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Curiosity seekers seek no more. Pretentious and `arty' could describe it but I have to say I thought some very good work went into the production design and music. Less such into the "story". It's the top of the Matthew Barney pyramid of art films, culminating in a three hour orgy of celtic mythology, masonic legend, truly retch inducing reverse dental surgery, hardcore punk bands, beautiful models with masonic symbol pasties, double amputee model Aimee Mullins as a catwoman and with clear acrylic prosthetic legs, artist Richard Serra tossing molten vaseline against the walls of the Guggenheim, a sojourn up the elevator shafts of the Chrysler Building, a demolition derby in same's lobby shall I go on? All the above said, the movie is still truly what it advertised itself to be. The same couldn't be said of many truly awful commercial films, i.e., "Gods and Generals" or "Gigli." You get the broken promises of entertainment and/ or involving historical drama. With C3, you get a chariot race with zombie horses, covered in blankets with the `Cremaster 3' crest emblazoned on them. And don't forget to stop in the museum's gift shop as you leave the theater. Thank you.
Matthew Barney's "Cremaster" series of 5 feature-length videos are an exploration of this artist's various interests. He's basically interested in everything, and manages to squeeze everything into this series. "Cremaster 3" is the centerpiece, wherein architecture, Freemason ritual, and folklore (Irish, Irish-American, American) take center stage. Barney offers little insight into his interests, simply presents them, overlaps them, as if he just made a list of stuff he likes and then visualized them. Luckily, his visual sense is utterly dazzling and eloquent. As a director, he is undoubtedly indebted to Kubrick and Hal Ashby. The images are elegant but pungent, finely polished but visceral and even gory in parts. The tone of the video, however, is deceitful (for lack of a less harsh word), suggesting a story or plot that doesn't really exist, or is so buried in the visual splendor as to be insignificant. It could be seen as a puzzle, but, in Barney's own words (according to the DVD commentary of "The Order" segment of "3"), it is merely a series of illustrations of ideas that have already been well drawn out (ie. Freemason ritual). Still it's worth watching, and listening to as well. Jonathan Bepler's score is truly gorgeous, reminiscent of Danny Elfman but even more haunting.
When I got out of the theater after seeing this movie, I was stuck with one
major question: how does one get the financing to make such a movie? How do
you sell a movie so unusual to investors?
I must admit I desperately wanted this movie to make sense. I wanted the mason to have a legitimate reason to fill an elevator with concrete, and I wanted this reason explained later on in the movie, but I could tell the answer would never come. I know my expectations were conditioned by years of conventional cinema and storytelling. For this reason alone, Cremaster was worth watching. It stirred me up, exposed me to very personal and thorough symbolism, and made no apologies.
This movie is not cinema as you've come to know it, it's performance art caught on film. I've heard that the artist explains a lot of his symbolism on his website but I'm not sure I want to know, at least for now. I'd rather let the images simmer in my mind for a few weeks and let meaning bubble up. For now, three days after seeing it, I'd say the movie is basically about the powerlessness of the individual against the powers that be and the necessity for an artist to pander to those powers to achieve his vision. This necessity is also the struggle that drives the creative process. Lackeys and employees are numbed by their position, and some of them express themselves in a creative way to alleviate the numbness and feel alive. Whether they succeed or not is not the point.
Though Matthew Barney doesn't identify himself as a filmmaker per se -- he's
a sculptor by training and practice -- his Cremaster Cycle has me convinced
that he has a more expansive vision for the possibility of cinema than any
new director since Godard grabbed the audience by the hair and pulled us
behind the camera with him.
I think part of Barney's resistance to the filmmaker label is that, like the rest of the world, he's been conditioned to believe that movies are only intended to serve a limited set of purposes, namely to act as filmed imitations of ankle-deep novels or plays; that a literal narrative, propelled throughout by actors talking, is the essential element of any movie. This model has been so deeply embedded in all of our psyches that even when a guy like Barney says "f*&^k all that" and defies every conceivable convention, he still feels as though he's doing something which is only nominally a film, even if it is in fact the opposite: a fully realized motion picture experience.
For those who don't know, The Cremaster Cycle is Barney's dreamlike meditation on ... well, I guess it'd be up to each viewer to decide exactly what the topics are, since the movies deliberately make themselves available for subjective interpretaton. Clearly Barney has creation and death on his mind, as well as ritual, architecture and space, symbolism, gender roles, and a Cronenbergian fascination with anatomy.
The movies are gorgeously photographed in settings that could only have been designed by someone with the eye of a true visual artist. In the first half of "3," Barney reimagines the polished interiors of the Chrysler Building as a temple in which the building itself is paradoxically conceived. The second half, slightly more personal, has Barney's alter ego in garish Celtic dress scaling the interior of a sparse Guggenheim Museum, intersecting at its various levels what are presumably various stages of his own artistic preoccupations -- encounters with dancing girls, punk rock, and fellow modern artist Richard Serra, among others.
In the end, what kind of movie is it? It certainly isn't the kind of movie that'll have Joel Silver sweating bullets over the box-office competition. Nor is it likely that more than three or four Academy members will see it, though nominations for cinematography and art direction would be well-deserved. It sure isn't warm and fuzzy: for my money, it might be a little too designed, too calculated. I always prefer chaotic naturalism over studious control. Friedkin over Hitchcock for me. It *is* the kind of movie that the most innovative mainstream filmmakers will talk about ten and twenty years from now when asked what inspired them. Barney's willingness to work entirely with associative imagery, to spell out absolutely nothing, and to let meaning take its first shape in the viewer's imagination, is the kind of catalyst that gives impressionable young minds the notion they can do something they didn't before think possible.
This movie is THREE HOURS LONG. I tried, I really tried to understand what the hell was going on, but this epic, incomprehensible art film is nearly impossible to follow, even if you've read the synopsis on the cremaster.net website. There are a lot of visually interesting images, the "car crash" scene and the "dentures" scene being particularly strange and disturbing, but I kept looking at my watch wondering when this awful movie was going to end. However, I can't give it a 3 or a 4, because some of the images, like teeth traveling through intestines, and the leopard lady, are stunning and strange, so I'll be generous and give it 5 out of 10. But I can't recommend it to anyone but the arty elite. When it finished, I got up and said "Thank God that's over!"
I suppose you have to have already made a decision about who you a re
and how cinema fits in your life to lucidly decide the first things
about this. What is it and how will it speak to you?
I've now seen the "long" version and a 30 minute cut that was apparently done for exhibiting at The Guggenheim for patrons with less patience. Actually, with a different score that short version would be something useful. It isn't that the score is offensive. It is, but that's not what I'm trying to avoid. (Bjork's handling of "Restraint" was apt while annoying.) What he needs is something that plays with his symbol-universe sonically.
The short version cuts out the whole Chrysler erection sequence and shortens the Guggenheim. There's less Crisco tossing.
You may like this. It reeks of importance. It has layers of symbology, at least so far as notations and is very much like those paintings from that era when you could say: those grapes "stand for" so and so and that reclining lamb next to them "means" such and such. So okay: scots freemasonry as dedeconstruction, punk fried eggs, Dante's circles of museum hell, manufactured women except one beast goddess...
It seems for some of these he comes up with the symbol systems first, then surveys what material he has and then forms a performance out of that based on objects and himself. That's weak tea for me. "Cremaster 1" was an important and rich experience for me. That's because I believe he started with the images and built everything around that. Its really quite brilliant and I recommend it to you.
But not this. Its his own yard sale. Don't go.
Ted's Evaluation -- 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.
i would suggest to anyone that is fond of dismissing things as "pretentious"
that it would perhaps be helpful to look that word up. (b. expressive of
affected, unwarranted, or exaggerated importance, worth, or stature). no
where in the film did i get a sense stated or implied that the film was even
important at all or of any significance. there was alot of obscure humor in
cremaster 3 and if someone didn't get the jokes etc. then they should just
say so. there's nothing wrong with not understanding some things...there's
alot of things i don't understand. stuff flies right past me all the time.
like that Harry Potter stuff....i just don't get it. it is beyond my
capacity. does that make it pretentious?..... no. does that mean it's
intending to be better than me...no. if you want something pretentious go
read the bible.....really the "word" of the creator of the universe...how
pretentious is that?
Also dismissing things as 'arty' is another pet peeve. 'art' is just anything that communicates something in a subjectively aesthetic manner. so all films are 'arty'.
it's just like because doesn't know what the word "pretentious" means doesn't make the dictionary pretentious.
as far as cremaster 3 goes...the first hour and a half dragged a bit. but over all it was a very funny film. the giant...the gnome/elf thing...that crazy little girl song......Murphy's Law vs Agnostic Front....Masonic references? i was rolling on the floor. the Masons are a very secret organisation....the masonic references in cremaster were secret. the film was practically a documentary....
I just saw Cremaster 3 on a big screen (Castro Theater in San Francisco).
First the good:
- It looks great. The cinematography is beautiful.
- There are some interesting and unusual scenes and images.
Now the bad:
- The movie is a bunch of scenes which act as if they're going to add up to something but really don't add up to anything.
- There's a lot of "product placement". In Hollywood movies, product placement means that the characters drink Coke or subliminally (or even overtly) advertise some product. In Barney's case, this means that the characters use or play with white plastic sculptures which are what Barney sells for lots of cash. Just think: you could buy one of these things that might have been used in the movie for only $50,000.00.
- There is a long sequence in the Guggenheim museum in which Barney showcases his rock climbing skills. Great. He's so buff. Isn't it amazing? Talented AND buff. Sorry, that rock climbing was just a show-off. It added nothing to the film otherwise. Much has been made of how Barney was a football player, and he seems to feel obligated to keep proving that he's a jock. The novelty of it all... a jock artist! Oh my.
- In the same Guggenheim sequence he has two punk bands playing at once with punks dancing, while sculptor Richard Serra throws liquid vaseline at some steel plates, with some of it running down a channel that goes down the inside of the spiral walkway. The main point of this seemed to be "look how cool I am. I have punk bands and big deal sculptors here with me!"
If you want to see some strange scenes and don't mind spending 3 hours at it, go ahead. If you expect art or something of significance, you will either be sorely disappointed or perhaps you'll be snowed like the most critics and will believe you saw just that.
Matthew Barney's Cremaster 3 is simply brilliant. This film is one of
the most inspirational works of art i've ever seen. Barney has created
one of the most visually stunning films ever. Because it was shot in
24p - a video mode that shoots at the same frames per sec as film -
Cremaster 3 has an incredibly unique look to it. Anyone can appreciate
this movie as a work of film art, but to be fully respected one must be
able to comprehend the meaning behind the film.
Before viewing Cremaster 3 it is recommended that you familiarize yourself with Celtic and Masonic symbols/rituals/myths - as these are dominant themes throughout the film. Also, it helps to be familiar with the other films in the cycle and know a bit about the history of the construction of the Chrysler building. These concepts are all referenced in the film and may be hard to grasp if you are not familiar. Many people criticize Barney's work because they claim it's a meaningless 3 hour movie with obscure symbolism. It is not. It just takes a lot of knowledge in the subject to fully comprehend.
Altogether, it is incredible that Barney can tell such a story strictly through the use of visuals, symbolism, and ambient music - there is absolutely no dialogue for all 3 hours and 5 minutes. The whole film is just beautiful and is recommended for anyone who can appreciate film as art.
"Cremaster 3" does not merit analysis because it does not even merit being called a film. It's a series of deliberately cryptic, bizarre imagery and nothing more. It tries to make some artistic statement through its lack of dialogue but succeeds only in rendering its sequences redundant and insultingly boring. People who think crap like this is art fail to realize that stringing together a bunch of unrelated images is no difficult task. Making a coherent, intelligent film, however, is difficult. This director has no talent so he took the easy way out. I choose not to rate "Cremaster 3" because to do so would validate its status as actual filmmaking. I refuse to acknowledge it even exists in the media of film.
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