Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Drawing Restraint 9 (2006)

This is my first experience with the work of Matthew Barney, having not seen any of the Cremaster films. I think I'd like to change that as soon as possible. Stately, strange and hypnotic, this moody slab of avant-garde goodness holds the interest even as its intent remains elusive. The latter quality, I think, is rather the point. If anything, it's a film that is concerned foremost with the oddity of ritualism. The opening sequence shows a Japanese woman going through an elaborate process of wrapping a gift, to the point where the process is as important as the end result, and much of the stylized behavior in the film proper that follows adheres to that same concept. The whalers' painstaking machinations with the tub of Vaseline on deck or the preparations for the 'marriage' ceremony of Bjork and Barney seem inscrutable to the outside observer, movements with little discernable purpose, but by contrasting these faux rituals with a genuine Japanese tea ceremony, Barney gets at the larger idea that all rituals and ceremonies are bizarre at their core. The whole thing has the rigor of a Noh drama, which is pointed up by the use of hayashi instrumentation on the soundtrack. This is a very rhythmic film, attuned to the speed and sycopation of things, and the soundtrack does a fantastic job of bringing this out. The opening sequence involving a parade and a surfeit of foot-tapping gives the film a jolt of energy upon which it can coast for a while; similarly, the brilliantly frazzled Bjork song that plays on the soundtrack during the final sequence is a perfect complement to the outre imagery used to demonstrate Barney and Bjork, um, consumating the marriage in a very offbeat way. There's other stuff going on here as well (that final sequence is also textbook Hegel, if I remember Hegel correctly), enough that Barney's film never bores. Bring on Cremaster in my opinion.

Grade: B


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home