Reviews and notes
is the culmination of the entire Cremaster Cycle
. It demonstrates the formidable film-making skills Matthew Barney has acquired over the making of his previous four movies, beginning in 1994 with Cremaster 4
, and draws all of those works together in an ambitious three-hour epic. Combining elements from genres such as horror, the gangster movie and musicals, this film acknowledges the prolific growth of ideas in the sequence that occurred over the decade of their making.
As in all of the Cremaster
movies, there are unforgettable set pieces - the dark, violent, demolition derby scenes in the lobby of the Chrysler Building (where most of the film takes place); the Cloud Club bar moulded from Vaseline and its kinetic barman; the apocalyptic flayed horses racing in Saratoga; and the Architect constructing giant steel Masonic pillars in his skyscraper office.
There is also, however, a tight storyline involving the apprentice, his Irish-American Masonic masters and his consort. The more orthodox narrative template that CREMASTER 3
follows holds the film together over its three-hour odyssey, although it also grants Barney the freedom to explore tangents and develop non-linear sequences. In one such scene, a lift shaft is converted into a harp and wind organ which is then played by the Cloud Club maitre d, singing a song in Irish on the subject of 'the vertical field', arguing that 'geometry yields judgement'.
The Masonic imagery running through CREMASTER 3
is apt. The rituals, codes and symbolic landscape of freemasonry perfectly mirror the arcanem hieroglyphic world of Barney's film cycle. The invisible social networks we associate with the masons also encourage us to construct a broader social reading of the Cremaster
films where myths, ideas and biological imperatives are as influential as the overt acts of politicians. Most importantly the Masonic allusions draw us back to the theme of making. The choice of American artist Richard Serra to play the architect reminds us of the wider sculptural project of the Cremaster
cycle. Serra's death at the hands of Barney is also a tongue-in-cheek oedipal acknowledgement of his own artistic ambitions and, on a grander scale, the theme of making lies behind the whole function of the cremaster muscle, differentiating sexuality and controlling the release of the testicles.
Building on this theme of sexual differentiation, it is appropriate that in this final CREMASTER
film Barney should discover a perfect alter ego in the form of model and athlete Aimee Mullins. Adopting a series of prosthetic guises, she becomes the differentiated female side of his character and, in one of the most stunning scenes, Barney and Mullins (as an Egyptian warrior-cheetah-woman) confront each other in a mid-air battle. The scene occurs in the dreamlike sequence towards the end of the film which is titled The Order
. Using the Guggenheim's spiral staircase like the rising levels of a videogame, this section burns with energy, a raw baroque-punk rush of action and images. It's Barney's celebration and farewell to the cycle, a whirling updraft that draws together all of the themes and motifs of the series in one ecstatic burst before its dramatic conclusion. The joy of making the film is most evident here but it permeates all of CREMASTER 3
, an it's this enthusiasm and Barney's consummate skill that propel us through this epic, eccentric story.
- Francis McKee, Sight And Sound, March 2004.
Weblink: Review by Jeremy Heilman, Movie Martyr.com
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