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Shock Corridor Cinema Presents: Matthew Barney's Cremaster 3 (the order) + Guy Maddin's Tales From The Gimli Hospital

Tue. December 16th 2003 8:30
Shock Corridor Cinema Presents
the final program of 2003:

Tuesday, December 16th
8:30 pm . $2
416 Craigflower Rd.

Tales From The Gimli Hospital
(Guy Maddin; 1988, 72 min).

Tales From The Gimli Hospital is now regarded as one of the true cult hits of the Eighties; a bizarre entry on the midnight movie circuit that found an eager audience and set its director's career in motion. Following in the footsteps of such directors as the silent cinema's F. W. Murnau and Fritz Lang and the surrealists Luis Bu�uel, Jean Cocteau and David Lynch comes Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin. His first feature: Tales From The Gimli Hospital, was an immediate underground favorite when first released in 1988. A strange and beautifully puzzling work that teeters on the verge of camp excess; what keeps it from succumbing to its incessant plunges into hilarity (and this could be said of all of Maddin�s features) is its haunting, disturbing imagery.

Gimli is a fable. Set in the small fishing town of Gimli, Manitoba, in some indeterminate time in the early part of the 20th Century, Gimli unfolds like a dreamtime horror story. Einar (Kyle McCulloch) and Gunnar (Michael Gottli), two men afflicted with the deadly smallpox virus, are housed in the small Gimli Hospital, their bodies covered with the scars of disease, their minds slipping into paranoia, fear, and ultimately jealously -- the latter of which becomes the fulcrum for much of the film�s grim escapades.

Einar -- who is jealous of Gunnar�s storytelling prowess with the nurses, as well as Gunnar�s skill at carving fish out of tree bark -- begins to hate what he cannot have. When Einar attempts to weave a tale of his own to the nurses, they ignore him, focusing their attentions instead upon the dying patients. But the kettle of misunderstanding and hate really starts to overflow when Einar and Gunnar share their darkest secrets -- which encompass everything from the frailty of everlasting love to necrophilia and graverobbing. Ultimately, both men share in the damage equally. With their minds veering off into hallucination, they eventually battle it out in the cold, dark woods of "a Gimli we no longer know."

Much of Tales From the Gimli Hospital is silent, except for the intentional scratches and pops of the film�s wonderfully archaic soundtrack, and excluding a couple of startling tinted hallucination scenes near the end, filmed in deep black and white.

Proceeded by:

CREMASTER 3 (the order)
(Matthew Barney; 2002, 35 min.)

Matthew Barney's CREMASTER series has taken on a legendary stature. This final piece in the 5-part cycle is the longest, densest and most complex -- filled with beautiful, mystifying images, many of them harkening back to themes the artist has already established. Much of the action takes place in two New York landmarks, the Chrysler Building and the Guggenheim Museum, as well as at the Saratoga Racetrack (upstate NY), the Giant's Causeway (Ireland) and Fingal's cave (the Scottish Isle of Staffa). Barney plays the Entered Apprentice and his opponents include the Order of the Rainbow for Girls (who look a lot like the Rockettes), Agnostic Front and Murphy's Law (two New York Hardcore bands), Aimee Mullins, and Richard Serra. Molten Vaseline, dental surgery, a demolition derby by vintage Chrysler Imperial New Yorker cars and a gorgeous creature who is half-cheetah/half woman all figure in this latest edition of Matthew Barney's fever dream.

Shock corridor will screen the 35 minute Guggenheim interlude only. It is at this point in the narrative that the film pauses for a choirs pause, which rehearses the initiation rites of the masonic fraternity through allegorical representations of the five-part Cremaster cycle, all in the guise of a game stage at the wonderfully curvaceous Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Called "The Order", this competition features a fantastical incarnation of the Apprentice (played by the filmmaker) as its sole contestant who must overcome obtstables on each level of the museum's spiraling rotunda; tableaus include a topless chorus line, a punk rock show and an amputee cheetah woman who seduces us into believing Barney's wolrd could actually exist. Playfull, deranged and visally stunning, this short excerpt works well to introduce audiences to Barney's work and his heavily revered Cremaster cycle.

Mattew Barney Bio

Matthew Barney is a one-man Baroque revival. The art of the Baroque is an art of excess, of encrusted, overloaded palace ceilings. Barney takes this overripe palatial aesthetic and makes it into an art for the 21st century. Packed with prosthetically made-up mutants, gorgeous costumes, ornate interiors, satyrs and motorbikes, his video installations, photography and filmed performances generate multiple, mutually contradictory images that set out to overwhelm the viewer.

Barney was born in San Francisco in 1967 and studied medicine before becoming an artist, an education that explains something of the precision of his invented anatomies and the anatomical title of his best known work, the 'Cremaster' series. The cremaster is the muscle in the male genitals from which the testicles are suspended (and which retracts them in cold or fear). Barney's 'Cremaster' is a massively ambitious project centered on five films, of which four have been shown to date - Cremaster 4 in 1994, Cremaster 1 in 1995-96, Cremaster 5 in 1997 and Cremaster 2 in 1999. The entire series is to be exhibited at the Guggenheim, New York, in 2001. These are 'films' insofar as they are shown in cinemas and have a cinematic scale, but they are shot on video and their pointed lack of spoken words emphasizes a relationship with performance: tap-dancing under the sea off the coast of the Isle of Man in Cremaster 4, for example. Barney follows them up with objects, photographs and books that elaborate their imagery.

You get the feeling he must, at some formative period, have been entranced by an Italian shell-garden or grotto. The Cremaster films star characters like classical nymphs - who play and frolic in Cremaster 5 - and a figure with pointed animal ears, half man, half beast, in Cremaster 4. It's a long way from the classically simple video and body art tradition epitomised by Bruce Nauman. Barney's early video Field Dressing (orifil) (1989) is very much in that tradition, with the artist setting himself an absurd Naumanesque physical task - to scale the walls of his studio naked. But even at this early date he encases the video monitor showing himself performing this task inside a perversely sensuous plastic case.

Barney's more recent work has something in common with Cindy Sherman's masquerading self-portrait photographs or the cinema and performance art of Jack Smith - but he takes their exploration of selfhood and sexuality and somehow makes it asexual, post-sexual. Cremaster 5 features opulent 40s Hollywood photography of velvet-clad lovers and bathing beauties, and Cremaster 1 has phallic airships floating over an airfield where dancers show off their underwear, but the brides and bachelors in Barney's work are no more likely to be satisfied than the elements of Duchamp's Large Glass. The Wagnerian ambition of the 'Cremaster' series is self-mocking. Contemporary sexuality appears as a proliferating discourse: all these images come down to manipulations of the cremaster. Finally, Matthew Barney's work is not about excess but about the emptiness inside excess - the redundancy of the Baroque, the ennui of information overload. A perfect art, then, for the turn of the millennium.