|Index||9 reviews in total|
Yes, the cinematography is superb, a spectacle to be sure, but to throw
images at an audience, no matter how intriguing they may be, with no
reference other than, "Gee, isn't this pretty, or provocative or
unusual," in the end is nothing but intellectual masturbation. And if
the fact that in the end all of this is inaccessible to perhaps all but
the filmmaker (and I am assuming his actors and crew -- evidently
Ursula Andress was interested enough to sign on for this project),
isn't bad enough (those who could call it visual poetry are really
stretching it, IMHO), the music never matches the opulent visuals. I
got the feeling looking at some of the stunning images that Barney
creates, that the music is pretty lame in comparison. Quite truthfully,
I wouldn't sit through this noise if it didn't have the visuals and I
wouldn't want to watch the visual more than once. It's the kind of
thing kids in Film School do on their first film exercise, only they
don't have the huge amount of money that evidently Barney had to get
this thing put on 35mm film.
About the only positive note that I can say for this pretentious extravaganza would be that mercifully, it is under an hour. BUT, that said, remember this is only one of the CREMASTER quintology. That's right, boys and girls, there are, count 'em, five of these things. The idea that people have actually suffered through four more of this man's self-indulgence....well, I guess there is more masochism out there than meets the eye.
Okay, I have seriously invested my time in the entire cycle, plus
"restraint," several interviews and "Destricted."
I now feel qualified to report that I reject the man, though a couple of these films (Restraint and C1 in particular) gave me moments of high pleasure. I am, I discover, a man whose eye- mind prefers Greenaway, Ruiz, Maddin. Barney and Bunuel are mildly interesting voyages to the other side of town. But I find them effete, powerless. They make sloppy essays that don't reach my soul, that may be good for Budapest coffeehouse discussions, but not the sort of thing that matters.
Honestly, you can only judge an artist by the souls he touches, and Barney does have a critical mass of recruits. The best I can do is tell you why I am not among them. I need either narrative, the stuff of narrative unassembled but situated, or metanarrative... or even antinarrative. No matter what stance or how coherent, I want parts or wholes situated in a world. Don't care much about the nature of the world, as long as it exists somewhere, somehow, I can reach it.
Barney's parts are all borrowed. He didn't see them, he didn't know them, he didn't relate them he only collects. I can get a colorful collection anywhere. Real randomness may be rare, but apparent randomness is amazingly common. I could have 12 Barneys before breakfast, and each one as sexually deviant, his only locating trait.
Ted's Evaluation -- 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.
I actually liked this one of the Cremaster-cycle best. The
Greenawayish, lush baroque settings were fascinating. I liked the weird
idea about the guy climbing around the stage during musical performance
for the queen.
Of course, I can't explain WHY those images were so appealing: Barney seems to be searching a sort of subliminal, unconscious expressions of sexuality and sensuality, as they appear in pure, non-verbal forms, clothing, gestures, architecture, art... at least his synopsis for the Cremaster-cycle hints to this.
It also seems that during the making of Cremaster 5 Barney has had more money: it's done on film, it has Ursula Andress in the main role, and the camera work, design and details are more lavish than in the former ones. It's great someone's doing films like this.
So this was the last Cremaster movie. After seeing all five, this was definitely the worst. Yes, the images, the visuals, the costumes etc. were beautiful and all that. But its 55-minute runtime seemed like two hours, it just went on and on and on... it's not worth explaining. It's basically an opera, with something to do with the sea and mermaids... Okay, so you're wondering, is it worth it to see the entire Cremaster Cycle parts 1-5? The answer is no, unless you're curious to see everything Matthew Barney can do (believe me, very little ends up on the cutting-room floor). You can see Cremaster 4 or 1 and spare yourself the rest, they're just not worth it. Matthew Barney does have an original vision, he just needs to find a way of making it less boring. My job is boring, I don't need to make a movie out of it. Though it's probably more interesting then Cremaster 5. I give this 3 out of 10.
The Cremaster Cycle 9/10
The Cremaster Cycle is a series of five films shot over eight years.
Although they can be seen individually, the best experience is seeing them
all together (like Wagner's Ring Cycle) - and also researching as much as
you can beforehand. To give you an idea of the magnitude, it has been
suggested that their fulfilment confirms creator Matthew Barney as the most
important American artist of his generation (New York Times
The Cremaster films are works of art in the sense that the critical faculties you use whilst watching them are ones you might more normally use in, say, the Tate Modern, than in an art house cinema. They are entirely made up of symbols, have only the slimmest of linear plots, and experiencing them leaves you with a sense of awe, of more questions and inspirations than closed-book answers. The imagery is at once grotesque, beautiful, challenging, puzzling and stupendous. Any review can only hope to touch on the significance of such an event, but a few clues might be of interest, so for what it's worth ...
Starting with the title. The 'Cremaster' is a muscle that acts to retract the testes. This keeps the testes warm and protected from injury. (If you keep this in mind as you view the piece it will be easier to find other clues and make sense of the myriad allusions to anatomical development, sexual differentiation, and the period of embryonic sexual development - including the period when the outcome is still unknown. The films, which can be viewed in any order (though chronologically is probably better than numerically) range from Cremaster 1 (most 'ascended' or undifferentiated state) to Cremaster 5 (most 'descended'). The official Cremaster website contains helpful synopses.)
Cremaster 5 has a Tudor feel to it. It comprises mostly a tragic opera set in Budapest. I found it the most obscure of the whole cycle and could have done with subtitles at least to capture the meaning of the opera. Complex symbols involving Houdini further complicate the work.
The Guggenheim Museum (which houses a parallel exhibition) describes the Cremaster Cycle as "a self-enclosed aesthetic system consisting of five feature-length films that explore processes of creation." As film, the Cremaster Cycle is one to experience in the cinema if you have the opportunity to do so, or to experience and re-experience at leisure on DVD (the boxed set is promised for late 2004 and will be a gem for lovers of art-cinema fusion
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
*Spoiler! I beg to differ with the above comment, I saw this as part of a Film Society screening in New Zealand and was completely blown away. It is definitely not a film that many could sit through as there is no spoken word narrative. But I think we have to understand Barney as a visual artist testing the very boundaries of what we consider film. Film is not just a 90 minute Hollywood Blockbuster, headlining actors, shot-reverse-shot formulas, believability and "realism" ...this film is incredibly beautiful, each shot is composed in a way that I found I just couldn't pry my eyes from the screen. Great colour palette, well choreographed and fantastically imaginative, I am so glad I got to see this rare film, it will stay with me for a long time.
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
Barney's approach to plot logic?) Cremaster 5 is everything you might
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
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
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.
"Cremaster 5" successfully breaks more rules of long-form moviemaking than anything I've seen. I had to see it twice before I really got it at all, but the first time was also plenty of fun. The "Cremaster"series is profoundly hermetic. It communicates literally and symbolically on multiple levels at the same time. Thematically, it packs a wallop. Mr. Barney is uniting our current knowledge of the body with ancient esoteric formulae for nature. "Cremaster 5", the third "Cremaster" movie to be produced, is the one that tips the scales. It's also funny and poignant.
The profound tedium of the movie is mitigated only by its pretentiousness. I spent most of the movie cringing. I am deeply embarrassed for those who claim to find some value in it. Unless you think Peter Greenaway movies suffer only from having too gripping plots, I urge you to avoid Barney's films at all costs.
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