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A Zed & Two Noughts

Art House & International movie directed by Peter Greenaway

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Gorgeously filmed and elaborately constructed conceptual tour-de-force

  • Jan 31, 2008
I am very excited that Zeitgeist is putting out this new dvd transfer of this exceptional film. This is Peter Greenaway at his finest, his obsession with ordering lives and things and with the discovery of symmetries between the obsessions that drive both science and sexuality is perfectly meshed by the story of two twin zoologists who grieve the passing of their wives in a bizarre car accident by simultaneously embarking upon a quixotic research project into the nature of decomposition and an affair with the amputee who had been driving the car. Thrown into the mix are a storytelling prostitute and aspiring writer named Venus de Milo, a murderer of black and white animals, a man who lost his legs for loving horses a little too much, a surgeon who is overly fond of amputation and obsessed by Vermeer. The best cinematic comparison is probably Alain Resnais' My American Uncle -- both films raise questions about the pretense that we are above the animals, that we are rational creatures and are not driven by instinct and drive. This film argues, I think, that we are unique and interesting animals and at our most unique and distinctive when we show our obsession with and drive to establish our distinction from the other animals. The music throughout is perfect and matches the style and tone of the film superbly; the story, while utterly unique is nevertheless comprehensible and never less than fascinating. It is the kind of film that rewards repeated viewings, and is a must-see film for those who delight in the possibilities of cinema, and are willing to suspend their expectations and be caught up by the delightful imagination and insight of one of the most distinctive and compelling filmmakers.

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More A Zed & Two Noughts reviews
review by . March 27, 2011
Odd, erratic, erotic...a black comedy which features stop motion decay
How does one define oddness? I'd suggest by starting with two words: Peter Greenaway. You can also use those two words to define "Unique cinema visions," "total control," "beautiful views" and "don't mess with me." Greenaway is his own world, and you're either eager for a visit or you'll insist on staying off the space ship. I'd suggest you prepare for your visit by packing away any compulsion you might have to explain things...such as …
About the reviewer
Nathan Andersen ()
Ranked #9
I teach philosophy at Eckerd College, in Saint Petersburg, Florida.      I run an award-winning International Cinema series in Tampa Bay (, and am co-director of … more
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In Peter Greenaway's8-1/2 Women(1999), a woman's death propels a bereaved widower and his son into carnal questing, via a harem of idiosyncratic ladies. Similarly, 1985'sA Zed and Two Noughtsfollows the Deuce brothers, zoologists and former Siamese twins, who lose their wives in a bizarre collision--a great swan crashes into a car driven down Swann's Way by one Alba Bewick (translates as "white swan"). The brothers become obsessed with photographing and measuring decay ("by degrees of grief"), from Apple to Zebra, and equally obsessed with voluptuous Alba, who, having lost one leg in the wreck, later has the other removed... perhaps for the sake of symmetry. Greenaway's funny, gruesome, gorgeous "zoo" also features hooker Venus di Milo, arbiter of the monetary value of everything; an amputation-happy surgeon who'd like to make Alba fit into a Vermeer painting; a sinister Phantom of the Zoo who offs black-and-white animals; and other assorted, often twinned, exotics.

Sacha Vierny, who shot Resnais's Last Year at Marienbad and Buñuel's Belle de Jour, visualizes Zed in richly erotic detail, every frame a feast for the eyes. Evoking melancholy pavane or stately funeral march, Michael Nyman's music marks the inexorable progression of a fever dream celebrating the power of artifice and nature. Trained as a painter, educated in linguistics and philosophy, Greenaway deftly weaves an exquisite pattern of puns, colors, images, words, ideas, and music into a cinematic meditation ...

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Director: Peter Greenaway
Genre: Foreign
DVD Release Date: February 12, 2008
Runtime: 116 minutes
Studio: Zeitgeist Films
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