Film Reviews, Short Review

The Belly of an Architect (1987)

2.5/4

Peter Greenaway’s love of symmetry, visual games, and ironic distance is on full display in The Belly of an Architect. In his best work, such as The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover or Drowning by Numbers, these traits are integrated into a wider piece, brimming with intelligence, wit, even anger or tragedy. At its worst however, it leads to a lot of formal huffing and puffing over not much at all. And The Belly of an Architect is very guilty of that. We follow Stourley Kracklite (Brian Dennehy), a famous American architect arriving in Rome to set up an architectural exhibition. Surrounded by stories of the gruesome demise of many a Roman Emperor, his wife’s infidelities, and his own ill health, he becomes an paranoid, paunch, monster of a man. Whilst there is potential in a premise dealing with male hubris and desperation to leave posthumous legacy, Greenaway never allows us near enough to his protagonist for us to truly emphasise with him, instead content to make numerous references to art, architecture, and history without ever emphasising a new idea of his own. It’s majestically pretty (with a great soundtrack), but ultimately rather thin.

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