Movie Review: Drawing Restraint 9 and all that Whale Blubber

By Moira Sullivan
Movie Magazine International
Drawing Restraint 9 made its international debut at the Venice International Film Festival last September. In the film Matthew Barney and Bjrk, as two occidentals, an item in real life hook up, and depart on the Japanese vessel Nisshin Maru in Nagasaki Bay, the only factory ship in the world that processes whale meat. Both are dressed in traditional Shinto marriage costumes.

During a lengthy and elaborate tea ceremony which involves some hair shedding - Bjorks eyebrows and the skull cap of Matthews head - the two are partially transformed into whales and eventually sprout fins and other whale parts which they later atrophy. Barney said his roots are in horror film and there is a bit of that here.

You have to be prepared to follow this long ritual of 2.5 hours with an assortment of utensils fashioned from shell and bone. Included are long shots of the crew cutting up the whale blubber on the the boat deck and transforming it into a shape called "The Field". You can be sure Barney and Bjork makes ample use of all the gooey sounds. Bjork composed the soundtrack an artist who has used the natural habitat of Icelandic geysers in her music. The sounds of whales are there of course. As in his other work Barney explores the spatial aspects of architecture and uses them as grids for his investigations , in this case the whaling vessel. He also is concerned with the creation of bionic sculpture and body fluids. There is plenty of that in this film.

Barney said It was a natural evolution of Björk's and his relationship to work together and their synergy is noteworthy. However, Drawing Restraint 9 is coldly formal and without a pulse noted elsewhere in his Cremaster Suite. Barney told me in Venice he wouldlike to see his films appreciated by a larger audience even though he knows his work is difficult to sit through. His films get limited release , often at art museum programs. The entire suite of five films in the Cremaster Suite usually projected back to back require a large bladder according to one critic.

Drawing Restraint 9 is an oddyssey that compels but its intellectual concerns get lost in the blubber. As we watch two whales head for Antartica you cant help but wonder if there has been a tranformation or an epidemic on board the vessel. These two occidentals have disrupted the equilibrium of the ship somehow but the premise is not enought to make this film however visually stunning a masterpiece.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan Venice Itally

More Information:
Drawing Restraint 9 and all that Whale Blubber
2005- USA/Japan