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Movie of the Day – Drawing Restraint 9

Posted on the 04 April 2013 by Plotdevice39 @PlotDevices

Well, I wasn’t certain if I was going to honestly talk about this movie, much less dive into the abstract world of these visual, performance art movies.  Matthew Barney’s work is abstract, somewhat reflecting on his ego as an artist (again my opinion), grandiose, but truly captivating in this weird, enthralling way.  If you aren’t familiar with his work, check out the Cremaster Cycle, a series of his work that all blends together, each tied to one another with this over-arching theme.  It’s wonderful, weird, and certainly something to behold.  What got me to see this movie in particular is the soundtrack by Bjork and most notably the song Storm which is what plays in the trailer.  Combined with the imagery in the initial trailer and this haunting song, I had to see it.

Drawing Restraint 9 1a

Filmmaker and artist Matthew Barney collaborated with his wife, noted musician Björk, for this ambitious experimental feature. Aboard a Japanese fishing vessel named the Nisshin Maru, a crew of laborers constructs “the Field,” a sculptural mold in the shape of an oval that is filled with melted petroleum jelly. As the crew slaves over the project, a man and woman (played by Barney and Björk) are brought on board, and while the ship sets sail the couple prepare to be married in a traditional Japanese ceremony. As the pair are about to be wed, the captain of the Nisshin Maru (Susil Osoma) relates the history of his ship to them. That night, a massive storm at sea disturbs “the Field,” and the petroleum jelly floods the room where the newlyweds are staying, forcing them to tear away their outer shells and reveal the animals which lurk within in order to survive. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

The trailer and synopsis above might still be confusing to some.  I mean even going back and checking out this movie, I was still feeling alienated by it.  The complexities and symbolism of what Barney is conveying throughout the film certainly is his pure artistic expression, something only he can envision and understand.  For us as the audience, we are left wondering, waiting to see what comes next.  The mystery behind all of it is certainly what kept pulling me into the two different narrative in the film.  That and Bjork’s haunting soundtrack.

Drawing Restraint 9 1b

There are two narratives within the confines of the ship.  On the top deck, the creation of the petroleum jelly sculpture is being formed.  A massive undertaking of a delicate and precise nature.  From the pouring of the warm jelly to the cooling of it in the shape of the sculpture, this is meant to showcase the changing cycles of the jelly’s state.  From warm to cool, to a fully realized sculpture and that of the primordial state.  It’s a parallel to the second narrative below the deck where Barney and Bjork’s characters are coming together.  They start as strangers on a ship, becoming a couple and then becoming one through the ceremonies of the Japanese culture. Their transformation is that of the sculpture, going from different states in life to their literal transformation from land to sea mammals.  All the efforts of the two narratives join together in the end, becoming a mutual compliment to the different states that take place for each story.

I realize that this is a bit heady and even typing this out is making me question and try to interpret what I have seen.  Again it is an art piece, much like the other film works that Barney has created.  There is a pattern to it all, some sort of cyclical nature that binds it all together.  Drawing Restraint 9 is certainly gorgeous and captivating, beautiful in the imagery that Barney showcases, but often a bit too alienating.  I certainly couldn’t look away, even though I got lost a few times in the film.  This isn’t knock against the movie since I am talking about it in a positive light, hoping some other people will give it a chance.  Plus the soundtrack again is just incredible.  Bjork’s singing and music is something that you can certainly got lost in.

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