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Peter Greenaway's THE STAIRS 2

by Eric Levy

Created 05/31/14

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In 1994, British filmmaker/artist Peter Greenaway began an ambitious project called THE STAIRS. The idea was to celebrate the centenary of cinema in ten cities around the world. Alas, the project never got further than the first two cities: Geneva, Switzerland in 1994 and Munich, Germany in 1995. But both of those events turned the entire cities into installation opportunities for Greenaway. The Geneva one was based on "The Location," the Munich one on "Projection"—two essential elements of cinema. Books on both installations were published at the time, which featured photographs from the installations along with extensive—and brilliant—commentary by Greenaway. (A feature film of THE STAIRS in Geneva was also completed, and you can see footage of the Munich project in Greenaway's contribution to the film LUMIÈRE AND COMPANY.) The final pages of THE STAIRS 2 book features a list Greenaway compiled of 1010 films—ten for each year from 1895 - 1995. Looking again at this list recently, I noticed that several of the films are Criterion titles, so I thought I would share those here.

From Greenaway's introduction to the list:

"Considering the millions of films manufactured in the last hundred years and the multiplicity of uses to which film has been put, it could be said that the disciplined projection of light is the only true common factor. But, as if to remind us in the briefest possible way of the uses to which this act of projection has been put, the catalog also contains a list of one thousand [sic] films running as a continuous frieze under the photographs of the Munich projection sites, with ten films being selected for each year of the century. Although there are of course a great many films to choose from, the criterion for inclusion is not necessarily my subjective appreciation, but the presentation of a cross-section, and perhaps to indicate the various ways in which cinema has proselytized and advertised itself in popular, commercial, aesthetic and social terms" (p. 97).

As with my Jonathan Rosenbaum list, this list is presented chronologically, as it is in Greenaway's book. I give the year of the film listed in the book, which sometimes differs from the year listed on Criterion's site. Although THE KID was released prior to HÄXAN, I have retained HÄXAN as the first entry, since it's such an appropriate image for Greenaway. It also avoids having duplicate banner images on two of my lists.

And if you are a Peter Greenaway fan, please join the Yahoo Group I moderate.

I have added comments after some of the films that Greenaway has mentioned in interviews, his own writing, or to me personally (I was his driver for three days in 2004, when he was here in Chicago for a film festival). These are mostly from memory, so there are no citations (except two). In a couple cases, I've added a comment or two of my own. And though they are not represented below, Greenaway has spoken highly of his fellow Brits Derek Jarman and Terence Davies.

Cross-references to my other lists are included in the notes.

Personal statistics: S=Seen, D=Own on DVD, B=Own on Blu-ray Disc, *=non-Criterion edition. Totals: Films 233 (including ENTR'ACTE, PARIS QUI DORT and TWO MEN AND A WARDROBE), Seen 184, Own 139, DVDs 59, BDs 59. (And of the 1010 films on the list, I've seen 428.)

UPDATES:
10/16/17: Added KAMERADSCHAFT
8/18/17: Added JABBERWOCKY
7/22/17: Added BARRY LYNDON
3/16/17: Added CÉSAR
2/16/17: Added OTHELLO
1/18/17: Added RUMBLE FISH
12/16/16: Added BLOW-UP
11/16/16: Added WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN
9/16/16: Added THE ASPHALT JUNGLE
8/16/16: Added AKIRA KUROSAWA'S DREAMS
7/15/16: Added THE TREE OF WOODEN CLOGS
6/17/16: Added THE STORY OF THE LAST CHRYSANTHEMUM
4/18/16: Added MURIEL
3/17/16: Added LE AMICHE
2/18/16: Added KINGS OF THE ROAD and THE PLAYER
12/18/15: Added THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE
11/16/15: Added THE GRADUATE and THE KID
10/17/15: Added THE AMERICAN FRIEND
8/18/15: Added PATHER PANCHALI and APUR SANSAR
6/17/15: Added BREAKER MORANT
5/19/15: Added THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN
11/18/14: Added FELLINI SATYRICON and DON'T LOOK NOW
10/16/14: Added THE BITTER TEARS OF PETRA VON KANT
8/16/14: Added IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT and TOOTSIE
7/16/14: Added JOUR DE FÊTE, MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, and LA DOLCE VITA
6/17/14: Added ERASERHEAD

65 comments

  • By TruffautBergman
    February 22, 2015
    08:04 PM

    Also, I watched "The Draughtsman's Contract (1982)" over the weekend, it was... different, it [sort of] reminded me of "Amadeus (1984)"; this may sound a bit weird but it has too much talking for me, most of the films I like don't have a lot of dialogue. Maybe you could recommend me other Peter Greenaway film.
    Reply
  • By Eric Levy
    February 23, 2015
    05:47 AM

    Well, we can't agree on everything. I may as well admit, I'm not much a Bjork fan. Still, I really appreciate you giving all this music and especially watching DRAUGHTSMAN'S a try. Which Cocteau Twins did you listen to by the way. And yes, Greenaway is usually very dialogue heavy, so if you didn't like that about DC, you may not get into him at all. But since you asked... A ZED AND TWO NOUGHTS was his next film, and a great place to continue. It is certainly not like anything else. DROWNING BY NUMBERS is his most playful. THE COOK, THE THEIF, HIS WIFE, AND HER LOVER his most sinister (and political!). Take your pick.
    Reply
  • By TruffautBergman
    February 23, 2015
    02:10 PM

    Yeah, Björk's not for everyone; her voice is more like an instrument or a tool than a regular singing voice. I listened to a song called "Heaven or Las Vegas", I didn't like the singer's voice and the music seemed like art-pop 80s stuff {probably a bit dated for me because I listen a lot of 'recent' Electronic music}. I'll try to find those films, I know Tim Roth is in "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989)" so I check that out first.
    Reply
  • By Eric Levy
    February 24, 2015
    02:40 PM

    Well, if you're willing to give the Twins another chance, I'd recommend checking out a song calls LORELEI. And yes, Tim is excellent in CTWL. That's a somewhat intense one, but incredible.
    Reply
  • By TruffautBergman
    February 24, 2015
    09:02 PM

    Okay, I'll make you a deal: if you give Michael Haneke another try {and watch "Amour (2012)"}, I'll give the Cocteau Twins one last try {and listen to their best album on YouTube}. Is that a deal?
    Reply
  • By Eric Levy
    February 28, 2015
    04:36 AM

    Deal. Listen to TREASURE (1984)--with no disruptions or distractions! Let's both report back here. I promise to keep an open mind, and I ask the same of you.
    Reply
  • By TruffautBergman
    February 28, 2015
    12:21 PM

    Alright, cool.
    Reply
  • By TruffautBergman
    February 28, 2015
    01:24 PM

    Okay, I'm back and I listen to the album. I liked track three 'Beatrix' the most because the synthesiser reminded me of the intro/opening song from "A Clockwork Orange (1971)". Also, tracks four and five {'Persephone' and 'Pandora (for Cindy)'} were great follow ups as well, mainly because I liked the 'bass' she added to her voice and the surreal/gothic background music. I thought track nine 'Otterley' was relaxing and her voice was calming. The tracks I disliked the most were two and six {'Lorelei' and 'Amelia'} because they seemed a bit out of place but the rest of the tracks were consistent with the other songs, overall the album was pretty "solid".
    Reply
  • By Eric Levy
    March 01, 2015
    07:47 AM

    Awesome. Glad you gave them another chance and liked the album, though I'm baffled by anyone not liking LORELEI. That was the first song I ever heard by them, and I was instantly hooked. But thanks. And I will hold up my end of the bargain. I currently have a handful of movies from the library, so I have to make those the priority, but I borrowed AMOUR from a friend, so I will get to it soon and report back.
    Reply
  • By TruffautBergman
    March 01, 2015
    01:46 PM

    Alrighty; I hope you like "Amour (2012)", it's beautiful film.
    Reply
  • By TruffautBergman
    March 01, 2015
    01:49 PM

    I meant " it's a beautiful film"... which movies from the "Library" do you plan on watching?
    Reply
  • By Eric Levy
    March 01, 2015
    07:35 PM

    Well, I'm still going through the 2014 National Film Registry additions that I hadn't seen. So we got RIO BRAVO (sublime), LITTLE BIG MAN (idiotic), and today watched HOUSE OF WAX (not so great--we watched the original version, MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM, too, which was much better). THE POWER AND THE GLORY, DRAGON PAINTER, and RUGGLES OF RED GAP are all I have left of the available ones. What have you been watching lately?
    Reply
  • By TruffautBergman
    March 01, 2015
    08:02 PM

    I saw "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)" and "Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)" not too long ago. Also, I've been re-watching the "Three Colors" trilogy over the weekend; I really wanted to see "The Tale of The Princess Kaguya (2013)" but it's not available on "On Demand" so I might have to buy it on DVD. Have you read any new books lately?
    Reply
  • By Eric Levy
    March 03, 2015
    09:20 AM

    I've actually been going through Rosenbaum's books. I read ESSENTIAL CINEMA and FILM: THE FRONT LINE, and am currently reading PLACING MOVIES. He's such a wonderful writer and thinker. It's fun to read (and re-read) his stuff. I'm also slowly re-reading Evan's DIARY OF A WIMPY KID series. Hilarious! You?
    Reply
  • By TruffautBergman
    March 03, 2015
    12:56 PM

    I've a little bit of Andrei Tarkovsky's "Time Within Time" diary a few weeks ago, and I read a short story called "By the Waters of Babylon" on the internet {that was really good} but I haven't read anything this week, I've been busy working on my new screenplay {and fangirling over Björk's new MoMA exhibit}. Do you prefer digital books or physical books?
    Reply
  • By Eric Levy
    March 03, 2015
    01:10 PM

    Definitely physical. I don't like downloading music or streaming movies either. Did you see I made a new list today?
    Reply
  • By TruffautBergman
    March 03, 2015
    03:43 PM

    Ah, okay. No, I haven't but I'll check it out right now.
    Reply
  • By Eric Levy
    August 04, 2015
    06:00 AM

    Hey Caneren. Nice to hear from you again. I worked at a video store after college and I remember when that VHS of BOAA came out. The DVD is pretty cheap used on Amazon if you want to upgrade. And yes, the soundtrack is amazing. let me know what you think. And always glad to meet another CT fan. I was very fortunate to see them live twice.
    Reply
  • By Kilianf286
    January 13, 2016
    09:29 PM

    Hey Eric, I hope that all is well. I just wanted to pass on this info: EISENSTEIN IN GUANAJUNTO is screening at the Siskel Center in February. It is screening Feb. 19-25.
    Reply
  • By Eric Levy
    January 16, 2016
    04:57 AM

    Sorry it took me a few days to respond. Thrilling news! I am so there. Are you going to go?
    Reply