Cremaster 3
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2017 | 2011 | 2003

1 item from 2003

Cremaster 3

25 April 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Palm Pictures

NEW YORK -- The latest in Matthew Barney's non-chron-ological cycle of avant-garde films follows in the tradition of this distinctive artist's unique and decidedly bizarre vision. More than twice as long and much more visually accomplished than the other entries in the series, Cremaster 3 is nonetheless a highly alienating and less-than-involving experience for anyone not in possession of the accompanying explanatory notes or not intimately familiar with Celtic mythology, Masonic initiation rites and the legend of the formation of the Isle of Man, among other things. (The title, by the way, refers to the muscle that controls the height of the testicles.)

All five films in the cycle, which have previously received limited theatrical distribution, are now playing in various art houses around the country as well as in museums as part of a traveling Matthew Barney retrospective. Only the most adventurous and patient viewers are advised to attend.

Running a numbing three hours, the video-shot, dialogue-free Cremaster 3 defies plot analysis, though it has something to do with the creation of New York's Chrysler Building and a conflict between the building's architect (played by sculptor Richard Serra, one of many guest stars in the series) and an apprentice played by Barney himself. Among the oddball characters on display are the undead corpse of the killer Gary Gilmore (who figures prominently in Cremaster 2); a beautiful legless woman (Aimee Mullins) who cuts potatoes with the blades on the shoes of her artificial limbs; a gaggle of gorgeous female dancers, much like the Rockettes, who put on a routine in the rotunda of the Guggenheim Museum; and a beautiful half woman/half cheetah.

The action includes a duel between two giants, a demolition derby among vintage automobiles in the lobby of the Chrysler Building and a particularly unpleasant dental encounter at the Saratoga Racetrack. As with the other installments, this film showcases Barney's penchant for including extreme and explicit renditions of bodily functions, here best exemplified by a scene in which the apprentice's intestines pour out of his rectum.

There's no denying the elaborateness of the artist's conceptions, nor his ability to depict them with outrageous elan, but really the whole series is so much pretentious nonsense, lavishly praised by those who equate obscurity with profundity. The lack of intelligibility might be forgivable if the films were executed with more wit and faster pacing, but the entire enterprise reeks with sluggishness and features visuals that are far more elaborate than actually meaningful. Individual moments do convey some thematic resonance, but overall the films would be far better appreciated via a passing glance at a museum's video monitor than through sustained and excruciating viewing. »

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