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The Cremaster Cycle
15The Cremaster Cycle (2003)

updated 06 October 2003
reviewer's rating
4 out of 5
Reviewed by Jamie Russell


Director
Matthew Barney
Writer
Matthew Barney
Stars
Matthew Barney
Norman Mailer
Ursula Andress
Marti Domination
Aimee Mullins
Richard Serra
Length
403 minutes
Distributor
Palm Pictures
Cinema
17 October 2003
Country
USA
Genre
Drama


Owing more to art installations than arthouse cinema, Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle is a series of surreal forays into the realms of myth, sex, and contemporary culture. It also requires an explanation booklet the size of the Encyclopaedia Britannica in order to make any sense.

Rich in astoundingly imaginative sequences, the dialogue-lite films (numbered 1 to 5, but shot out of chronological order between 1994 and 2002) are likely to scare off most mainstream cinemagoers with their epic scope and self-consciously arty feel And yet they're weird enough to be worth persevering with.

Cremaster 1 (46 mins, PG, 1995) follows the adventures of a woman dressed in stockings and suspenders, hiding under a dining table in an airship cabin. Below her, a Busby Berkeley-style musical number is taking place on an indoor American football pitch.

Cremaster 2 (79 mins, 18, 1999) focuses on executed American murderer Gary Gilmore (Barney), who sits in a strange, womb-like car in a Utah gas station.

Cremaster 3 (182 mins, 15, 2002) is the weirdest of the quintet, a strange and exotic film about New York's Chrysler Building, where Gilmore's body has been laid to rest. Turned into a woman, Gilmore's corpse is placed inside a Chrysler car that's smashed into a single cube of metal, then force-fed into the mouth of a character (Barney again) strapped to a dentist's chair at the top of the building.

Cremaster 4 (42 mins, 12A, 1994) features colour-coded motorcycle racing around the Isle of Man.

Cremaster 5 (54 mins, 12A, 1997) is a lavish opera performed by the Budapest Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra, starring Ursula Andress.

Dense and impenetrable, this remarkable work is also astoundingly provocative. The primary theme is sexual difference ('cremaster' is the name of the muscle that attaches the scrotum to the groin), but around this Barney weaves a mythic, self-contained universe that riffs on biology, cinema, architecture and American history with an astounding certainty of purpose.

Imagine the offspring of David Lynch, JG Ballard and Damien Hirst - and you'll still only be halfway there.

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