Perhaps the resonance of The Tulse Luper Suitcases will build over the two years following the release of this first instalment. Or perhaps it will become the final folly in a career that has been at turns dazzling and marred by hubris.
The Tulse Luper Suitcases: The Moab Story, Part I of the trilogy, was premiered in competition in Cannes in 2003. It follows the young Luper from his childhood in south Wales, where his father punishes him by locking him in a coalhouse, to his adventures in the Utah desert, where he is searching for hidden Mormon cities but is captured by a malevolent German-American family, strung naked in the desert, then jailed. The film's third episode is in Antwerp during the lead-up to WWII, where Luper is imprisoned as a suspected spy.
|A second category of paintings includes those that are the remains of unrealized projects or embryos of projects in gestation. The Tulse Luper Suitcase Series, executed in 1990, is an example of the latter. These paintings are designed to contribute to the elaboration of the script for on e of Greenaways future projects, The Tulse Luper Suitcases, and also serve as an aid to the art department in composing the sets for the film We might speculate, for instance, that Greenaways painting Bathroom Literature (1990) is the prototype for one of the sets of the film: a white bathroom that, according to Greenaway, is one of the many prisons to which Tulse Luper will be consigned in the course of the film. (Pg. 22-23)|
A man who has never been short of self-confidence, or ambition, Peter Greenaway seems determined to make his latest opus a kind of Matrix of arthouse film: The Tulse Luper Suitcases is not just a trilogy, but will also involve a website, DVDs, television programmes and books. It is a multimedia event. However, 'bigger' never necessarily means 'best'. And as a film, the first instalment of the Tulse Luper Suitcases really is a lacklustre affair.
The trilogy is set to cover 60 years of the 20th century, from the discovery of uranium in 1928, to the end of the cold war in 1989. This period is explored through the character of Tulse Luper (Feild), a traveller and self-styled artist, but also a man who has a knack for getting himself locked up. Thus Greenaway is attempting to investigate ideas about the atomic age, of cinema and art, and of the numerous ways in which individuals can be 'imprisoned', many of which don't involve bars.
Iconoclastic director Peter Greenaway begins his most ambitious project to date with this feature, the first in a proposed series of films, television programs, and multimedia projects that examine the contents of 92 suitcases, each revealed by title character Tulse Henry Purcel Luper. Broken into three sections spanning 1928 to 1940, The Tulse Luper Suitcases: Part One follows our young hero from age 10, when he is reprimanded by his father for scrawling some graffiti on a wall in his desolate South Wales neighborhood. Years later, Tulse (JJ Field) is a desert explorer who winds up being further punished by the aptly-named dominatrix Passion Hockmeister (Caroline Dhavernas). Finally, in the film's last section, Tulse is in Antwerp at the start of World War II, where he ends up being imprisoned by Nazis. Told in a fractured, non-narrative style, The Tulse Luper Suitcases also incorporates many inter-titles, superimposed images, an ever-present narrator presented in a picture-within-picture format, intentionally fake-looking sets, and many, many references to other Greenaway films and characters.