Category Archives: Movies at the Museum

Matthew Barney’s The Cremaster Cycle

By Jon Courtney
Screenings Programmer, SPACE Gallery

I wont pretend that Ive actually seen Matthew Barneys entire Cremaster Cycle, relatively few people have, but thats largely why SPACE Gallery has been excited to work with the Portland Museum of Art to bring The Cycle to Portland. Outside of a run at Bostons Kendall Square Cinema this past summer, this will be only the second screening of the The Cycle in New England. Distributors claim the films will never be made available for mass home video distribution to preserve their artistic value (a 30-minute excerpt from Cremaster 3, filmed in the Guggenheim Museum, was released under the title The Order and 20 limited sets of DVDs in original packaging were sold at $100,000+ prices.) The screenings at the PMA will be a rare, yet comparatively affordable way of accessing the work.

Over nine years in the making, spanning from 1994 to 2002, the five Cremaster films have gained a near-cult status and vaulted Barney from former high school football player and male clothing model to art world icon. If you search for reviews of the films, youll find opinions that range from dismissive charges of self-indulgence to high praise that ranks the films among the most ambitious and creative exercises in the history of avant garde film. Barney claims his opus is meant to be seen as part of a sculptural practice which exists outside the films in a body of sculpture, books, installations, and musical compositions. Appearances by author Norman Mailer, sculptor Richard Serra, Bond girl Ursula Andress, and paraplegic athlete Aimee Mullins as well as references to Henry Houdini, the freemasons, Gary Gilmore, and a host of other characters, locations and visual symbols are woven into Barneys epic. Ill say from having seen Cremaster 5 several years ago in New York and The Order that Barney may employ the best portrayal of dream logic on celluloid as any contemporary director outside of possibly David Lynch or Alejandro Jodorowsky.

If youd like to read more from people who have seen the Cycle, Ill refer you to a pair of complementary reviews in The Portland Phoenix by Annie Larmon and Christopher Gray. Theres a trailer from I Die Daily , a documentary about the making of The Cremaster Cycle which will give you a taste of the visual scope of The Cycle and some of Barneys thoughts about the inspirations for the films. Likewise, exploring The Cremaster Cycle website also yields synopses, stills, and video trailers for the exploring. Its unlikely that The Cremaster Cycle will screen again in the area any time soon, if youre curious, you may want to catch the first block of films, Cremaster 1 & 2 on Thursday night and see if they appeal to you. If so, there will be options to see the rest of the Cycle on Friday and Saturday evenings or on Sunday. Those who are committed in their resolve to see the nearly seven-hour full Cycle (as it is likely best intended) may want to opt for a hearty brunch and some stretching before settling in for the 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday run. At $20 for a five-film pass, this may be one of the most affordable opportunities to access this storied work of art. In a synchronistic twist, Sunday also happens to be the birthday of Barney’s wife Björk, the eccentric Icelandic singer, so well be featuring her music during film breaks that day.

The Cremaster Cycle will run Thursday, November 18 through Sunday, November 21 at Movies at the Museum. Click here to purchase tickets.

Exit Through the Gift Shop

By Jon Courtney
Screenings Programmer, SPACE Gallery

What makes an artist legitimate? Arriving at an answer may be less important than having the discussion and it emerges as central to the heart of the hilariously engaging “documentary” Exit Through the Gift Shop. Exit declares itself to be A Banksy Film, noting the notoriously clandestine British street artist, but what that equates to is hard to define. We are rewarded with unprecedented access to the artist (though his appearances are always blurred or backlit and his voice is digitally altered) but as no producer or director is credited in the film, we’re left to speculate as to the extent of Bansky’s actual filmmaking involvement.

Exit follows Thierry Guetta, an eccentric Frenchman from L.A. with a near-compulsive habit of videotaping everything around him. During a family visit to France, Guetta makes a chance discovery that a relative is the acclaimed street artist Invader (née Space Invader). Captivated by Invader’s pursuits, Guetta begins to accompany him on his nocturnal excursions, all the while documenting Invader’s work with his ubiquitous camera. Ostensibly working on a definitive film about street art, Guetta’s association with Invader earns him camera time with almost every major street art player, including artists like Seizer, Neckface, Borf, Buffmonster, Ron English, Swoon, and Shepard Fairey (of Obey and Obama campaign poster fame). The missing piece of Guetta’s collection is the reclusive Banksy, but when an assistant is detained due to visa problems on a trip to L.A., Fairey recommends Guetta to Banksy as a trustworthy replacement.

For Banksy, Guetta proves invaluable in providing documentation of street-level public reaction to his work, a facet as important to the artist as the work itself. Guetta, through persistence and loyalty, (most notably demonstrated during a four-hour detention after a Guantanamo-inspired prank at Disneyland goes awry), gains access to the innermost workings of Bansky’s world, including a tour of the artist’s London studio and a behind-the-scenes view of his wildly popular 2006 Barely Legal opening in L.A. Having captured street art’s rise from its shadowy origins to a highly-lucrative and collectible genre, Guetta is encouraged by Bansky to assemble his massive, but poorly organized archive into a finished product. Deeming the resulting film as an unwatchable work by someone with mental problems, Bansky wrestles the film away from Guetta, encouraging him to try his hand as an artist and Exit takes a narrative turn. Interpreting Bansky’s suggestion as a directive from a respected mentor, Guetta enthusiastically reinvents himself as “Mr. Brainwash” and sets about launching his artistic career with an overly-ambitious warehouse show in L.A. Whether Mr. Brainwash’s premiere is a success is worth the suspense of watching the film, but the questions about artistic legitimacy couldn’t be presented in a more entertaining package. Yes, Exit Through the Gift Shop does serve as a detailed document of the rise of street art, but it’s Guetta’s sweet-but-bumbling foray into the genre and Bansky’s dry commentary that make this more than just a chapter in contemporary art history. The film has enjoyed near-unanimous praise since premiering at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. Ever the showman, Bansky even created a dedicated underground cinema for the film’s London premiere.

This event is the first collaborative screening between SPACE Gallery and the Portland Museum of Art with the aim of combining audiences for exceptional films. Collaborative screenings of Matthew Barney’s vaunted Cremaster Cycle are also scheduled for November 18 through 21 at the Museum.

Tickets are now available at the Museum’s admission desk.

Movies at the Museum

By Vanessa Nesvig
Coordinator of Special Projects

Well, the long anticipated opening night of the Movies at the Museum happened last Friday night. A sold out performance of A Hard Day’s Night kicked off the season with 186 people waiting in a line that at one point snaked around the Café and was up the stairs! Steve and Judy Halpert (former owners of The Movies on Exchange Street) were fantastic hosts, introducing the new venture at the Museum and welcoming old friends.

The Museum’s slide booth has been transformed as we moved the Halpert’s equipment up from Exchange Street. Dedicated helpers like Dennis Levasseur and Eddy Bolz set up the 35mm film projector and a giant set of platters to build and break down the film projector. Though the equipment is large and impressive looking, it seems right at home in our now multi-media booth!

This weekend should prove another rockin’ line-up with three Academy Award nomination/winners; Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Rachel Getting Married, and Frozen River. Tickets are sold at the admissions desk on the day of the show. See you there!