The Draughtsman's Contract 1982 R CC

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(42) IMDb 7.3/10
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Mr. Neville, a cocksure young artist is contracted by Mrs. Herbert, the wife of a wealthy landowner, to produce a set of twelve drawings of her husband's estate, a contract which extends much further than either the purse or the sketchpad. The sketches themselves prove of an even greater significance than supposed upon the discovery of the body of Mr. Herbert.

Starring:
Anthony Higgins, Janet Suzman
Runtime:
1 hour, 48 minutes

The Draughtsman's Contract

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Customer Reviews

The scenes are set pieces, remarkably lit and costumed to give a very visceral sense of time and place.
Tracy Rowan
This movie is a study in the dangers that lurk beneath what seem like otherwise polite, ordinary human discourse and relations.
Magellan
It is a difficult film to swallow, but an easy film to understand and appreciate when one knows what to look for.
Tristan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 16, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
This is the only movie I've seen more than five times. The plot is always fascinating because every explanation I come up with has some flaw, although there seem to be clues everywhere. The arch dialog is delicious, and delivered by the actors with obvious relish. This is the only movie I find myself quoting lines from, simply for the fun of it. The cast is perfect. The music is wonderfully atmospheric. The scenery is luscious. It may require a decadent taste to enjoy this movie, but if you have that, it is the ideal entertainment. I haven't found anything else of Peter Greenaway's watchable. But The Draughtsman's Contract is a masterpiece.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Sutton on October 14, 2000
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This beautifully shot, highly intelligent, somewhat surreal and shockingly unknown film was originally made by Peter Greenaway for the opening night of Channel Four Television in Britain, and represents, perhaps, the man at his peak. The story, which avoids any direct explanations of itself or its plot, centres around a draughtsman (Higgins) who is hired to produce twelve drawings of a stately home in England. While he draws, objects appear in the landscape around him, which he includes in his drawings... when a body finally surfaces, do the drawings contain evidence concerning the identities of its murderers, or has some clever person purposely placed the objects in order to frame someone else... possibly the draughtsman himself? One may watch the film many times, each time coming up with a different answer; the motives and dialogue contradict each other just enough to add to the mystery, but not enough to ruin any possible explanation. The sountrack (by Michael Nyman) is also interesting: the themes within it are based on eight-bar samples of Mozart which are repeated and improvised upon, to hypnotising and evocative effect. A fascinating film.
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Format: DVD
This new digital transfer looks quite nice but keep in mind the limitations of the format it was shot in--Super 16mm (most TV shows were shot in 16mm for British TV and this was financed by Channel 4--when watching this new digitally restored transfer of "The Draughtman's Contract". The plan was for a theatrical release and then a TV airing. The budget was quite small. Super 16mm doesn't yield the fine detail of 35mm or 70mm. The transfer is an improvement over the previously available DVD but it also reveals the flaws of the source so the high definition elements can't mask the limitations of Super 16mm.

The real reason to get this though is for the extras. We get a commentary track by director Peter Greenaway as well as an introduction that's almost long enough to be a featurette on the making of the film. We also get deleted scenes, an interview with composer Michael Nyman ("The Piano"--this was one of Nyman's first scores), a restoration demonstration, behind-the-scenes footage and on set interviews and the original theatrical trailer for the film. There is also a booklet with an essay by Greenaway (don't read it until AFTER you have seen the film if this is your first time viewing it)and an interview with Cinematographer Curtis Clark discussing how he and Greenaway decided to use Super 16mm and the challenge of shooting only by candlelight.

"The Draughtman's Contract" won't be for everyone. Director Peter Greenaway deliberately sought to subvert the way a traditional period piece was portrayed in film with this unusual and elliptic mystery. Part social commentary and avant garde period piece. Greenaway has his actors behave in a stiff, formal way often posing as often as performing.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Charles S. Tashiro on May 12, 2001
Format: DVD
Peter Greenaway may be the last indisputably distinctive Anglophone filmmaker. With "The Draughtsman's Contract," he broke through from relative obscurity as an experimental artist into feature-length narratives. While his subsequent films have been more conservative than his earlier work, he remains a highly original and innovative artist. "Contract" may be his most balanced film, integrating much of his earlier formal experimentation with the demands of narrative.
Greenaway is just about the only well-known filmmaker with an interest in the art and film theory of the past thirty-five years. His is a "meta-cinema," at least as much about the act of making and watching movies as about particular situations. Summarizing the story of "The Draughtsman's Contract," for example, gives only a limited sense of what watching the movie is like. As some of the reviews here have pointed out, you cannot watch "Contract" without noticing the perspective tools used by Mr. Neville. These technologies anticipate the optics used in photography and cinematography. As we are aware of how they contribute to 17th century draftsmanship we (in theory at least) recognize the construction of the very images we are viewing. In short, through these and other techniques, you are too aware of experiencing the film to become engrossed in it.
If you are not comfortable with such distancing, "The Draughtsman's Contract" may not be your cup of tea. On the other hand, there is certainly "much to be applauded" in "The Draughtsman's Contract." As in virtually all of Greenaway's work, the visual design and cinematography are exquisite and all the more remarkable given the film was shot in 16mm.
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