Drawing Restraint 9

It's been a while since something truly bizarre made it to the big screen.  The two most recent examples were the underground Georges Bataille's Story of the Eye and Cremaster 3.  The latter was part of a five movie series by Matthew Barney, and Drawing Restraint 9 happens to be by Barney also.  Drawing Restraint 9 is part of a twelve part art installation series, and 9 is the only filmed portion.  It is just as weird, random, unintelligible and beautiful as Cremaster 3 was, and marks the first collaboration between Barney and his wife Bjork.  Bjork (Dancer in the Dark, Pret A Porter) is an esoteric singer with a penchant for the unusual, and this collaboration between the duo is every bit as strange as one would expect or want.

The problem with Drawing Restraint 9 is that it feels too self-important and pretentious.  Barney is trying to convey his grand message of Situation, Condition, and Production.  This is from the website, not from the movie.  It's hard getting anything out of the movie given there are probably ten lines of dialogue.  Bjork composed some new songs for the soundtrack, which sound, well, like Bjork songs.  People either like her or think she's insane.  Some people like her and think she's insane.  Bjork makes compelling music, but her songs here are a bit too scattered.  In an interesting move, she often incorporates ambient sounds into the beat, like a man stamping papers.

There is no plot for Drawing Restraint 9.  In Japan, a procession of dancing Japanese escort a tanker of petroleum jelly onto a whaling ship.  The crew puts the jelly into a mold, where it settles and cools.  Intercut are the "occidental tourists" (Barney and Bjork) board the ship, get changed into traditional Japanese dress, and participate in a tea ceremony.  As the journey progresses, the mold is removed and the ship begins to leak.  The tourists begin their own journey together, embracing and using knives to...well...yeah.  It's incredibly difficult to describe what Barney is showing on screen.  Part of this is because the imagery is so odd.  The other part is that Barney wants to work in a visual medium, and putting a description of it on paper does it no justice.

So should people go out to watch Drawing Restraint 9?  It's hard to say.  The movie does raise a number of interesting questions.  Is this film, or is it art?  Or, does film itself qualify as art?  Does art still work is nobody knows what the heck Barney is trying to say?  Drawing Restraint 9 is definitely not boring, although the majority of people will find it too far "out there."  It is definitely a beautiful moving to look at, alternating between serenely peaceful, especially in many of the beginning shots, to grotesque.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
2 hours, 15 minutes, English, Japanese, and Icelandic with English subtitles, Not Rated but contains minor nudity and some really weird art "violence," most likely an R

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