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More Online Viewing: Rembrandt’s J’Accuse

18 November 2009

Always on the lookout for features available for free online viewing, I found Peter Greenaway’s Rembrandt’s J’Accuse (2008).

The movie is an addendum to “Nightwatching,” Mr. Greenaway’s 2007 fictional feature about the painting that was part of a larger project of the same title that he created for the yearlong 2006 celebration of Rembrandt’s 400th birthday in the Netherlands. That project included an opera and a “re-presentation” of the painting. Mr. Greenaway was also the author of a handsome accompanying museum catalog. The “Nightwatching” project was, in turn, the first in an ambitious series Mr. Greenaway has undertaken titled “Nine Classical Paintings Revisited” that has, to date, included inquiries into Leonardo’s “Last Supper” and, as part of this year’s Venice Biennale, Paolo Veronese’s “Wedding at Cana.” (from “The Man Who Watched the Watchers” by Manohla Dargis, The New York Times, 10/21/09)

The film’s thesis:  the composition of “The Night Watch” shows that Rembrandt used the work to accuse the Amsterdam militia of murder within their own ranks. Throughout the analysis, Greenaway—who narrates the film, often seen as a talking head in a little box on the screen (Dargis  compared the sight to that of Jambi the Genie on Pee-wee’s Playhouse)—weaves in European history of many strands: political, religious,  and artistic.

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