans la musique de Michael Nyman”, in F. Sounac et N. Vincent-Arnaud (dir.), Musique et littérature II- Poétique de l’ostinato, Champs du Signe, n°31-32, Toulouse, Éditions Universitaires du Sud, 2012, p. 213-224.

67 Yves Bonnefoy, in Timothy Murray, op. cit ., note 4, p. 105.

Pour citer ce document

Par Raphaëlle Costa de Beauregard, «Peter Greenaway’s 1991 Prospero’s Books and Film Critics: From a Study of the ‘Dislikes’ and ‘Likes’ of French Reception to a Personal Reading of the Film as Found Footage Cinema», Shakespeare en devenir [En ligne], N°15 - 2020, Shakespeare en devenir, mis à jour le : 26/02/2021, URL : https://shakespeare.edel.univ-poitiers.fr:443/shakespeare/index.php?id=2524.

Quelques mots à propos de :  Raphaëlle Costa de Beauregard

Raphaëlle Costa de Beauregard is Emeritus Professor at the Université de Toulouse Jean Jaurès. She has specialized in Art and Film Anglo-Saxon Studies since 1970. In 1993, she founded the SERCIA (Société d’Études et de Recherches sur le Cinéma Anglosaxon): www.sercia.net. Her publications as an author are Nicholas Hilliard et l’imaginaire élisabéthain (Paris, CNRS, 1992) and Silent Elizabethans-The Language of Colour of Two Miniaturists (Montpellier, CERRA, 2000). Her publications as a director ...

Droits d'auteur

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License CC BY-NC 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/fr/) / Article distribué selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons CC BY-NC.3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/fr/)