June 17, 2006
Drawing My Own Restraints
I finally saw the new Matthew Barney film today - and there was much rejoicing. Drawing Restraint 9 certainly bears aesthetic similarities to The Cremaster Cycle, but it is far more formally rigorous in its attention to process, and in that I think it probably falls into line with its eight predecessors (which I haven't actually seen). The series is about self-imposed restraints upon the creative process, which here seems to have been generalized to include the push-and-pull process by which society, history, industry and nature reach harmonization.
I think the thing which speaks to me the most about Barney's films is that almost ontological attention to procedure. The opening scene, which documents, step by step, the meticulous wrapping of two gifts, may well be the strongest sequence in the film; it's hypnotic, certainly, and it can easily be viewed as both a prelude to and a representation of the film's themes, but what I especially appreciate about it is the sense of respect with which Barney records the process. Within the context of his films, no element supersedes another in terms of importance; once one adjusts to this perspective, the wrapping of a gift is as powerful as an evisceration with flensing knives.
One thing I'm still contemplating: what does the fact that Barney is now working with computer generated petroleum jelly say about his own processes? In a slightly trivial sense, it almost borders on self parody. Incidentally, the special effects in the film are extremely impressive - if you have the stomach to watch them.
I've been enabling all sorts of restraints against my own creative process this week. This script just isn't writing itself the way I hoped it would. It's going to be the best film I've written in a long time - if I can just get it down on paper. I was at the sixty page mark on Monday, and, somehow, I'm still there.
Earlier this week, Chuck Tryon wrote about a documentary called What Remains, about the photography of Sally Mann, which I'm now obsessed with seeing. Actually, I'm more obsessed with going to the bookstore to buy Mann's book of the same name, because the series of photographs is about the emotional and physiological process of decomposition, and as such, it contains images of decomposing corpses at the Body Farm in Tennessee. The reason this is of such interest to me is that the script I'm working on deals in part with a photographer who, in the interest of chronicling the emotional and physiological process of decomposition, visits (you guessed it) the same institute to take (what I'm guessing are) very similar photographs. I need to get in the habit of doing research before I begin these writing projects, to makes sure reality doesn't impose too heavily on some of my ideas. I don't think Mann's work will effect my story, but it will certainly help me refine it.
Posted by David Lowery at June 17, 2006 02:35 AM