The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 1: The Moab Story (UK/Netherlands, director Peter Greenaway): Here’s what the programme book has to say about this film, “The Tulse Luper Suitcases project will use five media: at least three feature-length films, television, numerous DVDs, the Internet and books. The content is a history that covers six decades, a period Greenaway refers to as the Uranium Years: from the discovery of uranium in Colorado in 1928 to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Ninety-two suitcases (after the atomic number of uranium) will be opened, twenty-one of them in the first part of the project, The Moab Story.”
Of course, I don’t think most of the audience read the programme book, nor had most of them ever seen a Peter Greenaway film. Both were required prerequisites tonight. The Moab Story is a technical tour-de-force, using all manner of innovative film techniques. And all of the Greenaway obsessions are present: generous amounts of nudity (both male and female), numbers and counting, superimposition of text, sumptuous art direction, and a labyrinthine plot. I was baffled, frustrated, fascinated, baffled again, etc. It would be hard to attempt a plot outline, but the subjects covered include Mormonism, fascism, filmmaking (with winking references to several other Greenaway films), and the nature of confinement. A muddle, to be sure, but an ambitious one. Greenaway has given himself a huge canvas on which to paint a huge story. Or rather, this is like a million-piece jigsaw puzzle. Head-scratching, yes, but I can’t wait to find the next piece.
P.S. The website will probably not be of much interest if you haven’t seen the film, but there is a blog section where it’s possible to leave comments. Some people are leaving comments “in character” and addressing Tulse Luper as if he were a real person (and still alive, though he’d be 92).