Drowning By Numbers
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Tired of her husband's philanderous ways, the mother of two daughters drowns her husband. With the reluctant help of the local coroner, the murder is obscured. Her daughters are having similar problems with relationships, and tend to follow their mother's example, and the coroner becomes reluctantly duplicitous. As the plot progresses, visual and spoken numbers appear in the scenes, counting from one to 100. This film was the first theatrical feature to be broadcast on Masterpiece Theatre on PBS.
The master for this film has been retrieved from Film4 library's extensive archive. The film was originally mastered for playback on the VHS machines and the standard definition televisions of the time. The quality will not be as good as a film which has been digitally re-mastered to be shown on high definition wide screens. We have opened up our archive, in order that films which might not otherwise be on release on any format, are available for dedicated film enthusiasts who want the opportunity to watch them.
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If you're new to Peter Greenaway, this might be a good place to start. He's at the peak of his powers here, with regular collaborators Michael Nyman and Sacha Vierny doing some of their best work. It's beautifully strange and strangely beautiful. Plus it's one of his funniest films. Great performances from Juliet Stevenson and Bernard Hill.
What a difference! It's like seeing the world blurry for years and suddenly being given a pair of glasses. This new DVD version is so much clearer and sharper than the previous release. The colors are much better and much truer. The way I checked this was by looking at the painting "Children's Games" by Brueghel in Madgett's bedroom and comparing it to a book I have on the painting. The sound is clearer too and there are even sub-titles! I will admit the picture is not as clear as current Blu Ray Films, but still, what an improvement! This film deserves to be seen clearly! Even the dark, low light scenes are no longer smudgy looking.
I own over 1,000 films and this has been one of my top ten films over the last 20+ years. Why? Camera work, soundtrack, the detail, the puzzles, the games, the the themes, the story, the colors, the moods and so much more. Either you really like this film or you don't like it at all. I like it so much I own the soundtrack and two books on it, both of which I have reviewed on amazon.com. "Drowning by Numbers", an illustrated film script and "Fear of Drowning by Numbers" a series of 100 "statements" by Peter Greenaway on the film, which is also illustrated.
All I can say is, that if you like this film, buy this DVD before it is no longer available.
Review by Walter O. Koenig
Original review July 25, 2013: I have waited a long time for this great film to be put on DVD or Blu-Ray for the US/Canada region. Unfortunately, the transfer is barely better than the VHS copy I have had for over a decade. Not only is the picture quality disappointing, but the sound is also very low. Overall, I am greatly disappointed. I am still hoping that a decent production house will release this film in a crisp, remastered edition, with excellent sound and picture. Greenaway films deserve nothing less.
And it is one of the greatest movies ever made! :)
The director has an eye for light and color, and he uses a lot of classical paintings as his reference points. And, of course, the battle between man and woman is classical as well.