The Baby of Macon | Chicago Reader

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Peter Greenaway's most controversial feature (1993, 122 min.), in part because it's so unrelievedly unpleasant without ever actually seeming atypical of his work. Set in France during the mid-17th century, it centers on the birth of a baby boy that's mythologized for various ends, initially because it marks the end of childlessness in a city. The child's older sister (Julia Ormond), a virgin, claims to be his mother; when she attempts to seduce the bishop's son (Ralph Fiennes), he's gored to death by a cow. Ultimately the baby is dismembered, and the sister is raped to death by 217 soldiers, each one pardoned in advance by the church. This being a Greenaway film, no character is shown sympathetically, the action is lushly and rather beautifully filmed (by Sacha Vierny) on a single set, and the whole thing is staged as a play within the film. I watched it to the end out of a sense of duty, not with pleasure or any hope of edification.

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