Last week was the International Film Festival in San Francisco. (For more coverage of the festival, check out Sushi's Reviews.) On Wednesday night, I went to see the film Drawing Restraint 9 by visual artist and Björk consort Matthew Barney.
The film is about a Japanese whaling ship full of vaseline that picks up Matthew Barney and Björk (billed as "Occidental Guests") and takes them on board. There, they bathe and get their eyebrows shaved off, while the crew assembles and disassembles various containers. Eventually they get dressed up in furry costumes with lots of shells on them, drink blubber tea with a Japanese man, and in the film's only spoken section, learn that the whaling ship once got scratched. After this, Matthew Barney and Björk lick each other, hack off pieces of each other's bodies with big knives, and (SPOILER ALERT!!!) turn into whales. This takes 135 minutes.
This is pretty much the worst movie ever made.
Before the film, Matthew Barney delivered an introductory speech about his athletic past, and how he believed you must tear down the body in order to let it grow. This is why he used to attach himself to bungee cords and climb ramps in order to do his first paintings, he said. Hence, Drawing Restraint. I started to wonder if I should start wearing a bungee cord harness or ankle weights when I do stand-up. Matthew Barney discussed Japanese Shinto shrines, specifically how they are torn down and rebuilt exactly the same way every twenty years. He also talked about the importance of a "small box" in this Shinto tradition, by which I'm pretty sure he meant Björk's vagina.
Matthew Barney also used the phrase "conversation with my body" at least three times, without adding "Everybody, get ready to see my penis".
In honor of Matthew Barney's artistic principles, I took notes during the film, on a small notebook, in the dark. Here are excerpts from that epic work of art, at least until I fell asleep.
Opening song - tear down eardrums in order to let them grow?
Emalie asks, "you blogging this?" Then she makes a kissyface at me.
Two minutes in, and I am pretty much just looking for Björk.
Shells, boxes, ribbons - is this whole thing going to be about gift-wrapping?
I'm also waiting for the vaseline tanker.
Satisfying to watch things put together, connected, locked. Maybe not for 2 hours.
Gene and Clark would enjoy this film, as so far it's just jarring electronic music and long scenes of putting objects into containers of different sizes.
Björk! She's dressed like...a Björk impersonator.
Emalie is already asleep. My neck is already sore.
Shrimp, pomegranate, vaseline? [ed. note - I have no idea what this means][ed. note II - the note, not the film, though I have no idea what that means either]
Björk hair = Topsy Tail from 22nd century.
Naked Björk + oranges in bath = surprisingly un-hot. Björk sorta old?
Matthew Barney looks like Morgan Spurlock, post-shave. Elaborate shaving ritual lets sideburns remain.
Japanese guy shaves Barney's head, eyebrows while he's asleep - just like chiefing in Santa Barbara
(something something) one eyebrow - Vanilla Ice?
Already hoping for ending. 20% of audience asleep.
I laugh inappropriately when MB aks, "Can you tell us something about this vessel?"
Ship is the Nisshin Maru. Meaningful? Who cares? God.
Carvings peelings (last word trails off as I fell asleep)
The movie ended. We were the first audience members to exit, exhausted, delirious, and hating hating hating Matthew Barney. A festival volunteer asked what we thought of the movie, and we just laughed maniacally and literally ran down the escalator to get away from the whales, the aubergine, and the endless terrible film. We walked about a mile and a half to get to Cassie's car, while Emalie sang improvised Björk songs about whaling and cutting off your boyfriend's legs with a whaling knife. It was 2:15 AM. Everyone apologized to each other for having bought tickets and we all cursed Matthew Barney one final time, tearing up our commemorative Drawing Restraint 9 MOMA trading cards.
Maybe if we'd seen Drawing Restraint 8 it would have made more sense. Or if we were Japanese whales.
Friends, enemies, casual Google visitors, do yourselves a favor and never, ever see this movie. Ever.