Reviews and notes
(1995), the second film to be shot in the Cremaster Cycle
, is the most distilled expression of Matthew Barney's vision. It's also the most exuberant, the sexiest and the most playful movie in the five-film series. Drawing on the sharp styles of the great Hollywood musicals, Barney's large scale choreographed sequences are governed by the spirit of Busby Berkeley. Jonathan Bepler's music too is impeccable, evoking a more innocent age, and a lost version of America that is now mostly defined through the studio musical spectaculars of the 1930s.
Filmed in the Bronco Stadium in Boise, Idaho (the hometown of former quarterback Barney) - CREMASTER 1
displays a more overt autobiographical element than the cycle's other instalments. The sense of childhood recalled is underlined by the main character, Goodyear, who spends the duration of the piece playing under a table shrouded, tentlike, by the tablecloth. This evocation of shielded youthful innocence, however, is balanced by more knowing acknowledgements of sexuality. Goodyear is played by the legendary dominatrix Marti Domination, dressed in silk underwear, high heels, stockings and suspenders. For much of the film she is perched awkwardly just under the surface of the table on a small platform from which she must pursue the challenging task of stealing grapes from the world above. There are echoes here of earlier artworks by Barney, his "Drawing Restraint" series, in particular, where the act of drawing is rendered physically more difficult in the belief than obstacles stimulate creativity.
The reference to drawing is only one of many allusions to art. From the introductory shots in which the camera flies over the blue football pitch lined at regular intervals by white field markings through to the swirling mathematics of the choreographed scenes, the film gives primacy to form, colour and graphic systems, with images that sweep through the recent history of contemporary American art, from Barnett Newman to conceptualism. The pace of the early sequences, in which Goodyear struggles to acquire the grapes, is at times glacial. When she succeeds, though, the film explodes in waves of dance as her "drawings" are enacted by a group of glamorous female dancers in the stadium (CREMASTER 1
is the fullest expression of Barney's fascination with choreography, although dance figures as a primal language throughout the cycle). The lines that emerge point to Barney's larger concern in the Cremaster Cycle
, tracing a narrative arc from the moment of potential through to the expression of differentiation. Surreally preoccupied with latent manhood and celebrating beginnings, CREMASTER 1
is Barney's Tristram Shandy
, his Portrait of the Artist as a Young Quarterback
- Francis McKee, Sight and Sound, December 2003.
For an overview of The Cremaster Cycle
as a whole and a link to the official website, click here
Weblink: Review by Jeremy Heilman, Movie Martyr.com
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