When middle-aged American architect Stourley Kracklite (Dennehy) visits Rome to oversee an exhibition in tribute to an 18th century predecessor, Boullée, his grand ambitions founder in a morass of disease, doubt and intrigue. Is his pregnant wife (Webb) having an affair with the insidiously reptilian Caspasian (Wilson), himself possibly plotting to steal the kudos for the exhibition? Is she even poisoning him, thus causing debilitating cramps in Kracklite's up-ended dome of a stomach? The story is decorated in the usual Greenaway style; visual and symbolic rhymes galore produce a quizzical and quirky meditation on a multitude of themes. But where the film perhaps wins out over Greenaway's earlier movies is in its admission of feeling. The exquisitely framed images, the allusive script, the droll witticisms are counterbalanced by Dennehy's literally enormous performance, which threatens to tear the film's formal symmetries to vividly memorable shreds.
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