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The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 1: The Moab Story

Posted by martinteller on September 13, 2011

Boy, this is a tricky sonofabitch to evaluate.  Tulse Luper is a recurring character in Greenaway’s work, kind of a Kilgore Trout to Greenaway’s Kurt Vonnegut.  And the film makes multiple references to his other works, even citing Luper as their author.  And Luper is attributed with having an obsession for categorization and numbering, obsessions inescapably associated with Greenaway’s films.  But is anything about this truly autobiographical?  Is it more akin to Guy Maddin’s sense of the poetic autobiography?  Or is it just nonsense?  Knowing Greenaway, everything in this film is done for very specific (and probably quite complex) reasons.  But it’s all so elusive and dense with symbolism and double meanings that it’s impossible for me to decipher on a single viewing, and I would probably require the use of additional multimedia aids to truly decode it all.  Although he hasn’t entirely cast aside narrative, it’s so shattered by formalist clutter (the literal “frames within frames” as seen in Pillow Book, stylized sets, encyclopedic detail, seemingly pointless use of repetition and contradictory or complementary images) that it’s difficult to say “what happens” except in vague terms.  As is often the case with Greenaway, it holds almost no emotional resonance (and some of it, especially regarding the Percy character, is kinda stupid).  There is no doubt that most would write it off as pretentious drivel.  But I found it fascinating nonetheless.  It’s not the most experimental thing I’ve ever seen, nor the most unpredictable or surprising.  But it’s original enough to hold my interest, and it does so with a unique and often beautiful sense of style.  I am worried that another 4 hours of this will get tiresome, though.  Rating: Good


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