A Skeleton with Iron Legs: A Zed & Two Noughts (1986)

I love absurdist film making, especially when done correctly.  Peter Greenaway's 1986 is film about a Zed & Two Noughts, or a zoo for those not versed in British vernacular.  However, the aforementioned zoo plays very little into the existentially driven plot of the film, which combines subtle acting, experimental cinematography and wry dialogue to create an unforgettable experience. The film combines the coherence of a T.S. Eliot poem, the avant-garde scientific filming of Jean Painleve and the artistic symmetry of Johannes Vermeer.

The plot, in a rather roundabout way, follows two twins, Oswald (Brian Deacon) and Oliver (Eric Deacon) Deuce, as they come to grips with the untimely death of their wives from a car-on-swan collision.  Furthermore, their deaths are made more confusing by the survival of Alba (Andrea Ferreol) who now possesses a single leg and delusions of giving birth to a child for every letter in the alphabet.  Along with a slew of other bizarre characters, including a prostitute named Venus De Milo and a man with a vendetta for black and white animals, the twins set out to observe decay.  The brothers' morbid obsession with death is played against a dry documentary on the evolution of man, ultimately raising the question of mans own futile existence in relation to the inescapable burden of time.  It is easy to see the influence such works had on directors like Harmony Korine, Wes Anderson and Ken Russell.  The film ends with nature literally consuming man, making the absurdist manifesto all the more existential, all while playing The Teddy Bears Have a Picnic.

I should note that the film could be considered graphic by some individuals.  It involves large amounts of nudity and drawn out images of rotting animals.  The jarring nature of these images only draws in the viewer, with hopes of answering their own insecurities of death.  The film does not offer an answer, but instead ends with darkness.  The film offers questions, but no answers, as only great films can.

This is the first film I can recommend without reservations.  Either rent it from Netflix, or purchase a copy.  A true cinephile will instantly become enamored with this movie.  In the mean time, I look forward to discovering more work by Peter Greenaway myself.

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