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Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > Horror > Mystery > Death > Animals > Amputatiuon > Twins > Science > A Zed & Two Noughts (1985/BFI Blu-ray)

A Zed & Two Noughts (1985/BFI Blu-ray)


Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: B-     Film: B-



PLEASE NOTE: This Blu-ray is only available in the U.K. from our friends at BFI and can be ordered from them at the website address links provided below at the end of the review or at finer retailers.  This is a Region Zero/0/Free Blu-ray and will play on all Blu-ray players worldwide.  All the supplements are also in 1080p High Definition.



There is no doubt that Peter Greenaway is a smart filmmaker and in his time, had an impact on art cinema, but he is a very ambitious filmmaker at his best and when he started to direct in his famous, distinct style stood out from his contemporaries.  A Zed & Two Noughts (1985) is what we would call the second of his Auteur projects, a film concerned with unique ideas of doubles in the world.  Twin adult men (Eric Deacon (Doctor Who) and Brian Deacon (1974’s Vampyres, on Blu-ray elsewhere on this site)) are devastated when a swan causes a car accident killing both of their wives, but driver Alba (Andréa Ferréol) survives, but becomes an amputee.


The men are zoologists and this pushes them into a bizarre odyssey of death observation, near death worship and a deep study of decay in plants, food, vegetables, animal bodies, human bodies and obsession makes it all more and more bizarre as this slowly spirals to its conclusion.  The film takes a journey inside and outside the world of the film and beyond it to examine interconnections in what we would term a post-modern way.  There are qualities to like about this film beyond how good looking and well composed it can be, with its mixing of styles and approaches.  No doubt he is working in the same world as David Cronenberg and David Lynch.


The film wants to be both a narrative film with its quirky editing and music, as well as a stream of conscious film in the French New Wave tradition, but the eccentric British approach (by way of Kubrick and Resnais as well) causes the film to be uneven as Greenaway tries to form his own unique cinematic voice.  It is at times bold, at times intentionally odd, but I give it credit for its attempt to be original and believe it should be seen by a wider audience.  The fine supporting cast also includes two great actors of distinction, Geoffrey Palmer (A Fish Called Wanda, Tomorrow Never Dies) and Joss Ackland (The House That Dripped Blood, S*P*Y*S, K-19: The Widowmaker, Lethal Weapon 2).



The 1080p 1.66 X 1 digital High Definition image is from a brand-new High Definition transfer of the 35mm materials and was shot by the late, great, legendary Director of Photography Sacha Vierny, who made many films with Greenaway and is best-known for his work with the great Alain Resnais on classics like Hiroshima Mon Amour, The War Is Over (aka La guerre est finie), Mon Oncle D’Amerique and Last Year At Marienbad (now in a great Blu-ray (unreviewed, but highly recommended) from Criterion).  The complex use of lighting, color, composition and (by John Wilson) editing makes for a very unique looking film, though we have seen similar visuals before and after its arrival, including in other Greenaway films.  There are a few more instances of raw shots and softness than expected and though that is correct in the transfer of material, it holds the performance back a bit, but needless to say, there are some serious demo shots throughout just the same.


The PCM 2.0 24/48 Mono sounds like simple stereo at times with its clarity and even articulation, but it is not stereo, and yet it is very well recorded and effective.  Michael Nyman (The Piano, Carrington, Gattica, Monsieur Hire) offers a consistently quirky score and has scored most of Greenaway’s films since staring with the previous breakthrough The Draughtsman’s Contract in 1982.  David Attenborough, who now has several BBC nature documentaries on Blu-ray, narrates.


Extras include a thick booklet inside the Blu-ray case that includes illustrations, Greenaway intro, Chris Auty review, Of Natural History and Mythology born… overview of Greenaway by Tony Rayns, credits on the film, technical information on the transfer and biography by world-renown film scholar Marcia Landy.  The Blu-ray includes the original trailer for the film, feature length audio commentary by Greenaway, extracts from Phillip Hoffman’s 1986 film ?O,Zoo! and Greenaway’s 1983 short film The Sea In Their Blood, exploring life on Britain’s coastline.



You can order this Blu-ray at the following link:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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