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‘The Baby of Macon’ (NR)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
November 03, 1994

Tonight, "The Baby of Macon," the latest film by controversial British director Peter Greenaway will receive its only scheduled U.S. screening at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

Greenaway, an art house favorite, has built a reputation for shocking audiences with movies such as the gastronomically grotesque "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover" and "Drowning by Numbers," in which three women cheerfully drown their husbands. His new film is a religious satire in which church officials sentence a young woman to be raped 113 times. So far, no American distributor has been brave enough to release it.

The film, which deals with assaults on innocence in the 17th century court of Cosimo de Medici, has been playing to sometimes appreciative, sometimes disgusted audiences in Europe.

According to Kelly Gordon, who curates the film program at the Hirshhorn, "The Baby of Macon" is "an extravaganza very much in the Greenaway tradition." But she adds that watching it may be hard going even for the die-hard Greenaway fan.

"The film is performing pretty solidly in France," Gordon reports, "but Greenaway is a tough sell under the best of circumstances and this one is even tougher than usual."

David Levy, who owns the Key Theater in Georgetown and saw "The Baby of Macon" at this year's Cannes Film Festival, describes it as "beautiful, dense and challenging," but agrees its commercial prospects may be limited.

"Greenaway is a gifted artist with an avid following here in Washington," Levy says. "But I think the film will have a hard time finding an audience. Even here."

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