Obsessed with obscure English folk games and father to corpse-collecting Smut, coroner Madgett becomes involved with three generations of women all named Cissie Colpitts. Unsurprisingly, his amorously optimistic agreement to keep mum about the aquatic deaths of their husbands lands him in deep water. Greenaway returns to the playful punning, ludicrous lists, and quizzical conundrums of his earlier work: opening with a girl counting a hundred stars, the 'plot' then proceeds with those same numbers appearing either in the dialogue or in suitably bizarre images. Equally teasing is the film's complex web of absurdly interlocking allusions to games, sex and mortality: famous last words, Samson and Delilah, Breughel, circumcision, etc. Elegantly scored and luminously shot, it's a modernist black comedy filled with arcane, archaic and apocryphal lore, and hugely enjoyable.
Cast and crew