"(NR) Two stars
Earlier this year, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt gave us all a lesson in what money can buy when they virtually purchased a third world country, Namibia, hiring its army to seal the borders from prying reporters and taking over its best hospital so that Angelina could give birth in relative privacy. The glamorous couple’s exercise in celebrity privilege came to mind while watching Drawing Restraint 9, a feature-length film by international art scene duo Matthew Barney and Bjork.
Barney has done an extraordinary job of managing to parlay his fetish for petroleum jelly into enormous amounts of financial backing so that he can make long, cryptic and relentlessly humorless films such as his endless Cremaster Cycle. You have to hand it to Barney. To put the most charitable face on it, he has determinedly set about creating an elaborately personal visual code that he has then put on film without the least concern for such conventions as narrative, character or, for that matter, audience. Watching a Barney film is like having a dream – not a bad dream, necessarily, just the kind of dream that makes you wake up feeling a little wearier than when you went to bed.
For those who find significance in trying to decipher the symbolic bread crumbs artists like Barney scatter on the way to the next patron with a fat pocketbook, a movie like Drawing Restraint 9 may be catnip. For the rest of us, though, this work (and work is what it is) looks like what happens when a couple of rich eccentrics rent a Japanese whaling ship.
Here is what happens: Barney and Bjork set the crew to trying to contain what looks like several tons of petroleum jelly and a prodigious whale turd. Meanwhile, below decks, Barney and Bjork are suited up in some pretty outlandish Shinto marriage garb, get treated to a tea ceremony that seems to involve said whale poop, and then proceed to cut each other up with some rather wicked super-sized sushi knives. The point of this disemboweling appears to be so that B&B can shed their limbs and get back to their cetacean selves. It’s a wild way to spend your wedding night: Think In the Realm of the Senses meets Moby Dick. Makes you wonder what would have happened if they’d booked passage on a banana boat, or a coal barge.
The whole thing is pretty preposterous. And it’s over two hours long. The cinematography, though, is up to Barney’s usual high-priced standards. In addition to her affectless screen presence, Bjork contributes audible atmospherics.
Drawing Restraint 9 will only play here through Thursday night. Its producers say it will never be released on DVD or shown on television, so this may be your only chance to see it.