Serpent's Kiss [1997]

Fans of Peter Greenaway's arch and ornate films (The Draughtsman's Contract, Drowning by Numbers) may enjoy The Serpent's Kiss. A young Dutch landscape artist named Chrome (Ewan MacGregor) is hired by a homely but rich landowner named Smithers (Pete Postlethwaite, In the Name of the Father, The Usual Suspects) to turn his overgrown estate into a masterpiece of topiary and hedge mazes. But unbeknownst to Smithers, Chrome is fulfilling the will of Smithers's ardent enemy (Richard E. Grant, Withnail & I), who hopes to bankrupt the wealthy man and seduce his beautiful wife (Greta Scacchi). When Chrome falls under the spell of Smithers's enigmatic daughter, all plans go awry. The strong cast wallows entertainingly in this mix of jealousy, decadence, intriguing visuals, Machiavellian schemes, and heaving bosoms, with Grant performing with his usual lurid gusto. The sumptuous Restoration-era costumes enhance this meditation on art versus nature. --Bret Fetzer

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