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Matthew Barney: No Restraint [Import]
From 1995 to 2002 avant-garde artist Matthew Barney wrote directed and starred in the Cremaster Cycle five offbeat films featuring unusual situations and bizarre characters. Since 1987 he has also been working on the Drawing Restraint series in which he uses physical weights and barriers to make the creation of his art more difficult--and more rewarding in the end. In 2005 he released DRAWING RESTRAINT 9 a film about a man (Barney) and a woman (Bj rk Barney's real-life wife) who board a Japanese whaling ship and participate in some strange rituals and ceremonies involving a tank filling up with 45000 pounds of petroleum jelly. Director Alison Chernick documents the making of DRAWING RESTRAINT 9 in MATTHEW BARNEY: NO RESTRAINT mixing in clips from the film behind-the-scenes interviews and home-movie footage of Barney playing high-school football. She also examines Barney's entire career speaking with gallery owner Barbara Gladstone New York Times art critic Michael Kimmelman Guggenheim curator Nancy Spector and Yuko Hasegawa chief curator of the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa Japan which presented a major exhibition on the Drawing Restraint series including a screening of the film in the summer of 2005. It is not essential to have seen DRAWING RESTRAINT 9 before seeing MATTHEW BARNEY: NO RESTRAINT which is more than just a making-of documentary; it's about the creative process itself. The ethereal music is provided by Bj rk and Mayumi Miyata.System Requirements:Running Time: 71 Mins.Format: DVD MOVIE Genre: DOCUMENTARIES/MISC. Rating: NR UPC: 796019801669 Manufacturer No: 80166
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Barney's sculptures and his video installations are a chunky milkshake of surrealism, egoism, metaphor, vanity, pretension, imagination, cliches both unintentional and subverted, and often lots and lots of goo. He spends a lot of time reflecting on Gary Gilmore and the mechanisms of the scrotum, and his films have featured such aged, awesome monuments as the Utah salt flats, the Chrysler Building and Norman Mailer (in the role of Houdini). Barney, too, often turns up, either dancing or climbing or crawling or facing the odd ordeal of having live airborne doves connected by strings to his penis.
There's almost no way to describe his work without sounding tongue-in-cheek to some degree, but on many levels I really like it. His languid, usually glacial pace, however, is no laughing matter. Even as someone who checks it all out, I've suspected the long running times have something to with the possibility that, if things moved any faster, these installations would be a lot harder to take seriously; they might be indistinguishable from some of the videos by underground bands that aired after 1 a.m. on MTV during the mid-1980s.
"No Restraint" is both a brief history of Barney and a look at his latest work, "Drawing Restraint 9." We get a good look at his early pieces -- workout equipment encased in Vaseline; taped footage of the former college football star creating art while being pulled away from his work by bunjee cords -- as well as glimpses of his Cremaster series. But most of the movie concerns the making of "9" in Japan and on a whaling ship. Much petroleum jelly is harmed during the making of this film.
If you're interested in Barney, you'll probably be interested in this. But as I watched it I wished the filmmakers had taken a different approach. Their style, like Barney's, is clean and very bright and paced on the draggy side. I would've liked to have seen this documentary go in the opposite direction and present its subject with a little more inventiveness and energy, something that didn't look so much like an electronic press kit. As it is, "No Restraint" is informative but it lacks that engaging, atypical hook or approach that can make a film like this really sing.