Luper Suitcases: The Moab Story (2003)
From its beginning until its end, The Tulse Luper Suitcases is ornate and stylized. Greenaway makes exuberant use of split screens, inset screens, overlain images, elaborate lists, complex webs of narration, and sumptuous and often deliberately artificial sets. Many of the scenes are strongly reminiscent of theatrical productions, as is the case in some of the director's other films, such as The Baby of Macon, and others display a considerable appreciation of the wonders of both the natural and man-made parts of the world in which we live. All these various elements are beautifully realized and, consequently, imbue the film with an intoxicating loveliness that keeps the viewer captivated through the entirety of its duration.
Unlike most directors, who appear to aim at creating movies like windows, through which the viewer can peer into the lives of the persons apparently existing on the other side of the screen, Greenaway, in The Tulse Luper Suitcases, never allows the viewer to forget that he is looking at a film. Watching The Tulse Luper Suitcases, therefore, compares to looking at most other movies in the same way that viewing a painting by Klimt or Moreau compares to looking at a photograph. The viewer is made to engage with the images themselves rather than with some object to which the images are intended to refer. This approach is consistently effective at enthralling the viewer. Without having to concern himself with anything extraneous to the work with which he is being presented, the viewer is able to engulf his awareness in his appreciation of the film and enjoy its beauty without distraction.
Although Greenaway has been criticized for the elaborate, artificial style he has employed in The Tulse Luper Suitcases, it having been claimed that this style serves no purpose, I would point out in response to these assertions that the purpose of such a style is the creation of something beautiful. If Greenaway intended to produce a work of beauty, he has succeeded. If he did not intend to do so, then I can only hope that more people will fail as he has. The Tulse Luper Suitcases is a remarkable film.
Review by Keith Allen
Allen. All rights reserved.