|Index||7 reviews in total|
I liked this Cremaster movie the best. First of all, it's nice and short. Second, the visual imagery is simple, yet interesting, not the overkill of Cremaster 3. Lastly, it's probably the most "fun" of the Cremaster films to watch (if you can describe any of them as fun). There's no plot, of course, and it's extremely pretentious, but it held my attention for all 42 minutes, and I'd recommend it as a stand-alone art film. 8 out of 10.
Matthew Barney's "Cremaster 4" is an excellent example of what can be achieved in the area of video art. "Cremaster 4" contains no verbal dialogue, but exists purely in the visual (with audio accompaniment). While not made with the budget and means of perhaps Barney's later "Cremaster 3," "Cremaster 4" is a successful enveiling of various processes that reference issues of gender and masculinity, sports, and Barney's own mythology/ iconography. I believe what makes Barney's work so significant is his dealing with issues from contemporary American culture that artists previously either rejected or deemed unworthy as subject material. While the Cremaster cycle of movies most directly deals with masculinity (the cremaster is found in the scrotum and is the muscle which is responsible for raising and lowering the testicles), Barney also manages to weave in his own commentary on sports (he played football at Yale), video games (see the Guggenheim sequence in "Cremaster 3"; it's self-explanatory), and gender ambiguity. Barney has a keen eye for striking images. The music provided by Jonathan Bepler suits Barney's films very well. If you like evocative images, cryptic sequences of events, and can tolerate the occasionally disturbing, I highly recommend "Cremaster 4."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Cremaster 4" is a 42-minute film by American movie maker Matthew Barney. Do not be fooled by the title, this is the first installment of his Cremaster series. I guess he already knew that more would follow and that is why he chose this title to plays with the audience's minds just like he also attempts with his film here. But it is all very clumsy. This is definitely among the weaker avant-garde films I have seen. I am definitely not a fan of the genre and I guess looking at this one here, there is a very good reason why experimentalism is pretty much almost dead by now and already was in the 1990s as well. Barney must have enjoyed his work though looking at how he made several sequels to this one here and they also became longer and longer. In my opinion, an experimental film must make up in other areas for the lack of a plot and only very few filmmakers manage to do that convincingly. One would be Bruce Conner. Judging from "Cremaster 4", Matt barney is certainly not one of these. This film would have been bearable at 10 minutes max. At over 40, it drags immensely and I do not recommend the watch at all. Thumbs down.
I don't know how well this - or the other four - work in a gallery,
surrounded by other paraphernalia of the art and a concept. I suppose,
the art is all in walking between objects and piecing together a
reflection that is directly related to the way they enabled you to pace
your mind. This is very much a work of art, and I have railed against
that in others of my posts, art in the sterile sense of a system that
solely exists to organize eccentricity. Dreary stuff.
But as a film? It has some flow and rhythm, but at the level where it's supposed to have sense - and I don't mean 'sense' as a substitute for desktop logic, the other sense that is life - all of it is puerile and self-important at best.
Please, let this not be just about maleness being swallowed by a mysterious womanhood (sea - tunnel - crawlspace filled with a doughy substance). Please, let the male drive not be represented by a mindless repetitive motor race. Reading a bit on the concept of these films, it seems to be that way.
I am willing to cut it some slack, hoping this was only the lowest level of a cosmology that is expanded in future installments.
But so far, stick with Talk to Her. This is all vaginal folds with none of that film's dance into soul.
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 4 is closest to the biological model and so sets the scene, suggesting the system's onward rush. There is a motorcycle race and a Candidate who is tap-dancing his way through the floor (weird? yes - but it is definitely art, not weird for weird's sake!)
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).
Glacial pacing and ridiculous mythopeia are more than compensated by the uniqueness of his vision, and the gutsiness of his approach. Well worthwhile for discerning viewers. Lovely music, great sets, but it's really a filmed document of his static art.
I'm seeing these in numeric order, which I must assume was some sort of
intent. So far, the first was important and effective. It mattered to
me. The second was overloaded with storysense that showed flat
stupidity. The third was similar but overloaded with random symbols.
Along the way, I saw "Drawing Restraint" and it was every bit as good
as number 1.
The advantage of this is that the symbols are few, the symbolic structures simple and obvious, the posturing plain. Its still uninteresting. He's still not a deep man unless he thinks in images, environments rather than objects.
In this case, there's a race, an underground vagina and a sterile terminus for both.
Ted's Evaluation -- 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.
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