Cremaster 3

How do you conclude a cycle of art films as infamous as that of Cremaster? With the most opulent and lavish one of all, of course. Matthew Barney’s Cremaster 3 is three hours of visual insanity, complete with an Irish giant, prohibition-era pubs, foot-potato cutting, the Chrysler Building, a showdown between hardcore bands Agnostic Front vs Murphy’s Law, and plenty of classic American cars getting destroyed, of course- a Barney motif if there ever was one.

A pink bagpipe highlander crawling around the Guggenheim, an amputee walking around in glass boots, Saratoga Springs horse races, and lots of crazy Masonic imagery… these are a few more of our favorite Cremaster things. What it all adds up to is for you to figure out, though there is a definite narrative thread weaving it all together that has to do with the Irish and the birth of NYC’s skyline.

Beyond the obvious pot shots one can take at anything this epic and abstract, Barney deserves credit for using his rich-person-funded film budget well; sure, it’s self-indulgent, but it’s beautifully self-indulgent, with a real eye for design and imagery that is not easily forgotten. Barney has a grasp of narrative too many experimental filmmakers lack, and Cremaster 3, despite it’s length, is actually the most engaging of the five films in this cycle.

It also features the best use of music and sound design, an element Barney went on to explore even more successfully in pieces like River of Fundament– though here, the sound is key in propelling the narrative forward. From its oddball opening number, which sounds like it’s being sung by Mork from Ork, to its dramatic finale, the soundscape of Cremaster 3 demands notice. In both sound and image, Barney makes a compelling case for why this kind of film needs to be made. Thankfully, he knows enough rich people to make it so.

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