Thursday, July 10, 2008

Playing games with his audience: Peter Greenaway’s Tulse Luper Journey website

Several indie directors have taken the time to maintain blogs about the productions of their movies, or offer updates on their movements around the country/world. David Lynch has created a little world of his own at And now I find that another filmmaker of limitless imagination, Peter Greenaway, has had an interactive site up and running since 2006. The Tulse Luper Journey is an extension of a concept he began in his earliest shorts: the studies of Tulse Luper, fake expert who may or may not even exist.

Greenaway has stated in interviews that Luper is a sort of alter ego for him, but I also believe the character is his ultimate spoof of academia: an expert who contradicts himself and can't be trusted; a source of information that changes its definitions; an authority who may be full of shit. Greenaway offers a list of strange facts about Luper (“Tulse Luper, not knowing what else experiences were for, turned all of them into some form of literature. Even whilst having a heart attack, he was wondering how to spell the word "cardiac".” “Tulse Luper found it difficult to continue to be antagonistic forever. But he kept trying.” “Tulse Luper knew that without a God, the Universe could be considered to be even more amazing.”) at his website.

But that’s not all. Greenaway embarked in the early 2000s on a series of films called The Tulse Luper Suitcases, and created a site that allows “researchers” to go through the great man’s luggage (which is said to contain the sum total of Luper’s knowledge, plus maybe, quite possibly, the secrets of the 20th century). It seems that the site’s big “trip around the world” was indeed won by one gentleman (despite the fact that all 92 suitcases haven’t been “opened” to date), but there are at least 26 esoteric games available on the site, all for free.

I’m not a computer/video game-player, but I ante’d up and mostly lost points while having fun. The games include some of the usual attractions (dropping stuff from a plane, reassembling scrambled photos, a variation on “Clue”), but there are some pure Greenaway time-wasters (assembling photos out of narrative fragments, making a series of mouths saying words speak a sentence, and even creating “bloodied wallpaper” by punching the hell out of some unfortunate actors). I believe the entire site works by the three laws of thermodynamics that are quoted when you begin one game: 1.) You can’t win. 2.) You can’t break even. 3.) You can’t get out of the game.

Sorta like life, when you think about it.

Here’s a trailer for the site. Watch it, and then play a game or two at the the Luper site, which is structured, natch, like an academic research facility (in fact, a number of research facilities).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Sundance Channel is showing all 3 parts of "The Tulse Luper Suitecases" films this month on Wednesday nights at midnight (Eastern). Part 3 is next week (July 16). Then there is a marathon of all 3 parts on July 26.