In his video introduction to A Zed and Two Noughts, writer/director Peter Greenaway refers to reviews of his second stint behind the camera as a work where "three films are struggling to get out." It's an apt description of this dazzling, difficult and utterly unique cinematic experience, a daring bit of high-wire, cerebral surrealism that marked this Welsh auteur as one of the most challenging filmmakers around in the Eighties.
Simply encapsulating the plot -- twin brothers Oswald and Oliver Deuce (Brian and Eric Deacon, respectively), whose wives are killed in a bizarre car accident, become romantically involved with the one-legged Alba Bewick (Andrea Ferreol), another victim of the accident and begin experimenting with time-lapse photography and ultimately consumed by the idea of decay -- doesn't come close to scratching the surface of the intoxicatingly ambitious film. At once bracingly academic and almost palpably sensual (all those Vermeer homages work on a couple levels), A Zed & Two Noughts functions like a intensely focused graduate thesis cloaked in the aesthetic finery of avant-garde cinema.
Yet, A Zed & Two Noughts has a reputation as one of Greenaway's most accessible films, and for the most part, that's true. (It's certainly less polarizing than, say, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover.) Teamed with renowned French cinematographer Sacha Vierny and composer Michael Nyman, Greenaway expertly weaves together light and sound to fashion absolutely breathtaking tableaux.
Working in concert with these indispensable collaborators, Greenaway produces darkly comic set pieces that resonate visually and emotionally in a way that very few directors are able to match. His is a cinema of intense curiosity, stimulating the heart and the mind, while reaching for the stars. If it seems as though I've stayed away from divulging much about A Zed & Two Noughts, you're right. For those who haven't yet experienced this one-of-a-kind film, it's best to approach with as little foreknowledge as possible. For those that treasure Greenaway's breakthrough effort, it's worth celebrating its release on a well-rounded disc such as this.
This Zeitgeist release of A Zed & Two Noughts marks, according to my research, the third overall DVD release of Greenaway's film, but the first in Region 1. Also, from what I can tell, nearly all of the supplements found here were previously created for the Region 2 DVD release in 2004. More details on those extras can be found below.
Presented in an anamorphic widescreen transfer of its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, A Zed and Two Noughts is a film stocked with peculiar, precise visuals. Cinematographer Sacha Vierny's breathtaking images are one of the chief reasons to seek out A Zed & Two Noughts and the newly produced high-def transfer is only marred by a few flecks here and there, as well as a fleeting bit of softness. Overall, it's a very lush, crisp image that does justice to this visually stimulating work.
Plenty of atmospherics are on display throughout and the evocative score lingers beneath most scenes, so the Dolby 2.0 stereo track gets quite a workout. While sounding slightly thin at times, this is nevertheless a fine aural representation. Optional English subtitles are included.
While the bulk of these supplements aren't newly created for the Region 1 release, what's here is certainly worth sifting through for fans of Greenaway's film, as well as those curious about this important, but underrepresented on DVD, director. An optional video introduction (presented in anamorphic widescreen) from Greenaway runs six minutes, 39 seconds and touches upon some of the basic themes of the film, as well as a bit of brief behind-the-scenes information. Greenaway also contributes a commentary track, during which he has a chance to expand upon his intentions. Underneath the heading "The Z+OO Files" are excerpts from Philip Hoffman's documentary "?O, Zoo!: The Making of a Fiction Film," presented in fullscreen and running for six minutes, 54 seconds. Six "decay sequences" -- apple, shrimp, fish, swan, crocodile and zebra -- are here (presented in fullscreen), playable separately or all together for an aggregate of five minutes, 13 seconds. Nineteen screens of "snail sketches" are included, as is the theatrical trailer (presented in anamorphic widescreen) for A Zed & Two Noughts. Essays by Greenaway and film critic Jonathan Marlow are included as an insert.
Working in concert with indispensable collaborators Sacha Vierny and Michael Nyman, writer/director Peter Greenaway produces darkly comic set pieces that resonate visually and emotionally in a way that very few directors are able to match. His is a cinema of intense curiosity, stimulating the heart and the mind, while reaching for the stars. If it seems as though I've stayed away from divulging much about A Zed & Two Noughts, you're right. For those who haven't yet experienced this one-of-a-kind film, it's best to approach with as little foreknowledge as possible. For those that treasure Greenaway's breakthrough effort, it's worth celebrating its release on a well-rounded disc such as this. Highly recommended.