Lawrence O'Toole
February 28, 1992 AT 05:00 AM EST

Drowning by Numbers

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
118 minutes
performer
Juliet Stevenson, Joan Plowright, Bernard Hill, Joely Richardson
director
Peter Greenaway
distributor
LIVE Video
author
Peter Greenaway
genre
Comedy, Drama

We gave it an A

Drowning by Numbers is the video brain buster of the year. In Peter Greenaway’s fascinating puzzle picture, three women (Joan Plowright, Juliet Stevenson, and Joely Richardson), all of them named Cissie, drown their husbands and are later pursued by a coroner friend while a boy named Smut concocts elaborate games involving fireworks, violence, sheep, and cricket. In this comedy of manners — very bad manners — Greenaway (The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover) once again invents his own rules. The universe he creates has its own dreamlike logic and a sumptuous visual panache few living filmmakers can rival. And for all its excess and baroque style, it is the emotional theme — we always kill the thing that loves us, rather than the thing we love — that lingers like the taste of a bitter pill. A

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