Cremaster 3

Cremaster 3 marks the end of artist Matthew Barney's five film Cremaster Cycle (go figure), beginning with Cremaster 4 (1994), Cremaster 1 (1995), Cremaster 5 (1997), and Cremaster 2 (1999). It is extremely difficult to judge this as a film, because, while all films may be considered art, the Cremaster Cycle may be too artsy even for the art house. There is one line of dialogue, and no conventional narrative. The film is full of Celtic, and Masonic history and imagery. One almost needs an explanation of every act within the film to be able to understand what Barney is trying to say. There is a lot of meaning one can glean from all the bizarre happenings on screen with a good primer. That being said, while Cremaster 3 eschews any traditional form of movie storytelling, it is hard to not watch. Even with its three-hour running time, Barney's visuals are compelling and keep the viewer's eyes riveted on the screen.

The movie is in two parts, separated by an intermission. The first details the construction of the Chrysler Building. In the lobby, a bunch of Chrysler Crown Imperials smash a Chrysler Imperial New Yorker into successively smaller pieces. The Entered Apprentice (Barney) fills an elevator with cement, then climbs the shaft heading towards the top of the tower, where Hiram Abiff (Richard Serra) is constructing two more towers. Before he gets there he stops at a bar and has a bizarre encounter with a bartender, as well as a woman (Aimee Mullins) who is cutting potatoes with her feet. Make sense? No.

After the interlude, the scene shifts to the Guggenheim Museum, where the Entered Apprentice, now dressed in pink, climbs the levels of the Guggenheim. Each level represents one of the Cremaster Cycle. How? Not sure. Still, he ascends the five levels of The Order. Now, instead of a handyman, he is a guy in a pink kilt with a handkerchief in his mouth. First, he comes upon a Rockettes-like chorus line. On his way up, he encounters a statue, a woman who turns into a cat-like creature (Mullins again), two punk bands (played by Agnostic Front and Murphy's Law), and Serra, throwing some gelatinous substance against a wall. More strange imagery, full of meaning to a select few.

This is what hampers Cremaster 3. Because one needs a decent knowledge of what Barney is trying to convey, Cremaster 3 comes off as pretentious. It is nice when more knowledge of something allows a film to make more sense, but watching Barney's film feels like nothing more than a series of bizarre images. And whether it was intentional or not, the film has a stifling quality about it. A theme of being crushed seems to surface often. Near the beginning, an emaciated corpse claws her way out of the ground. The Crown Imperials Crush the New Yorker into a tiny piece of metal. Barney himself slowly fills the elevator, and a mosh pit forms around him as he stands between the bands. Bottom line? It's all very weird, but very watchable.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
3 hours, 2 minutes, Not Rated but contains minor nudity and one really nasty thing, probably an R or maybe NC-17.

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