The Draughtsman’s Contract (40th Anniversary) (Blu-ray Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film
The Video
The Audio
The Supplements
Overall

SUMMARY

A narcissistic young artist is commissioned to make a series of drawings of an estate by a wealthy landowner's wife with part of the payment being her sexual favors in this dark comedy/period drama.

The Draughtsman's Contract (40th Anniversary) Blu-ray (BFI)The Draughtsman’s Contract was filmmaker Peter Greenaway’s first fictional feature film. Set in 17th-century Wiltshire, the ambitious young artist Mr. Neville (Anthony Higgins) is hired by Mrs. Herbert (Janet Suzman) to create twelve sketches of her husband’s sprawling estate. In the contract she draws up, the payment she includes is not only money but a gratuitous number of sexual favors to be fulfilled by herself. Mr. Neville, ever the narcissist, overconfident in his ability to fulfill all parts of the arrangement and to negotiate the social intrigues, ends up drawing the ire of the local aristocratic men and becoming a surprise victim of an underhanded plot.

Greenaway spins the dark comedy with the wit of a typical period drama, set in a lavish production that gives one plenty to set one’s eyes upon from the costumes to the sets to the locations. Meanwhile, the score from contemporary minimalist composer Michael Nyman (The Red Violin) is restrained and apropos to the period. The film, with its multiple layers, wry humor, and sensual settings, also lays the groundwork for many more of the Greenaway films to follow, such as The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, and Nightwatching.

The Video

The Draughtsman’s Contract was shot on 16mm Eastman 100T 7247 film stock in the Super 16 format. This comes to Blu-ray from the BFI in a brand new 4K remaster that looks as organic and filmic as one would expect from a Super 16 production from 1982. There is a heavy, coarse granularity, but it looks very natural and yields a good amount of detail, especially in the close-ups and day lit scenes. Colors are natural though there is not the same wider array one might see from 35mm.

The Audio

The original monaural soundtrack is included on the Blu-ray in LPCM 2.0. It is clear and free from excessive hiss or pops and clicks.

The Supplements

As the BFI often do, they include a collection of thoughtful bonus features related to this film directly and indirectly. The audio commentary by Greenaway is a must-listen and his included shorts are interesting bonuses.

Disc 1 – Feature Film and Bonus Features:

  • Commentary by Peter Greenaway recorded in 2003
  • An introduction by Peter Greenaway (SD/PAL; 00:09:54) – Peter Greenaway discusses the genesis of The Draughtsman’s Contract, sharing the reasoning behind some of his creative choices and exploring and expounding on several of the central themes. Recorded in 2003.
  • On-set interviews with the director and cast (SD/PAL; 00:04:52) – Interviews with Janet Suzman, Peter Greenaway, and Anthony Higgins.
  • Behind the Scenes Footage (SD/PAL; 00:05:27) – Footage of the shooting of the pomegranate scene.
  • Deleted Scenes and Outtakes (SD/PAL):
    • Chair
    • Misadventure
    • Rain
    • Watercress
    • Headshot – Mr Herbert
    • Headshot – Mr Neville
  • Trailers:
    • Original Theatrical Trailer (SD/PAL)
    • 2022 Restoration (1080p)
  • Gallery (1080p)

Disc 2 – Bonus Features:

  • Visions – ‘A Film Comment by Angela Carter’ (SD/PAL; 00:20:39) – Visions was a cinemagazine which ran on the newly-created Channel 4. This film review of The Draughtsman’s Contract by novelist Angela Carter is extracted from the inaugural episode which aired on 10th November 1982, when Channel 4 was just a week old.
  • The Guardian Interview: Michael Nyman (SD/PAL; 00:06:37) – Ann extract from Michael Nyman’s 2002 The Guardian Interview in which he talks to David Thompson about his work on The Draughtsman’s Contract. Recorded at the BFI Southbank’s NFT1 on 12th October 2002.
  • The Greenaway Alphabet (1080p; 01:00:24) – Saskia Boddeke’s deeply personal 2017 depiction of her husband Peter Greenaway as he constructs an alphabet of his life with their then 16-year-old daughter Pip.
  • H is for House (SD/PAL; 00:08:48) – A Greenaway short from 1976 in which a child’s pictorial alphabet is stuck on the letter H and a view of the English countryside.
  • A Walk Through H (1080p; 00:42:13) – Subtitled ‘The Reincarnation of an Ornithologist’, Greenaway’s 1978 short records an extraordinary symbolic journey through a mysterious bird-filled country undertaken by an ornithologist at the end of his life.
  • Insight – ‘Zandra Rhodes’ (1080p; 00:14:38)– Peter Greenaway’s 1981 profile of the fashion designer at home and at work, commissioned by the COI.

The Final Assessment

A lavish, darkly humorous, wry, and shocking period drama that served as the debut fictional feature film for Peter Greenaway that now looks as good as ever on home video thanks to the BFI. This release is packed with high quality bonus features and should be viewed by all film lovers. Highly recommended.

The Draughtsman’s Contract 40th Anniversary Remaster is out 14 November 2022 in the UK from the BFI


  • Rating Certificate: UK:15
  • Studios & Distributors: British Film Institute (BFI) | Channel Four Television | BFI Video
  • Director: Peter Greenaway
  • Written By: Peter Greenaway
  • Run Time: 108 Mins.
  • Street Date: 14 November 2022
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Video Format: AVC 1080p
  • Primary Audio: English LPCM 2.0 Mono
  • Secondary Audio: Audio Description
  • Subtitles: English HOH | German
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A narcissistic young artist is commissioned to make a series of drawings of an estate by a wealthy landowner's wife with part of the payment being her sexual favors in this dark comedy/period drama. The Draughtsman's Contract (40th Anniversary) (Blu-ray Review)
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