The Tulse Luper Suitcases: The Moab Story (2003)
Directed by Peter Greenaway

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * * * ½

DVD In Association with
Rent DVDs online!
In the USA:
Try Netflix For Free.In the UK:

In this, the first of three films chronicling the life of Tulse Luper through the ninety-two suitcases (ninety-two being the atomic number of uranium) the character fills over the course of his lifetime, the hero sets off for the Utah desert, where he encounters a Mormon family whose members speak with such embarrassingly bad American accents I can only hope that they were intended as parodies. There, Tulse's suspected involvement with the nubile daughter of the family leads to his arrest, incarceration, and subsequent actual relationship with the girl when she comes to visit him in his jail cell. After fleeing Utah, Tulse makes his way to Holland, followed by the girl's violently but humorously patriotic brother, where he is again incarcerated, this time by a comical group of Dutch fascists. Amusingly, the strangely inappropriate symbol of this clutch of dire and serious fascists intent on establishing an authoritarian state is Reynard the Fox, about whom they sing less than menacing songs.

From The Draughtsman's Contract in 1982 to The Pillow Book in 1996, Peter Greenaway directed a string of brilliant films, but in the eight years since he has not created anything of comparable quality. This is not to say that The Tulse Luper Suitcases is a bad film, however. Though by no means Greenaway's finest effort, The Tulse Luper Suitcases: The Moab Story is a great improvement on his previous work, 8½ Women. It simply is not as good as Greenaway's best. In point of fact, the movie is beautiful and entertaining. If not a masterpiece, it is, nonetheless, a film belonging to the trend along which cinema as an art should be moving.


From its beginning until its end, The Tulse Luper Suitcases is ornate and stylized. Greenaway makes exuberant use of split screens, inset screens, overlain images, elaborate lists, complex webs of narration, and sumptuous and often deliberately artificial sets. Many of the scenes are strongly reminiscent of theatrical productions, as is the case in some of the director's other films, such as The Baby of Macon, and others display a considerable appreciation of the wonders of both the natural and man-made parts of the world in which we live. All these various elements are beautifully realized and, consequently, imbue the film with an intoxicating loveliness that keeps the viewer captivated through the entirety of its duration.


Unlike most directors, who appear to aim at creating movies like windows, through which the viewer can peer into the lives of the persons apparently existing on the other side of the screen, Greenaway, in The Tulse Luper Suitcases, never allows the viewer to forget that he is looking at a film. Watching The Tulse Luper Suitcases, therefore, compares to looking at most other movies in the same way that viewing a painting by Klimt or Moreau compares to looking at a photograph. The viewer is made to engage with the images themselves rather than with some object to which the images are intended to refer. This approach is consistently effective at enthralling the viewer. Without having to concern himself with anything extraneous to the work with which he is being presented, the viewer is able to engulf his awareness in his appreciation of the film and enjoy its beauty without distraction.


Although Greenaway has been criticized for the elaborate, artificial style he has employed in The Tulse Luper Suitcases, it having been claimed that this style serves no purpose, I would point out in response to these assertions that the purpose of such a style is the creation of something beautiful. If Greenaway intended to produce a work of beauty, he has succeeded. If he did not intend to do so, then I can only hope that more people will fail as he has. The Tulse Luper Suitcases is a remarkable film.

Review by Keith Allen

Home Page / Alphabetical List of Films
List of Films by Star Ratings
Aesthetic Principles / Guide to Ratings
Criteria for Inclusion / DVD Stores / Blog

© 2004 Keith Allen. All rights reserved.
Revised 2005

Click Here

banner 2