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In Peter Greenaway's 8-1/2 Women (1999), a woman's death propels a bereaved widower and his son into carnal questing, via a harem of idiosyncratic ladies. Similarly, 1985's A Zed and Two Noughts follows 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 Bu˝uel'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 on life, death, and sex. Weird to the max, mesmerizing, and some kind of masterpiece.

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ZGT1097 Zoo a Zed and Two Noughts DVD (1985/Peter Greenway) $29.95 $26.99