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Cremaster 2


  1. n: a thin muscle that serves to raise and lower the testicles in response to temperature and other stimuli.
  2. n: a hook-shaped protuberance from the rear of the chrysalis casing, by which the caterpillar fixes itself to the pad of silk it has cemented to the underside of a perch.
  3. n: a film cycle created and executed by Matthew Barney that has been described as self-enclosed aesthetic system consisting of five feature-length films that explore processes of creation. The cycle unfolds not just cinematically, but also through the photographs, drawings, sculptures, and installations the artist produced in conjunction with each episode.

Based on the original meanings of the word cremaster, processes surrounding sexual generation, metamorphosis, and continual differentiation are central to the series concept. In this 2nd in a series of 5:

The episode focuses on Gary Gilmore, his girlfriend Nicole, his parents' meeting with a fortune teller, his final homicide at a gas station, and his execution symbolized by a rodeo on the Bonneville Salt Flats. A phone call is made to Gary by the lead singer of Morbid Angel in a studio with Slayer drummer, Dave Lombardo, playing to the drone of bees, a scene said to refer to Gilmore's last phone call from Johnny Cash. The film also connects Gilmore to Harry Houdini (played by Norman Mailer, writer of Gilmore's story The Executioner's Song) and his meeting with Baby Faye Lafoe (represented as Gilmore's grandmother and supposed spiritual medium).

No way, that was not Johnny Cash...never has a film been so inaccessible. If it hadn’t been for the Walker film curator who set up the film, the experience would have been completely unintelligible. Within the framework of Barney’s narrative, the various visual metaphors take shape. It’s really only these metaphors...and the cinematography...that I can speak to.

the metaphor of the metamorphose

I’ll limit my self to recounting bees and execution. Bees, beeswax, and hexagons are everywhere, as well as conceptually, masters and drones. This symbolism points to biologic as well as social differentiation. Execution also deals with such differentiations. Gilmore’s actuality by firing depicted as a rodeo bull ride. The sequence was brilliant.

The bull funneled through the chutes was very evocative of guiding the condemned to their execution...
...reminded me of Selma’s execution played by Barney’s wife Björk in Dancer in the Dark.

Barney/Gilmore in a prison stripes rodeo/prison jumpsuit bound to his bull...
...Björk/Selma hooded and strapped to the board at the gallows.

Released from the gate...lurched out of the chute...slowly succumbing to weight and to death...
...released from the gate...lurched through the trap door...immediately succumbing to weight and to death.

Gilmore metamorphosed...
...brown paper packages tied up with strings; these are a few of my favorite things.

panning this film

Clever or not, I’m not sure whether it is I who’s panning this film. Ultimately, it was simply too obtuse, which apparently a saying a lot for me, but it has proven fodder for discussion ever since. It is Barney himself who, out, over...all so slowly. Whether, this technique was supposed to have had any significance to the story telling is uncertain, but it became intrusive. Otherwise, there is a simultaneous quality of lucidity and dream. Hard focus of surreal sequences and soft lighting of the immovably real.