DRAWING RESTRAINT 9

NR
Reviews

Drawing Restraint 9 is probably artist Matthew Barney's most accessible film, but that still doesn't make much of it explicable to the layman. Here, Barney's real-life inamorata, Björk, made up like middle-period Elizabeth Taylor and iconically sitting on the prow of a boat like Garbo in Queen Christina, meets a magisterially bearded Barney aboard a huge Japanese whaling vessel, the Nisshin Maru. She is bathed by silent minions, while he is shaved, and then dressed in Barney's hideous approximations in fur of traditional Japanese bridal kimonos. They commingle on the strangest of wedding nights in a real Liebestod, while liquid vaseline seeps menacingly through the walls.

This lengthy, methodically paced work opens with a demonstration of elaborate origami-like gift-wrapping, the formal ritualism of which perfectly matches Barney's aesthetic. There are other extended scenes of the ship's chefs preparing a cryptically shaped gelatinous dish for the crew's consumption, while, aboveboard, a huge mold of what appears to be petroleum jelly, referred to as "The Field," slowly coagulates. A sage-like character is brought on to tell the story of the ship in the most verbose portion of this largely silent movie, while Björk's keening voice and music is evocatively heard on the soundtrack. Her aural contributions add both warmth and lyricism to Barney's typically freeze-dried concept.

However enigmatic this all might be, there is no denying that Barney has assembled some rivetingly beautiful images: a cadre of female pearl divers wafting through smoky water, the elaborate ceremonial procession which precedes the Nisshin Maru's launching. You are lulled into a hypnotically rapt state watching the movie, until Barney blows it through the jejune grotesquerie of his sickening final encounter with Björk, which makes one wonder, "Are they really, literally, eating each other?"

-David Noh