A Zed & Two Noughts (1985) / The Falls (1980) Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review
These are most certainly not for everyone, but if you’ve got the taste for Peter Greenaway’s approach to filmmaking then this is a massive banquet that you can delight in.
A Zed & Two Noughts Plot:
Twin widowers fall for a one-legged woman, and that relationship causes a chain reaction that will both bind them closer together … and be their undoing.
The two wives of twin zoologists Oswald and Oliver Deuce (Brian Deacon and Eric Deacon) are both killed simultaneously in a car crash when the driver – a woman named Alba (Andrea Ferreol) – crashes into a swan near a zoo. Alba loses a leg in the collision, and when Oswald and Oliver careen in their grief, they press inward into obsessing about the corrosion of life as it pertains to decomposition in real time. They also both become infatuated with Alba, who welcomes them both into her bed as lovers, and when she becomes pregnant she considers them both the father. When she becomes fixated on the thought that she needs to amputate her other leg, the two men support her, and it seems that their bizarre triangle will finally be complete. Meanwhile there are other characters in their periphery, including a man (played by Joss Ackland) who takes advantage of the fact that the zoo where the swan escaped is liquidating the animals as the zoo faces closure, and he begins selling exotic and rare animal meat in the black market, with the twins being among his best customers.
From writer / director Peter Greenaway, A Zed & Two Noughts is a wildly unique artistic allegory with a massive bummer of an ending, and yet it’s totally worth experiencing for its composition, artistic integrity, and completely original approach to filmmaking in general. Greenaway is an acquired taste, and I believe you really need to be a seasoned film connoisseur to appreciate his work, but even the most seasoned of us might not appreciate his style. I’m in the middle of my season of Greenaway, having recently watched The Droughtsman’s Contract and The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover for the first time recently, and while he’s been a filmmaker on my radar since I was a teenager I always suspected he was beyond my reach and that I wasn’t ready for him at that time. I’m ready now, but even so, I find his work completely fascinating and difficult to absorb, and A Zed & Two Noughts is a real grind of the mind and spirit to appreciate fully. His work is like artistic mathematical equations woven into music, images, and art, and you’ve really got to lean hard into his esthetic to “get” them. If that sounds like your cup of tea, then this one is a doozy.
The Falls (1980) Plot:
England has an unexplainable event where 92 people are changed forever.
A “violent unknown event” (VUE) occurs in England, and 92 people – all with a last name that begins with the letters “FALL” – are inexplicably altered forever. A film crew that is never seen documents the aftereffects of each individual affected by the VUE, and there are common denominators: Many – if not all – of the people had a keen interest or obsession with flying or winged creatures, and many of them now exhibit glossolalia, or some kind of made up language that is unique to themselves. What does it all mean? The case studies only observe and make neither judgments nor conclusions.
A fascinating, if completely befuddling faux documentary that goes on for more than three hours, The Falls is sometimes hilarious, and it’s never boring, despite its epic length. Filmmaker Peter Greenaway’s inimitable style is on full display with blunt nudity, unusual set and production design, weird observations of human behavior, and an overall sense of detached and yet intimate obsession with all the minutia of the wonderment of creation itself. It’s most certainly not for everyone, but if you’ve got the taste for his approach to filmmaking then this is a massive banquet that you can delight in.
Kino Lorber’s two-disc set of these two films comes with multiple short films, a commentary, trailers, and more. There’s enough here to keep you busy for days. Kudos to Kino for releasing these on Blu-ray.