Matthew Barney  



An artist that uses film as one of his mediums to deliver his 'high-art' symbolism. Doesn't actually make movies with plots but uses bizarre symbolic visuals to explore abstract visual ideas and concepts, delving into the depths of a thought or a process, but only extracting an abstract visual representation of it instead of delivering an idea upon which one can meditate. In other words, he uses films as his medium for avant-garde art-installations. Loved by pretentious art-critics, a curio for weirdo enthusiasts, beyond reach for everyone else. Also famous for being married to Björk for a while.

Of Some Interest

Redoubt  
Barney finally puts aside his art installations based on internal sexual and excretory organs as well as bio-mechanical sex provocations long enough to make a different kind of movie. This one is closer to Drawing Restraint 9, except it's slightly more approachable and has somewhat interesting atmosphere. It's a wordless, beautifully filmed, pretentious interpretation of mythology and nature by way of hunting, art and interpretative dance. It is filmed in the stunningly beautiful Idaho's Sawtooth Mountain range. Diana, the goddess of the hunt, the wilderness and the moon, is hunting with a scope rifle, while Actaeon is an artist living in a trailer in the woods capturing nature in metal engravings while his partner electroplates his works and transforms them in detailed procedures of electricity and chemistry. Thus nature is captured and hunted, except by way of modern hunters and a combination of science and art. Two interpretative dancers are the 'nymphs', acting out the behaviour of the wild, nature and animals, as well as the consequences of the hunts, hovering and manipulating our two 'hunters', sometimes reminiscent of the angels in 'Wings of Desire'. The dances and interactions become increasingly elaborate with every hunt, until Diana decides to punish the Engraver. It's a beautiful film visually, and intriguing at first, but pretentiously dull and empty after a while. However, the eye candy, the locations, the atmosphere, and the strange pleasure of seeing professional bodily contortions and strange movements in the wild mountain range and snow, may keep you watching until the end.

Worthless

Cremaster 1-5          
A cycle of art films totalling over 6 hours that are a mix of Lynchian bizarre atmosphere, Jodorowsky's surreal symbolism, and Greenaway's detached abstraction. While this may sound interesting, the main theme revolves around symbolic and visual interpretations of the development of the sex in the womb ('cremaster' is a testicle muscle). That's right; Hours and hours of biological or developmental symbolism, or other meaningless bizarre imagery that may or may not symbolize something obscure in Barney's head, with no plot and almost no dialog. The imagery includes things like: Two women in Goodyear blimps crouching under tables, pulling down grapes and arranging them, the arrangements affecting a dancing team in a football field below to move into different formations, a Satyr tap-dancing around a hole in the floor, tended by ugly fairies who put things in his pocket while two racing cars race in opposite directions, a death-metal vocalist covered in bees while growling into a phone, lots of boring landscapes, a murderer waiting in a gas station, his car linked to another through a large tube, Masonic rites, a gory dental operation which causes a man's intestines to fall out, etc. Visually, this grabs your attention at first out of sheer confusion, but then it goes on hour after hour, depicting obscure biological functions or just plain weird ideas using the most outlandish imagery you could never imagine, for no reason whatsoever. Very soon the mind escapes from the sheer torture of endless nothingness and meaninglessness, while the eyes boggle at the endless bizarre sights into which someone put so much effort for no purpose other than to seemingly satisfy some highly personal, meaningless and unapproachable fetish.

Drawing Restraint 9  
Hovering behind this highly experimental film is a theme of using restraint for creativity, understanding and growth. To this end, the most highly stylized Japanese customs and rituals are pretentiously adopted in many of the scenes, then distorted and bastardized. Some vaguely new-age themes of whaling and humanity's both dependent and abusive links to nature are also touched upon, the changing laws in Japan on whale hunters, and a bizarre ritual taken by Barney and Bjork to transform into whales. At first there's beauty, structure and form: Fossils, Japanese gift-wrapping, dancers, precise shipping work and construction, an esoteric shape is repeated in the kitchen and on the decks where what may be whale oil is poured and transforms into blubber in reverse, there are bathing and dressing rituals where Barney mixes Japanese tradition with ugly symbols of fur and other indescribable oddities, and of course, a tea ceremony. Then it veers into bizarre and shock aesthetics, involving a whale spine, dismemberment and stripping of human flesh as part of the transformation ritual, obviously drawing parallels with the stripping of whales. All of this is accompanied by either Bjork's minimalist experimental soundscapes probably attempting to sound like whale-song, and traditional Japanese readings, song and grunting. What does it all add up to? Nothing but unrewarding pretentious art.

Hoist (Destricted)  
One of several short movies collected in a video called Destricted which deals with sex, porn, and art. Barney does the usual bizarre genital symbolism, this one with a penis, a crane, and the rubbing of a penis against machinery. Don't know, don't care. He did this visual also in 'De Lama Lamina'.

River of Fundament  
'Inspired' by Norman Mailer's Ancient Evenings, which was a story that took place in ancient Egypt, and consisted of stories of pharaohs and an exploration of death, rebirths and the afterlife, and the various earthy rituals and stages involved in these as believed by the Egyptians. This is told by a pharaoh who finds himself in his own tomb. In this five and a half hour film, Barney has Norman Mailer himself resurrect from the dead and visit his own wake in several stages. Except that this circle of life heavily relies on the lowest filth, rot, feces and other nasties. Which means that rebirth is through a literal river of feces, food at the wake involves farting roasted pigs, vegetables grown from the feces of a pharaoh, and worms and cockroaches mixed with the food. There is also a ritual involving a toilet come to life after feces is wrapped in a gold leaf, followed by anal sex and mercury and a girl detaching her prosthetic legs. Don't ask me what that was all about. There are a lot of endlessly nonsensical or bizarre discussions at the wake by many characters, some based on real-life people, some are Egyptian mythological creatures and pharaohs (Giamatti has slaves clean him and worship his penis). There is the scattered drama of a dynasty of pharaohs and Egyptian gods which is impossible to put together without knowing the source material. And then there is the side-plot of cars going through very elaborate rituals of death, funerals, destruction and rebirth, thus tying in with Barney's bio-mechanical fetish. But the majority of the film consists of hundreds of characters creating an avant-garde 'opera' musical while conversing or interacting socially. And by avant-garde I mean that they use unusual instruments or objects or vocal effects with which to create various sounds, including talking with bizarre intonations, gurgling and clicking, then combining many of these together to create many endless cacophonous, dissonant arrangements of non-music. But since it is 'creative', it is art, and anyone that doesn't appreciate it is a boor. And these avant-garde arrangements only get increasingly obnoxious with every hour. Add to this many other scenes such as a man climbing into the carcass of a cow (Arrabal reference), a car going through a bizarre transformation in a church, men pulling black plastic sheeting out of a woman's butt, socializing through urination, a girl using a car engine as a toilet, pornographic anal sex, rotting carcasses, both animal and car, diarrhea, elaborate car destruction and recycling in a factory, cars as shells or bodies, people dying or birthing in cars, and various ritualized scenes of social interaction while feces-covered pharaohs and denizens of death and life perform bizarre pornographic dances, a pregnant woman pushing her false eye into another woman's butt, and many other scenes of this ilk. All of this obviously trying to depict life as emerging from the filthiest and basest materials in a circle of filth and life, and tying industry along with it. This was simply torturous to sit through and represents everything wrong with art today. I lost count of the dozens of times I asked myself what is wrong with these people. This movie is like the baby born of butt-sex between the Vienna Actionists and Greenaway.




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