In 2007, Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler began a new collaborative project inspired by American author Norman Mailer's 1983 novel Ancient Evenings, set in pharaonic Egypt. The project ... See full summary »
Dave Bald Eagle,
John Buffalo Mailer
The last and best installment in Matthew Barney's epically deranged five-part cycle. (OK, it was the third to be shot, but isn't that typical of Barney's approach to plot logic?) Cremaster 5 is everything you might expect from the other films, only more so - lushly operatic, wildly overblown, madly pretentious. Either hypnotic or unwatchable, depending on your frame of mind. If you've ever adored a film by Ken Russell or Alejandro Jodorowsky or Sergo Paradjanov, you may revel in the bizarre and campy world Barney creates. If not, you should run very fast in the other direction - and don't even stop to catch your breath!
Shot in the Art Nouveau splendour of the Budapest Opera House, this film stars the ever gorgeous Ursula Andress as the Queen of Chains. (Ooh, tie me up please!) Incredibly, this 60s Bond icon contributes the closest thing to acting ever seen in a Barney film. As she lip-synchs to Jonathan Bepler's luscious Mahler-esque score - in Hungarian, no less - her eyes overflow with dark seduction and tragic melancholy. As if Honeychile Ryder (the bikini-clad Venus from Dr. No) had turned into Phaedra or Medea in her not-quite old age.
Powerless to rival such splendour, Matthew Barney - tyro of the avant-garde art scene - spends his time crawling ever so slowly round the proscenium of the opera house stage. Rides through Budapest on horse-back, throws himself off a bridge into the Danube. (Does this mean there will be no Cremaster 6?) In a dazzling finale, he rises out of a swimming pool brimming with water-nymphs (and why not?) A flock of doves flutter about triumphantly, tied by long silken ribbons to his naughty bits.
If the above description makes you retch, do not go near this or any other film in the Cremaster cycle. But if your mind is ever-so-slightly warped, prepare to have it blown wide open. With the triumph of drab minimalism in so many branches of the arts, including cinema (Dogme, anyone?) Barney's work is something to savour and celebrate. If you can sit through it in the first place.
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