Thursday, September 22, 2005

M is for Man, Music, Mozart (Greenaway, 1991)

Commissioned for television in order to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Mozart’s death, M is For Man, Music, Mozart is above all a celebration of symmetry. Over the course of 29 exhilarating (and occasionally overwhelming minutes), Peter Greenaway revels in the symmetry of both music and the human body. Set in an old-fashioned viewing theater for medical operations, Greenaway’s film begins with two nude female dancers covered completely in powder-white make-up. As they dance and contort their bodies, a singer progresses through the alphabet, listing a collection of key words and finally landing on the letter M at the center of the alphabet. With the creation of Man, a male nude dancer becomes the central figure. As he dances, a grid is superimposed over his body, highlighted certain poses and drawing our attention to the marvelous composition involved in creating the human form. The choreography is unpredictable and showcases virtually every aspect of the dancer’s body. Following the creation of Man, comes the creation of Music. Greenaway’s film seems to suggest that whereas dance is a celebration of the beauty of the body, music is an abstract expression of the beauty of the human mind. The final creation is that unparalleled concoctor of music himself … Mozart. Produced around the same time as Greenaway’s feature film, Prospero’s Books, this short film shares a similar desire to bombard the viewer with wall-to-wall imagery and stands as an astonishingly meticulous creation. Though this may be a minor entry in Greenaway’s filmography, it is far from a trifle. Track it down if you can and watch music, dance, film and theatre come together in a glorious artistic synthesis.


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