I have just spent three hours looking at phallic symbols and I am not happy about this. CREMASTER 3 is the last film to be released in Matthew Barney's five-part epic series. You know you're dealing with high-concept filmmaking when they shoot the episodes out of order, right?A man walks around a skyscraper. A half-dozen cars crash into one another, demolition-derby style, in the lobby downstairs. The man fills an elevator with mud. A woman smashes potatoes with her shoes. A bartender makes a gigantic mess in the bar while trying to serve drinks. Horses run around a racetrack. Giant streamers fly out of the windows of the phallic-symbol skyscraper. Dancing girls show up. The hardcore band Agnostic Front performs. (I swear I'm not making this up.) The end credits reveal that a certain actor played the role of "Gary Gilmore"--as in the infamous '70s spree-killer, I presume--and I'm not embarrassed to admit that I have no idea which character that was supposed to be in the film. Did I mention there's no dialogue?
I'm sure Matthew Barney is a talented man, but I'm also sure he shouldn't be making films. He does have an eye for color and composition. He's capable of "striking" imagery--but how hard is it to be striking when you're splashing primary colors all over the place? This film is unrelentingly garish and, in the aesthetic sense of the term, tasteless--it's a Jeff Koons installation come to life. It's also intellectually empty, just a lot of softboiled "transgression"; Barney seems to get a kick out of smashing and/or making an ungodly mess out of expensive objects. (During a lot of scenes, all I could think about was how much time it must have taken to clean up the set afterward.) Despite the profusion of all those goddamn phallic symbols all over the place, CREMASTER 3 is at bottom just your average psychosexual postmodern bullshit. This kind of pseudo-Freudianism was a bad joke fifty years ago.Some people are praising this movie as a bold exploration of gender identity. You could say the same for the Village People.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Edinburgh Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Edinburgh Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.