Peter Greenaway Quotes

 

"In the mid-sixties and early seventies the current painterly interests were Land Art, Minimalism and Conceptualism. My fascinations within this local contemporary cultural baggage journeyed around the work of Richard Long, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Walter De Maria, Robert Morris, Frank Stella, R.B. Kitaj, and, as with everyone else, Marcel Duchamp, and their visual overspill into a cinema language somewhere between and including Hollis Frampton and Alain Resnais. I took what I wanted from these influences, aided by the literary experiments of Borges and all the acolytes (and precursors) of Magic Realism, and all the musical experiments of Cage and all his acolytes (not so many precursors), and certainly the direct-use of landscape materials, maps, diagrams, photographic recording, stripped down list-making, the economic cataloguing, the excitements of mock equivocal theorising, and personal desires to make limitless dictionaries and directories, but always being aware of using the boundaries of those systems to indicate their short-comings." - Peter Greenaway 

"Maybe the next question you ought to ask is: ‘Under these circumstances: why do I go on making films?’ Well, I still would like you to feel the enthusiasm that all those people felt in the twenties and thirties, that indeed we had discovered, with cinema, the great 20th-century, all-embracing medium. There were extraordinary apologists for what it could become, but I feel it hasn't become that. Cinema has been dragged down by mimetic association with all the other art forms, predominantly with the 19th century novel, and because of its distribution situation and its apparent desire to appeal to the lowest common denominator, it has gone in directions which have not fulfilled those extraordinary promises, in general terms. But I still have this sneaking, hopeful suspicion that we can return to those optimistic, ambitious days and make something of what could be a most extraordinary medium." – Peter Greenaway

"I think, finally, among intellectuals, certainly in Western Europe, we can grapple really importantly with Darwin's central message - which is far too difficult and far too reductive for most people to grapple with - the basic notion that man is eminently very material and materialistic, and the only conceivable reason we are down here is to procreate, and that basically life is totally and absolutely purposeless; so finally, for the first time, we can forget God, Satan, the Communist Party, Freud, and our mothers. We are on our own, which I think is FANTASTICALLY liberating, and which would also prove that all the other checks, all the other codes, all the other organizations of our lives are human constructs, which we have attempted to invent in order to attack the notion of purposelessness." - Peter Greenaway

"But thinking of cinema being a dinosaur, you know what they say about dinosaurs: the brain dies but it takes maybe several weeks before that message gets to the tail. So if we're lucky, maybe, the notion of conventional celluloid cinema has perhaps one or two generations to run. But then I'm sure, quite happily, we'll see the end of it. I would cry no tears for it because I'm quite convinced, and there's no reason not to think this, that all the new languages will certainly be soon giving us, I won't say cinema because I think we have to find a new name for it, but cinematic experiences, which is going to make Star Wars look like an early sixteenth century lantern-slide lecture." - Peter Greenaway

"Well, on a practical level, water is fantastically photogenic. But of course, the world is four-fifths water, we’re all born in amniotic fluid, water is a big cleansing medium whether it’s literal or metaphorical. On another, pragmatic level, water provides almost a legitimate opportunity for people to be seen nude, in the case of 26 Bathrooms, for example. But it literally is the oil of life, it is the blood of life, which splashes, dribbles, washes, roars - it’s a great friend and a terrifying enemy, it has all those significances. And there is a way in which somehow water is the unguent, the balm, the cooling agent of the dramas of all the films. And I suspect I should go on using it too." - Peter Greenaway

"When my films appeared, many regarded me as a perverse creation who, at the very least, slept in a coffin. You see, that is not true - I am an orthodox English bourgeois... There are two great surrealist artists - the Belgian Magritte and the Spaniard Dali. Dali put so much energy and fantasy into his life that they were obviously missing in his art. Magritte, on the other hand, unobtrusive, even unnoticeable in behaviour and appearance, created masterpieces of surrealism. I find Magritte's model acceptable - I want to enjoy all the bourgeois benefits and in my art, to push back the generally accepted boundaries." - Peter Greenaway

"My audience is comprised of three categories. The first category contains the people who decide after the first five minutes that they’ve made a mistake and leave. The second category is the people who give the film a chance and leave annoyed after 40 minutes. The third category includes the people that watch the whole film and return to see it again. If I’m able to persuade 33% of the audience to stay, then I can say that I’ve succeeded." - Peter Greenaway

"We have to move away from the concept of screening in cinemas. This can be achieved with the new technologies. I enjoy my films and the fact that I can include you in them as well. Cinema is only a small part of a much greater phenomenon. We transcend the barriers of culture. DVDs’ image quality and longevity provide us with new prospects. They are a powerful medium. I think they were invented especially for me." - Peter Greenaway

"Many quite popular films are filled with violence. I think the difference between those and my films is that I show the cause and effect of violent activity. It's not a Donald Duck situation where he get a brick in the back of the head and gets up and walks away in the next frame. Mine have violence which keeps Donald Duck in the hospital for six months and creates a trauma which he will remember for the rest of his life." - Peter Greenaway

"An American critic wrote that she would rather be forced to read the New York telephone directory three times than watch the film A Zed and Two Noughts, a third of which was a homage to Vermeer. Conceivably, if you are a list-enthusiast like me, the New York telephone directory might be fascinating, demographically, geographically, historically, typographically, cartographically; but I am sure no compliment was intended." - Peter Greenaway

"Here was opportunity to make an audience walk and move, be sociable in a way never dreamed of by the rigors of cinema-watching, in circumstances where many different perspectives could be brought to bear on a series of phenomena associated with the topics under consideration. Yet all the time it was a subjective creation under the auspices of light and sound, dealing with a large slice of cinema's vocabulary." - Peter Greenaway

"I have a very, very secret drive to become a dilettante, without the pejorative overtones or the obligation to produce myself. There's so much to examine, so much to contemplate. I have enormous enthusiasm when I start a new project but then there's the meetings and the counter-meetings, the rehearsals, the struggles. You have to keep pushing and pushing and pushing to get your dreams realised." - Peter Greenaway

"Cinema doesn't connect with the body as artists have in two thousand years of painting, using the nude as the central figure which the ideas seem to circulate around. I think it is important to somehow push or stretch or emphasize, in as many ways as I can, the sheer bulk, shape, heaviness, the juices, the actual structure of the body. Cinema basically examines a personality first and the body afterward." - Peter Greenaway

"I acknowledge Mike Leigh and Ken Loach. They are prostlytizers of English socialism preaching to the converted and telling us what we already know. Cinema is best served away from documentary neo-realism. I come from a tradition of post-post-Italian neo-realism in England, where we've produced the best television in the world. But to paraphrase Truffaut, the English have no visual imagination." - Peter Greenaway

"My favourite film-maker west of the English Channel is not English - but to me doesn't seem American either - David Lynch - a curious American-European film-maker. He has - against odds - achieved what we want to achieve here. He takes great risks with a strong personal voice and adequate funds and space to exercise it. I thought Blue Velvet was a masterpiece." - Peter Greenaway 

"Film is such an extraordinary rich medium which can handle so many different modes of operation, combining together in the same place all these extraordinary disciplines which may be executed in their own right - music, writing, picture making of all kinds, and I often feel that some filmmakers make films with one eye closed and two hands tied behind their backs." - Peter Greenaway

"Tulse Luper, who without too many confessions, in a sense, is a fictive version of me. I have to say he has far more exciting adventures, and certainly a lot of them sexual, than ever I've experienced. But in a sense, what you do with an alter ego, you give them all sorts of permissions and licences which you know you'll never be able to embrace in your real life." - Peter Greenaway

"As you probably know, I'm often accused of intellectual exhibitionism and all forms of elitism. Although I can understand this point of view, it's a rather wasted argument because, if we regard areas of information as being elite and therefore somehow not usable, it means our centre-ground of activity becomes very, very impoverished." - Peter Greenaway

"I think that every artist dreams of renewing the forms which came before, but I think very few can be considered to have achieved that. We are all dwarves standing upon the shoulders of the giants who preceded us, and I think we must never forget that. After all, even iconoclasts only exist with respect to that which they destroy." - Peter Greenaway

"On the other hand, I view the whole matter from a cosmic perspective. I don't take a position. I believe that there are no more positions to take, no certainties, no facts. Many people find this confusing about my films; they say I am hiding out behind irony. But from a cosmic viewpoint, it is eternally unimportant whether one lives or not." - Peter Greenaway

"Human relationships are patterned and cross-patterned and restricted and limited and delimited and caged and freed again by the elaborate conventions, rules and games which we call civilisation. They're often absurd and farcical, and sometimes they're tragic, yet we acknowledge that they are necessary." - Peter Greenaway

"I was born on the 5th April 1942. On Good Friday. Round about crucifixion time. Archbishop Ussher, a man for dates, who calculated that the world began on September 27th 4004 BC, says the crucifixion took place at three o'clock in the afternoon on Good Friday in the year 33 AD. I was right on time." - Peter Greenaway

"My second Christian name is John. Good solid bourgeois Christian name, like my first name, Peter, a rock. Minerals. Build on rock, rocks, uranium. Peter and John were two of the twelve apostles - arguable the two most significant. Were my parents hedging their bets?" - Peter Greenaway 

"I think that films or indeed any art work should be made in a way that they are infinitely viewable; so that you could go back to it time and time again, not necessarily immediately but over a space of time, and see new things in it, or new ways of looking at it." - Peter Greenaway

"What do you want art to give you? What do you want cultural experience to give you? Shouldn't it be in-depth, profound experiences which have some satisfaction and can be retained in your four senses and your imagination for the rest of your life?" - Peter Greenaway

"I don't have any particular wish to be polemical or didactic; I don't have a 'message', but what I do thoroughly enjoy are those works of art, not necessarily in the cinema, but in the other arts as well, which have an encyclopaedic world." - Peter Greenaway

"I don't believe that one has to tear down the cinema screen in order to renew cinema. But new input and new energy are lacking. They are flowing above all into the television technologies. We must, therefore, concentrate on the CD-ROM." - Peter Greenaway

"To be an atheist you have to have ten thousand times more imagination than if you are a religious fundamentalist. You must take the responsibility to acquire information, digest and use it to understand what you can." - Peter Greenaway

"Americans don't understand what metaphor in cinema is about. They're extremely good at making straightforward, linear narrative movies, which entertain superbly. But they very rarely do anything else." - Peter Greenaway

"Creation, to me, is to try to orchestrate the universe to understand what surrounds us. Even if, to accomplish that, we use all sorts of stratagems which in the end prove completely incapable of staving off chaos." - Peter Greenaway

"I don't want to become an ivory tower filmmaker. That sounds peculiar, but I want to be a mainstream filmmaker. I want the largest possible audience that I can find - but, of course, on my terms." - Peter Greenaway

"There are basically only two subject matters in all Western culture: sex and death. We do have some ability to manipulate sex nowadays. We have no ability, and never will have, to manipulate death." - Peter Greenaway

"There are, after all, approaches to be made other than the dependable routes that massage sentimental expectations and provide easy opportunities for emotional identification." - Peter Greenaway

"We are all united by the phenomenon that we have a body and that body is universally the same, more or less. If we lose sight of that perspective, everything can desperately suffer." - Peter Greenaway  

"I want to regard my public as infinitely intelligent, as understanding notions of the suspension of disbelief and as realising all the time that this is not a slice of life, this is openly a film." - Peter Greenaway

"My favourite way of watching the cinema is the biggest possible cinema you can find, with the biggest possible screen, and the loudest possible Dolby - but just me. Nobody else." - Peter Greenaway

"It seems so tragic to me that so many filmmakers are making movies up against this extraordinary revolution with one eye closed and two hands tied behind their backs." - Peter Greenaway

"I've always been fascinated by maps and cartography. A map tells you where you've been, where you are, and where you're going -- in a sense it's three tenses in one." - Peter Greenaway

"I suppose I have a concern for this extraordinary, beautiful, amazing, exciting, taxonomically brilliant world that we live in, but we keep fucking it up all the time." - Peter Greenaway

"My heroes among filmmakers would be people like Buñuel and Pasolini, who were of very high cinematic intelligence, but tread on a lot of toes." - Peter Greenaway

"I think my films are very English. That certain emotional distance, interest in the world, interest in irony. These are all deeply English propositions." - Peter Greenaway

"I do feel for me that cinema has somehow ceased to be a spectator sport. I get tremendous excitement out of making it rather than watching it." - Peter Greenaway

"As for critics, one mediocre writer is more valuable than ten good critics. They are like haughty, barren spinsters lodged in a maternity ward." - Peter Greenaway

"There's more religion in my little finger than there is in the pope. But no, I don't believe in God. I am an athiest. A Darwinian evolutionist." - Peter Greenaway

"Only cinema narrows its concern down to its content, that is to its story. It should, instead, concern itself with its form, its structure." - Peter Greenaway

"I have transmitted genetic material, all I have to do between my daughters' birth and my death is to decorate my life." - Peter Greenaway

"I do indeed think that cinema is mortal. There is a lot of evidence already that it is dying on its feet." - Peter Greenaway

"I don't think we've seen any cinema yet. I think we've seen 100 years of illustrated text." - Peter Greenaway

"It serves the purpose of not serving a purpose, surely quite a valid one." - Peter Greenaway

"We live in a time of excess - excess population, excess information." - Peter Greenaway

"I am Welsh by birth, English by education, and European by nature." - Peter Greenaway 

"I share this interest in the weird, strange, unusual, surreal." - Peter Greenaway

"If you want to tell stories, be a writer, not a filmmaker." - Peter Greenaway

"We don't need virtual reality, we need virtual unreality." - Peter Greenaway

"Works of art are never finished, just stopped." - Peter Greenaway

"Cinema is not a playground for Sharon Stone." - Peter Greenaway

"Cinema has reached a dead end." - Peter Greenaway

"Bill Viola is worth ten Scorseses." - Peter Greenaway

"Too many proofs spoil the truth." - Peter Greenaway

"Continuity is boring." - Peter Greenaway

 

What others have said about Peter Greenaway

"There's something very honest I think about Peter's work and I think he's a very honest person. He's obviously very complex. He doesn't make films to make you cry or to make you feel sad because the dog died, or to make you feel excited because someone's in jeopardy, he absolutely does not make those sort of films. His films are very theatrical, they're very objective, they push the audience back. He has to push you away in order to present this extreme, surreal, poetic and excessive world." - Helen Mirren

"He is a director, but not only a director. An artist, yes, but more than that. Above all he is a sulphurous creator of images with symbolic and visionary content, always suspended between dreams and reality, always reaching towards refined explorations into art, art that becomes science, and science that in turn becomes imagines. This is Peter Greenaway, the most versatile film-maker in Europe, a painter on celluloid, creator of cult feature films." - Susanna Legrenzi, IO DONNA

"Peter Greenaway has the most inscrutable, brilliant and possibly deranged mind in modern cinema. Once you develop an interest in Greenaway, it cannot stop. The further you are lured in, the deeper and more hypnotic the abyss. You are being sucked - not into a movie, but into the British filmmaker's mind. If you're up for the intriguing, no-exit plunge, do it." - Desson Howe, Washington Post

"As far as Greenaway is concerned, how could anyone not want to work with him? He is a fundamental part of international cinema. I first met him right before starting work on The Tulse Luper Suitcases last year. I only worked with him for a couple of days but it was an experience I will always treasure." - Franka Potente

"We should admire Greenaway more than we do. Not only is he our best film director since Michael Powell, he is unique in World Cinema." - Chris Peachment, The Times

"Mr. Greenaway is a genuine wit with a grand imagination... the irrepressible anthropologist of this mad, doomed world." - Vincent Canby, New York Times

"What is it about Greenaway's films that makes the flesh crawl? I think it's his apparent loathing of the human race." - Ken Russell

"I like Peter because he's got such a tremendous IQ, but, yes, he's a strange creature. Very strange." - Joan Plowright

"You either love him, in other words, or you hate him. In either case, you do not understand him." - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

"It doesn't matter what the technology is - no one will watch a Peter Greenaway film anyway." - Alan Parker

"If Gucci handbags were still in fashion Greenaway would carry his scripts in them." - Derek Jarman

"Greenaway is a true original with an eccentric and bizarre sense of humour." - Derek Malcolm, The Guardian

"Greenaway is a cultural omnivore who eats with his mouth open." - Pauline Kael

 

 

 

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