27 août 2006

Etrange Festival 2006

L'Etrange Festival
August 30 / Sept 12 2006 - Paris - Official Website


  • Avida (2006/Delépine/Kervern/France)
  • Imprint (2006/Miike/Japan)
  • Matthew Barney : No Restraint (2006/Chernick/USA) DOC
  • Next Door (2005/Sletaune/Norway/Denmark/Sweden)
  • Rally 444 (2006/Sanchez/France)
  • Re-Cycle (2005/Pang/HK/Thailand)
  • Neighborhood Watch (2005/Whifler/USA)
  • Severance (2005/Smith/UK)
  • Brothers of the Head (2005/fulton/Pepe/UK)


  • The Holy Mountain (1973/Jodorowsky/Mexico)
  • Begotten (1991/Merhige/USA)
  • The Hawk is Dying (2006/Goldberger/USA)
  • The Great Yokai War (2005/Miike/Japan)


  • L'Age d'Or (1930/Buñuel/France)
  • Aussi loin que l'amour (1970/Rossif/France)
  • Babaouo (1998/Cusso-Ferrer/Spain)
  • Cinéma Dali (2004/Rovira/Spain/France) DOC
  • Destino (1946-2003/Monfery/France) anim SHORT
  • Impressions de la Haute Mongolie (1976/Dali/Montes-Baquer/Germany) DOC
  • Spellbound (1945/Hitchcock/USA)
  • Un Chien andalou (1928/Buñuel/France) SHORT

CARTE BLANCHE to Diamanda Galas

  • Persona (1966/Bergman/Sweden)
  • Bandit Queen / Phoolan Devi (1994/Kapur/India/UK)
  • Salo o le centoventi giornate di Sodoma (1975/Pasolini/Italy)
  • Sisters (1973/De Palma/USA)
  • The Act of seeing with one's own Eyes (1971/Brakhage/USA) SHORT
  • Les Yeux sans visage (1960/Franju/France)

CARTE BLANCHE to Paul Schrader

  • Brandy in the wilderness (1969/Kaye/USA)
  • Echoes of Silence (1964/Goldman/USA)
  • Lonesome Cowboys (1969/Morissey/Warhol/USA)
  • Scorpio Rising (1964/Anger/USA) SHORT
  • Serene Velocity (1970/Gehr/USA) SHORT
  • Wavelength (1967/Snow/USA/Canada) SHORT
  • Yakuza (1974/Pollack/Japan/USA)
  • Yukoku (1965/Mishima/domoto/Japan) SHORT


  • Poor White Trash (1957/Daniels/USA)
  • Prime Cut (1972/Ritchie/USA)
  • Death Trap / Eaten Alive (1977/Hooper/USA)
  • Mudhoney (1965/Meyer/USA)
  • Motel Hell (1980/Connor/USA)


  • Yume no naka e / Comme dans un rêve (2005/Sion/Japan)
  • Noriko no Shokutaku / Noriko's Dinner Table (2005/Sion/Japan)
  • Kimyo na sakasu / Strange Circus (2005/Sion/Japan)
  • Jisatsu saakuru / Jisatsu Circle (2001/Sion/Japan)


  • Seijû gakuen / School of the Holy Beast (1974/Suzuki/Japan)
  • Kyôfu joshikôkô: bôkô rinchi kyôshitsu (1973/Suzuki/Japan)
  • Furyô anego den: Inoshika Ochô / Sex and Fury (1973/Suzuki/Japan)
  • Shôrinji kenpô / The Killing Machine (1975/Suzuki/Japan)
  • Dabide no hoshi: bishoujo-gari / Star of David: Beauty Hunting (1979/Suzuki/Japan)


Recommendations and hints welcomed! Thanks

21 août 2006

Critical Fallacy 1 : Deception

[EDITED : 8-24-2006]

"The film writing I have in mind would be essayistic, but it would have a solid understructure of evidence. It would be conceptually bold and bristling with subtly defended opinions. Its judgments would be nuanced in optimal awareness of the history of cinema, its economics and technology as well as its auteurs. Add a graceful writing style leavened with humour and purged of vainglorious anecdotes. We might then have criticism in a broader sense than we now usually find it, and something worthy of the art we love."
Against Insight by David Bordwell at cinema scope

Bordwell again, but that's just to contextualize this post in the current debate around criticism meaningfulness. Film criticism gets discredited for the contradictory ratings, the inconsistent taste and the polarized opinions... while the plurality of point of views on the same film is what makes criticism richer and worthwhile. There are far more dangerous issues than the arguable critical stance.
Let's take a look at the logic flaws and other errors committed by critics who disregard the reality of the film reviewed or mock their readership for a good word or just to conceal the fact they didn't see/misunderstood the film. Sad is to find these errors in the print world, where the editor corrects and the standards of journalistic ethics should prevail. So that's why I wanted to dedicate this series of (objective) mistakes that are not due to divergence of opinions but caused by a conscious or unintentional corruption of content.

Critical Fallacy 1 : DECEPTION

The first one is an easy no-brainer. Plain deception by conscious or careless presentation of dubious facts. We're talking about blatant factual errors (mischaracterization, misrepresentation, unchecked facts...), half-truth (assumptions, speculation made evidence, partial memory...), exaggerations (slant, dramatization of the film flaws/merits...), anything that could be easily disproved by anyone watching the very film referred to in the review.

Andy Horbal called this flaw the "Cardinal Sin of Film Criticism" at No More Marriages! last month : "Thou shalt not make specific critiques based on erroneous information about the film in question."
And like him I'll rank it first on my list of fallacies. The critics gives their opinion on a film before any reader has seen it, so the least we can expect, aside from arguable taste compatibility, is to get a faithful description of the film and should they choose to base their judgment on factual evidences taken from the film, they'd better be accurate since we have to take everything written at face value. With first-hand access to unseen films, being paid to watch them carefully, critics have a duty to report accurately or not report at all. I think a good critic is one alert enough to realize when a blurry memory doesn't legitimize writing in one detail or even declining to comment on the entire film if viewing conditions obviously undermine the review's worth.

Andy cites Anthony Lane's liberties with the plot accounts in Inside Man and American Dreamz. I could cite Ebert on Altman's The Long Goodbye, distorting the succession of events. or Ray Bennett on Ferrara's Mary, mixing up 2 characters in one.

Andy Horbal says it better than me : "First, if there's really a problem with the film significant enough to warrant mention in a review, it's probably unnecessary to use an example that's less than 100% certain. (...) If there's any doubt about the veracity of the complaint it should be left out of the review."
"Critics traffic in opinions, and they are not beholden to anyone in this regard. But we do owe it to the filmmakers, to our readers, and to ourselves to make sure that our review is reconcilable with the film we're reviewing. (...) We put ourselves in a rhetorically indefensible position, and we undermine our credibility."

And whether the erroneous fact slipped in "by mistake" is irrelevant to this fallacy because a published critic is a journalist above all and bears a responsibility to everything is written in public and delivered to a large population as true fact. The writer, or the editor, or the publication owner are liable to deceptive content, shall double check their facts (like any good journalist should), proofread for approval and eventually are obligated to publish an erratum to correct a past mistake. So a misleading information is a deception whether the author is aware or not because the journalist is expected to specify truth as truth and guess as guess.

If a critic cannot even be trusted for basic reporting of facts, quoting reality, how could we trust judgments based on abstract evaluation like performances, aesthetics, politics...?

Did you read deceptive reviews recently? Please share with us.

Contributions, disputes, examples are encouraged as always.

12 août 2006

DR9 - part trois

Whaling Imagery - The Absent Whale

"No whales are captured or slaughtered in the story; on the contrary, after a series of rituals and transformations, two new whalelike animals are created and released into the ocean." (from press release)

The iconic water blow or tail flukes so popularly associated with the whales didn't find their place in the film. The presence of a real live whale would probably invite impassioned identification with the victim of the food chain process documented in the film. The only whale appearing in the entire film is a CGI model in the title sequence. Although blood is shed, ripped apart, the whale swims across the screen steadily, like a spaceship. A stylized torture where the whale doesn't suffer.

Barney will describe every step of the ancestral tradition of whaling from hunt, roaming for weeks out at sea, to retrieval of the blubber oil on the factory ship. Only that the entire process is not filmed with real whales and blood, but in a clean abstracted way, each sailor performing a dramatized act as if on a theatrical stage, every professional gesture applied to a symbolic model instead of the animal. And that's why we could speak of an "Avant Garde documentary" of sort. We can sense a de-personification of the whale there, turning it into an object, an idea, a concept. Whale is food. Hunt is a need. Tradition is noble. Such is the surfacing message of this "stylized propaganda commercial" for the Nisshin-Maru, but we'll see the subtlety of a multi-layered meaning later in detail. A latent critique of whaling and a critique of human relationship to natural resources springs from the subtext and this artistic (read : cryptic) posturing.

Throughout the rest of the film, the whale appears symbolized by other (lifeless) objects. Its evocative shape incarnated by foreign matter, or whale by-products standing in for a whale.

  • Initially only evoked orally in the prologue song. A fisherman sent a letter to General Macarthur in 1946 to thank the occupying powers for the removal of whaling moratorium to provide the starving post-war Japanese population with whale meat. The choice to feature this letter introduces upfront an ambivalent political situation involving both the USA and Japan around whaling policies and also setting a tricky historical context of this diplomatic relationship around WW2. 1946 is also when the International Whaling Commission was founded.
  • Whaling factory ship, Nisshin-Maru, is a steel allegory of the whale itself. The story of Jonas (Bible) or Pinocchio, trapped in the belly of the whale, like the Occidental Guests are inside the belly of the massive ship. It could be seen as well for a metaphor of the Japan island, alone in the middle of the ocean.
  • The mould of the Field Emblem is designed/carved as to show the characteristic tail flukes shape on one end of the petrolatum pool and the throat grooves (ventral pleats) at the other end, once the solidified jelly is unmolded. We get a brief glimpse of these features, a black outerskin (rubber?) with flukes and grooves, before it collapses.
    The outer envelope of the petrolatum slab is made of a different material, black and more resistant, which signifies the hard skin of the whale (epidermis/rubber) protecting the white flesh inside (blubber/petrolatum). Although Barney didn't show this special preparation in the film, nor does he show when the plastic spine is installed in the mid-section (before solidification) that will allow it to be pulled out by a crane without collapsing.
    Coincidentally the 3D Field Emblem extruded in a whale-sized pool of petrolatum roughly looks like the sea mammal in its general shape, with a long fat body and small flippers on each side.
  • This representation of the whale skin (blubber and epidermis) is again used in the ship kitchen where the cook prepares a dish made of a white jelly with a black and solid top crush, in the shape of the Field Emblem.
  • An oversized ambergris log drifts on the ocean. It is first discovered by the Japanese oyster fisherwomen to emphasize its connection with seashells and oysters (it looks made out of a conglomerate of shrimp casing and cement, which are the material later used on deck by the kids), and then captured with harpoon, to emphasize its reality of being an actual whale within this setting.
    Note : Ambergris is a fatty substance produced by the whale's stomach to facilitate evacuation of squid beaks and krill casing that are indigestible.
  • An astute connection (that I had missed) with pearl oyster is explained on the SFMoMA website :
    Like ambergris, the production of a pearl in oysters results as a defence mechanism against the presence of a foreign (indigestible) object inside the host living organism. A grain of sand in the case of the oyster. Both are digestive leftovers turning out to be a luxury asset, in perfume industry for ambergris, in jewellery for pearl. The digestive allegory of The Path (mouth-stomach-anus) suggested something creative can result from restraint in the stomach (productive state). What best evidence can you get than creating luxury from excrements? Barney finds in nature a proof of his theory initially developed around artistic restraint and human digestion.
  • In the dressing room, a Japanese screen separates Barney and Bjork, displaying an old ink painting of a traditional whale hunt. Reference to the artistic rendition of a noble tradition (village whaling opposed to industrial hunt) when the battle actually required courage to face the sea monster on a tiny boat. Maybe an adventurous era reminding us westerners of the fantastic story by Herman Melville, Moby Dick, when the relationship between man and whale wasn't depersonified.
  • Before the ambergris log is captured and dragged on-board, the crew seems to play a game on the upper deck to pass time... Sailors pull by a rope a huge black garbage bag across the deck and other men train to hit it on the move with traditional hand-propelled harpoons (again reference to ancient times when whaling was noble). Once the game is over they rip open the bag, and a small model of a ship is found in this symbolized stomach full of shrimp (krill is the food of whales), like if this "whale" had swallowed a whaling ship. Back to the Jonas/Pinocchio myth.
  • Blubber, fat matter of the whale skin, is symbolized by Barney's trademarked petroleum jelly, in the mould. Incidentally, when processed into oil, blubber can be burned in lamps and used in paints, soaps, cosmetics, and other products. So Barney's association of his familiar petroleum jelly element, with whale is not inappropriate. It issues a meaningful substitute and hints at the correlation with fossil organic fuel (exploitation of natural resources by the oil industry). His obsession with petroleum jelly thus makes sense and constitutes a valid critique/apologia (within his artistic research) of human dependence on oil by-products.
  • A dispassionate whale slaughter is symbolically performed by the ship crew on this lifeless ambergris log, once hauled on the top deck, with stylized, choreographed gestures. They first honor it by pouring sake all over it in a formal ceremony, and drinking a toast to its well respected sacrifice, because according to Shinto religion, all creatures are sacred and life can only be taken with the utter most deference. The old, sculptural, traditional flensing blades are used to bisect the solidified petrolatum, and extract the plastic spine from the crossbar (which really gives materiality/animality to this abstract chemical pool).
  • Meanwhile the proper slaughter is enacted by Bjork and Barney in the tea room, with graphic close-ups of flesh slicing by flensing knives. Like if man turned this violence onto himself. The whale is after all a mammal like us, and some believe an intelligent creature with complex social behaviour. To me this scene really holds the key to Barney's position on the whaling debate, as this S&M display of mutual mutilation bears a violent symbolic significance. We really get a disturbing feeling of (literally) hurting ourselves when whaling is translated this way.
  • Regarding whaling ban (IWC moratorium since 1986) : Industrial whaling only continues in Iceland, Japan and Norway today.
    USA (represented by Barney). The discovery of petroleum in Pennsylvania in the late 19th century was the beginning of the end of commercial whaling in the United States as kerosene, distilled from crude oil, replaced whale oil in lamps. Later, electricity gradually replaced oil lamps, and by the 1920's, the demand for whale oil had disappeared entirely. Only native population of Alaska exercise whaling rights, although only until 1996.
    Iceland (represented by Björk) left the IWC in 1991 and rejoined in 2002 to exploit the loophole allowing industrial whaling for scientific researches.
    Japan (host of the film). Whaling is an ancestral tradition as far as 12th century. Whale meat was a primary source of food in the couple decades of WW2 aftermath. Japan continues to exploit the IWC loophole for scientific researches, and kills over 500 whales per year.
  • The Nisshin-Maru factory ship bumped a Greenpeace boat in 1999, which is the event recalled by the ship host during the tea ceremony, with elliptical words. The ship collided with a Greenpeace boat again in 2005 and 2006 (after completion of the film, and after the captain's speech about how profoundly shocked his conscience was).
  • The oil leak from the boiler filling the tea room could be interpreted as an ironic overflow (of sea water) inside the ship (without actually sinking). It is also an allegory for gastric acid in the whale stomach that decomposes meat and transform it into nutriment (here into sea mammal hybrids).

Read also previous posts :

1 (Introduction)
2 (Drawing Restraint series)
4 (Field Emblem sequence choreography)

11 août 2006

DR9 - part deux

The Cremaster Cycle was more complex symbolically, dealing with gender, morphology, mythology, psychology.
By contrast, DR9 is rather simple. It develops a simple idea, under multiple approaches and various forms, the allegory of the muscle regeneration. The whaling tradition in Japan is only an excuse to illustrate this theory. Barney's commentary on the whaling controversy is minimal and the borrowing from Shinto traditions is incidental (yet pertinent to his concept), almost indifferent.

The artist is not an accurate historian and resorts to provocation using somebody else's social taboos. This performance functions like a surrealist collage, displacing objects from their usual place, or meanings from their usual subjects. Inversion of objects to cause confusion of senses, to generate a language free of ready-made prejudices. The action disguised with new clothes looks new and we can perceive it differently, where the essence devoid of sense takes precedence on the container. It's a simultaneous clash of concepts rather than an apparent linear history.

DR9 is not about what we see, but going beyond appearances, engages an abstract reflection on the creative condition of humanity. To create implies to destroy. Destruction implies starting over anew with a stronger base, a deeper experience.

Few notes on the directing concepts of the DR series from drawingrestraint.net :

  • 1 - Hypertrophy : The Athlete is the alchemist
  • 2 - The Athlete is the artist
  • 3 - Houdini and the body intelligence, The artist is the athlete
  • 4 - Formal Perversion and Autoerotica. Three phases of the Path : Situation, condition, production. The artist/Athlete is the masochist in the margin

The Path :

  • Situation (mouth) :
    Raw drive, undifferentiated sexual energy without discipline or direction. undifferentiated foetus sex organ. Hunger, indiscriminate consumption.
  • Condition (stomach) :
    visceral funnel. Condition disciplines the oral intake of Situation. Undifferentiated field of energy begins to take form. Condition functions like the stomach, systematically breaking down the bolus ingested by Situation, nourishing it and encouraging growth.
  • Production (anus) :
    Anal output of the path. Two-headed dumbbell (unit BOLUS). Potential to close the three-phase PATH, joining the mouth (Situation) with anus (Production), enabling a mediation on an endless loop between desire and discipline.

DR Project
Resistance as a prerequisite for development and vehicle for creativity. Barney understands that when you work against resistance, muscular growth takes place in the body. The creation of obstacles that would make the act of drawing a physical challenge.

  • DR1(1987) - artiste strapped to the thighs with an elastic band to restrain mobility during drawing
  • DR2 (1988) - variation on DR1
    meditation on the desire to make a mark, and the discipline imposed on that.
  • DR3 (1988) - Weightlifter : Olympic barbell cast in petroleum wax/jelly. First piece in the series that rendered a character of refusal. Beginning of a more narrative approach to the DR project.
  • DR4 (1988) - Blocking sled (trains the legs and the explosive strength of an athlete) and petroleum wax plates pushed through a corridor in attempt to draw a linear drawing on the floor.
  • DR5 (1989) - Only piece in the series performed for an audience.
    Ceramic skeet thrower making marks on the wall. Drawing on the wall around the marks strapped to an elastic band.
  • DR6 (1989) - Self portrait drawn on the ceiling by jumping on a trampoline.
  • DR7 (1993) - video
    Render the character of refusal that emerged in DR3. Satyrs (ram & ewe) wrestle while attempting to draw a ram horn in the condensation of the moon roof with the tip of the ram's horn. Presumption punished by flaying.
  • DR8 (2003)
    Field emblem: "pill-shaped body with a superimposed rectilinear bar positioned over its central axis. The field represents self-imposed resistance placed upon an organic body."
    Inversion of the proposal, the metaphorical bar was removed temporarily from the body, allowing for an eroticism that the system hadn't granted itself before. stored energy is sacrificed for eroticism and the body begins to atrophy.
  • DR9 (2005) "begins with a procession at a Japanese oil refinery, where a tanker truck loaded with hot petroleum jelly is paraded from the factory gates down to the local harbour. The tanker is led by oxen, horses, deer, and a wild boar and is flanked by hundreds of Japanese revellers as it arrives abreast an enormous factory ship. The hot petroleum jelly has been delivered to the ship in port, where it is pumped into a massive, open mold on the aft deck. The ship departs for the Antarctic, and over weeks the mass of petroleum jelly cools. The cured surface of the jelly casting becomes a provocative reflection of the changing conditions of the seas. Whale processing methods and tools are used to facilitate the creation of this sculpture. The story culminates with the de-moulding of the sculpture as the ship reaches the Southern Ocean, with backdrop of luminous icebergs.The evolution of the petroleum jelly sculpture on the processing deck is mirrored by a love story which is unfolding on the second deck of the factory ship. The strict choreography of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony is the backdrop for a courtship of two western guests who are falling in love as they are served green tea by the ship's host. As the voyage ensues, the tea room itself becomes the tea bowl, as it slowly fills up with warm fluid. The western guests become enveloped in the fluid and undergo a mysterious transformation." (press notes from the website)
  • DR10 (2005) - variation of DR6 - performed in Japan.
    Additional marks added with a bamboo pole while climbing on a column. Drawing : visualization of the DR9 narrative, superimposed over the bodies of two whales.
  • DR11 (2005) - climbing on three walls at the exhibition gallery (Japan) to draw the three phases of the PATH.
  • DR12 (2005) - site specific performance in Seoul Korea.
    climbing of the wall of the gallery while drawing the 3 phases of the PATH.
  • DR13 (?) n/a
  • DR14 (2006) - site specific performance at SFMoMA. Climbing and drawing dressed as General MacArthur.

Read also the other posts on DR9 :
- 1 (Introduction)
- 3 (Whaling Imagery)
- 4 (Field Emblem sequence choreography)

03 août 2006

Drawing Restraint 9 (2005/Barney)

DR9 : Drawing Restraint 9 (2005/Matthew Barney/USA/Japan) +++

Opening Sequence
(pre-credit prolog) : Fade from black. Shape of an eye in a melon-sized fossile rock. The rock is shaking, a transparent fluid leaks out to the floor. Frame widens showing the stone stored under layers of papers. This is an abstract symbolic reminder of the subterranean elevating tracking shot through layers of earth in the opening of Cremaster 3.
-- Giftwarpping sequence, to send a prehistoric krill fossile to General MacArthur to thank his decision to end the anti-whaling moratorium, accompanied by the sung letter wrote on 13 july 1946.

(CGI Credits) : a CGI whale is sliced in the sea in a stylized fashion. Flensing knife-shapped letters assemble the words : Drawing Restraint 9.
-- Cut to a flyover shot over Nagasaki waterfront. Then a construction site on the beach where the mold for a petroleum jelly pier (holographic entry point) is built to the image of a land flensing ramp of ancestral whaling tradition.

Avant Garde cinema
Avant Garde cinema is less accessible immediately, but takes us closer to the unspoiled essence of an artist's mind.
AG cinema is less "movies" than Conceptual Arts, channeling a certain reflexion on art, form and metaphisics. Which could be terribly alienating to the casual observer. This level of freedom of expression is never achieved within mainstream cinema, where the artistic vision of the auteur is always encumbered by plot points, continuity, plausibility and commercial interests.
Matthew Barney claims his formative inspiration from Chris Burden, Vito Acconci, Bruce Nauman, Joseph Beuys, Marina Abramovic who influenced the emergence of the Performance Art movement in the 60ies and 70ies.
Body-art developped in the 70ies, the artist and his own motion is the work of art itself, video serving as an objective recording of reality. These happenings are spontaneous events with a physiological mise-en-scene. The body might be pushed to the limit of physical tolerance or subjected to a trivial/repetitive routine.

Drawing Restraint series (1987-2005)
A comprehensive survey of Drawing Restraint projects is currently exhibited at the San Fransisco MoMA. June 23rd - September 17th, 2006. Before it has been exhibited at Kanazawa, Japan (2005) and Seoul, South Korea (2006)

The organizing principle of this Drawing Restraint series comes from Barney's original combination of sport, medicine and art. To build stronger the athlete shall constrain his muscles, they would grow bigger. Thus the athlete is a masochistic alchemist who creates matter with self-imposed discipline and exercise. The cycle of muscular regeneration is compared to the digestive process in a ternary Path :
Situation (mouth) - Condition (stomach) - Production (anus)
The complex process of ingestion-digestion-assimilation becomes allegorical of the creative existence of the artist.
After looking closer at the other (non-filmic) installments of the series, the deeper subtext of DR9 came to light for me, making sense of the visceral and cluless admiration I initially experienced. Barney's aesthetics is definitely the coherent vision of an auteur, it is also founded on an intelligent reflexion which could be analyzed more carefully by an art critic, to sort out his positioning in the history of Contemporean Arts. I'm merely interested here in the elaboration of his universe and its resulting filmic instance.

DR9 : Matthew Barney's Cinema
As odd as it sounds, there is no fundamental difference between the installments he performs alone in his studio, strapped to an elastic band (DR1 to 6), and the making of this grandiloquent movie, only the scale differs. And it's impressive to see an artist develop his one idea through many different ways, indifferently. Here adaptated or transposed to the japanese tradition of whaling, the Drawing Restraint concept develops along the same "Path".
DR9 is the most narrative and explicit piece in the series, yet is hardly a narrative movie by cinema standards. This is mainly the cinematic recording of one of his sophisticated performances. Unlike narrative directors, Barney fully enjoys the multimedia potential of cinema. His use of cinema is free of prejudice and conventions, opening a fresh field of experimentation because he's not beholden to professionalism. Cinema isn't his only medium of expression, so his films aren't formated by distribution necessity or audience expectations.
Dialogue delivery and familiar body language are excluded. Barney's films are usually wordless, because his work develops the expressive physicality of the human body. He's a self-conscious athlete (football, wrestling, climbing) exploring the significance of intense muscular efforts. Therefore his mise-en-scene is mainly focused on choreography, gesture and apprehention of space. Compared to traditional cinema, this posture vis-à-vis acting performance is particularly interesting. Although the magic of cinema special effects and editing allow him to materialize life-threatening Body-Art fantasies like mutilation and amputation, for the audience to see, without the artist's real pain (which used to be determinant in traditional Body-Art).

Like in every experimental work, it's important to understand what is going on, and to pay attention to the forms that convey the directing concept, before flat out rejecting the "megalomaniac superficiality" of it all. Here the form is almost too simple, looking like an overextanded music video with funky production design. From my uneducated opinion, I'd assume Barney doesn't care too much to personalize the cinematic form itself, appropriating a ready-made medium quite naively and humbly, with very conventional use of editing and mise-en-scène, unlike most Avant Garde directors who usually strive to pervert the function and experience of cinema by altering it's traditional perception (eg. Brakhage, Kubelka, Tscherkassky, Martin Arnold, Mekas...). But maybe I'm underestimating this aspect. His true experimental work is in the very performance, and the elaboration of a coherent neological mythology.
There is a great description of the narrative story on Bjork's website
Two parallel events unwind simultaneously on the same ship without direct interaction but symbollical, mirroring allegories in contactless dialogue. The Occidental Guests never take notice of what is happening on the top deck.
The first event, articulating the rhythm of the entire film, is the processing of a Field Emblem sculpture made of petroleum jelly on the aft deck.
The other event is a wedding between two Occidental Guests inspired by Shinto ceremonial protocols. The petrolatum mold is the pulse of this happening, regulating at the slow pace of chemical solidification the protocol of everybody on this ship (and on the shore).
The bookend elements, Holographic Entry Points, that enclose the two events after the prolog, symbolize the Ise Shrine tradition of perpetual life recycling through (identical) reproduction. These flensing decks are ramps used to haul a harpooned whale on the beach in traditional whaling (before the industrial ships age). One is old, made of concrete, the next one is new, made of petroleum jelly, under construction during the duration of the film. Echoing the ancestral ceremony that rebuilds every 20 years the Ise Shrine anew to the side of the old one, which is burnt down in celebration of continuation. The ashes are kept in a box aside the new shrine.
Likewise the brand new ramp is cast out and revealed at the end of the film, and the concrete ramp is destroyed after a metallic box is hauled from the sea. So the fact the events take place during the shrine renewal process imprint this cycle of renovation to the film, which is at the heart of the Drawing Restraint concept of creative regeneration under constraining discipline.

The Occidental Guests seem to come to this peculiar ceremony without knowing eachother, like an arranged marriage. Their first encounter is anti-climactic, as it takes place in a quiet waiting corridor. Meeting wasn't a purpose of theirs apparently, unless their inner emotion is measured by the overwhelming etiquette. Then finaly unite after an erotical anthropophagic ritual.

The linear timeline goes: separation, transfiguration, union, mutation
  • Separation. Barney and Bjork are isolated, they are two dissociated halves (like in Plato's soulmate myth)
  • The petrolatum filling the two halves of the Field Emblem mold allows their reunion (chemical reaction)
  • Transformation with ablution and new costumes
  • The tea ceremony is a social restraint preventing contact
  • A storm breaks out when the cross bar (restraint) of the Field Emblem is removed at night
  • Chaos releases sexual energy drawing Barney and Bjork together
  • This is the opportunity for creativity and production. Like the blubber from the symbolic whale is flensed out and burnt in the boiler, the flesh of humans is mutilated and consumed, to give birth to a new hybrid.

Official Website
(s) ++ (w) +++ (m) +++ (i) ++++ (c) +++

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Following up in the next post(s) :

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This post is a contribution to the Avant Garde blogathon organised by Girish, check out the other participants:

01 août 2006


[UPDATED w/ Awards]
63rd VENICE BIENNALE International Cinema Mostra
August 30 - September 9, 2006
Official Website

Jury : Catherine Deneuve (actress) - President; José Juan Bigas Luna (director); Paulo Branco (producer); Park Chan-wook (director); Cameron Crowe (director); Chulpan Khamatova (actress); Michele Placido (director)


  • Blackbook / Zwartboek (Paul VERHOEVEN/Netherlands/Belgium/Germany) www 1 2 3 4 5 6
  • Bobby (Emilio ESTEVEZ/USA) 1 2 3 4 5
  • Quei loro incontri / Ces rencontres avec eux (Danièle HUILLET, Jean-Marie STRAUB/Italy/France) BEST INNOVATION
  • Children of men (Alfonso CUARON/UK/USA) www 1 2 3 4 5 6 BEST TECHNIQUE
  • Daratt / saison sèche (Mahamat HAROUN/France/Belgium/Austria) 1 2 3 SPECIAL JURY PRIZE
  • Ejforija / Euphorie (Ivan VYRYPAYEV/Russia)
  • Fallen / Falling (Barbara ALBERT/Austria) www 1 2 3 4 5
  • Fangzhu / Exiled (Johnnie TO/Hong Kong/China) 1
  • Hollywoodland (Allen COULTER/USA) Best Actor
  • Hei yanquan / I Don't Want to Sleep Alone (TSAI Ming-liang/Taiwan/France/Austria) www 1 2 3 4
  • The Black Dahlia (Brian DE PALMA/USA)
  • La Stella Che Non C'è / The Missing Star (Gianni AMELIO/Italy/France/Switzerland/Singapore)
  • L'Intouchable (Benoît JACQUOT/France) Best Young Actress
  • Mushi-shi (Katsuhiro ÔTOMO/Japan)
  • Nue propriété (Joachim LAFOSSE/Belgium/Luxembourg/France)
  • Paprika (Satoshi KON/Japan)
  • Coeurs (Alain RESNAIS/France/Itlay) www 1 2 3 4 5 BEST DIRECTOR
  • Sang sattawat / Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong WEERASETHAKUL/Thailand/France/Austria) www 1 2
  • The Fountain (Darren ARONOFSKY/USA)
  • Nuovomondo / The Golden door (Emanuele CRIALESE/Italy/France) REVELATION Award
  • The Queen (Stephen FREARS/UK/France/Italy) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 BEST SCENARIO, Best Actress
  • Sanxia Haoren / Still Life (JIA Zhangke/China) 1 2 GOLDEN LION

  • Baaz ham sib daari ? (Bayram FAZLI/Iran)
  • Belle toujours (Manoel DE OLIVEIRA/Portugal)
  • Gedo senki (Goro MIYAZAKI/Japan) Anim
  • Inland empire (David LYNCH/USA) 1 2 3 4 5 6
  • Jakpae / The City of Violence (Seung-wan RYOO/South Korea)
  • The Magic Flute (Kenneth BRANAGH/UK) 1
  • Devil Wears Prada (David FRANKEL/USA)
  • Lettere dal Sahara / Letters From the Sahara (Vittorio DE SETA/Italy) www 1 2 3
  • Ostrov (Pavel LOUNGUINE/Russia)
  • Para entrar a vivir (Jaume BALAGUERO/Spain)
  • Quelques jours en septembre (Santiago AMIGORENA/France/Italy) www 1 2 3 4 5 6
  • Rob-B-Hood (Benny CHAN/Hong Kong/China)
  • Sakebi (Kiyoshi KUROSAWA/Japan)
  • Summer Love (Piotr UKLANSKI/Poland)
  • The Wicker man (Neil LABUTE/USA)
  • World Trade Center (Oliver STONE/USA)
  • Yeyan / The Banquet (FENG Xiaogang/China/Hong Kong) www 1 2 3 4

  • O Céu de Suely / Suely in the sky (Karim AÏNOUZ/Brazil, France, Germany) 1 2 3
  • Koorogi (AOYAMA Shinji/Japan)
  • The Hottest State (Ethan HAWKE/USA)
  • Taiyang yu / Rain Dogs (HO Yuhang/Malaysia, Hong Kong)
  • Svobodnoe plavanie (Boris KHLEBNIKOV/Russia)
  • El Cobrador (Paul LEDUC/Mexico, Argentina, Brazil)
  • Mabei shang de fating (LIU Jie/China)
  • Infamous (Douglas McGRATH/USA)
  • Opera Jawa (Garin NUGROHO/Indonesia, Austria)
  • Quijote (Mimmo PALADINO/Italy)
  • Non prendere impegni stasera (Gianluca TAVARELLI/Italy)
  • Roma wa la n’touma (Tariq TEGUIA/Algeria, France, Germany)
  • Akamas (Panicos CHRYSANTHOU/Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Turkey)
  • C’est Gradiva qui vous appelle (Alain ROBBE-GRILLET/France, Belgium)
  • Pasolini prossimo nostro (Giuseppe BERTOLUCCI/Italy, France) DOC
  • Kill Gil (vol. 2) (Gil ROSSELLINI/Italy, Switzerland) DOC
  • Il mio paese (Daniele VICARI/Italy) DOC
  • Ana alati tahmol azouhour ila qabriha (Hala ALABDALLA YAKOUB, Ammar AL BEIK/Siria, France) DOC
  • Bellissime 2 (Giovanna GAGLIARDO/Italy) DOC
  • The U.S. vs. John Lennon (David LEAF, John SCHEINFELD/USA) DOC
  • When the Leeves Broke. A Requiem in Four Acts (Spike LEE/USA) DOC
  • Tachiguishi retsuden (OSHII Mamoru/Japan) DOC
  • Heimat - Fragmente (Edgar REITZ, Christian REITZ/Germany) DOC
  • Dong (JIA Zhangke/China) DOC

  • Garmon’ / Accordion (1934/Igor Savchenko/Evgenij Sneider)
  • Vesiolye rebiata / Jolly Fellows (1934/Grigorij Aleksandrov)
  • Cirk / The Circus (1936/Grigorij Aleksandrov)
  • Bogataja nevesta / The Rich Bride (1938/Ivan Pyr’ev)
  • Volga-Volga (1938/Grigorij Aleksandrov)
  • Traktoristy / Tractor Drivers (1939/Ivan Pyr’ev)
  • Muzykal’naja istoria / A Musical Story (1940/Aleksandr Ivanovskij/Gerbert Rappaport)
  • Svetlyj put’ / The Radiant Path (1940/Grigorij Aleksandrov)
  • Svinarka i pastukh / Swineherd and Shepherd (1941/Ivan Pyr’ev)
  • V shest’ chasov vechera posle vojny / Six O'Clock in the Evening After the War (1944/Ivan Pyr’ev)
  • Vesna / Spring (1947/Grigorij Aleksandrov)
  • Kubanskie kazaki / Cossacks of the Kuban (1950/Ivan Pyr’ev)
  • Scedroe leto / Bountiful Summer (1950/Boris Barnet)
  • Karnaval’naja noc’ / Carnival Night (1956/El’dar Rjazanov)
  • Nas milyj doktor / Our Kind Doctor (1956/Shaken Ajmanov)
  • Cheriomushki / Song Over Moscow (1963/Gerbert Rappaport)
  • Sparite utopajuscego / Save the Drowning Man (1969/Pavel Arsenov)
  • Romans o vlyoblionnykh / A Lovers’ Romance (1974/Andrei Konchalovskij)


  • Garrincha, Alegria do Povo / Garrincha: Hero of the Jungle (1963) DOC
  • O Padre e a Moça / The Priest and the Girl (1965)
  • Macunaíma / Jungle Freaks (1969)
  • Os Inconfidentes / The Conspirators (1972)
  • Guerra Conjugal /Conjugal Warfare (1975)
  • O Homen do Pau Brasil (1981)
  • O Mestre de Apipucos (1959) DOC Short
  • O Poeta do Castelo (1959) DOC Short
CENTENNIAL of Rossellini, Soldati, and Visconti

  • Quartieri alti / In High Places (1942/Mario Soldati)
  • Ossessione (1943/Luchino Visconti)
  • Roma città aperta / Open City (1945/Roberto Rossellini)
  • Fuga in Francia / Flight into France (1948/Mario Soldati)
  • Anna Magnani – episode from Siamo donne / We, the Women (1953/Luchino Visconti)
  • Ingrid Bergman – episode from Siamo donne / We, the Women (1953/Roberto Rossellini)
  • Il generale della Rovere / General della Rovere (1959/Roberto Rossellini)


  • Il feroce Saladino (1937/Mario Bonnard)
  • Per qualche dollaro in più / For a Few Dollars More (1965/Sergio Leone)
  • Dalla nube alla resistenza / From the Clouds to the Resistance (1979/Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet)

David LYNCH - Lifetime Achievement

Independant sideshow - Official Website

  • 7 Ans (2006/Jean-Pascal Hattu/France)
  • Azul oscuro casi negro (2006/Daniel Sánchez Arévalo/Spain) www
  • Chicha tu madre (2006/Gianfranco Quattrini/Peru/Argentina) www
  • Come l'ombra (2006/Marina Spada/Italy)
  • Falkenberg Farewell (2006/Jesper Ganslandt/Sweden/Denmark) www 1 2 3 4
  • Khadak (2006/Jessica Woodworth e Peter Brosens/Belgium/Germany/Netherlands) www
  • L’Etoile du soldat (2006/Christophe de Ponfilly/France/Germany/Afghanistan)
  • La noche de los girasoles / Angosto (2006/Jorge Sánchez-Cabezudo/Spain/France/Portugal)
  • L'udienza e' aperta (2006/Vincenzo Marra/Italy)
  • Mientras tanto (2006/Diego Lerman/Argentina/France)
  • Offscreen (2006/Christoffer Boe/Denmark) www 1 2 3
  • Rêves de poussière (2006/Laurent Salgues/Burkina Faso/Canada/France)
  • WWW - What a Wonderful World (2006/Faouzi Bensaïdi/France/Marocco/Germany)