Tag Archives: Surrealism


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Reader review by Enar Clarke

The Cremaster cycle defers any definitive conclusion.”–from the synopsis of “Cremaster 5”


FEATURING: , Norman Mailer, Aimee Mullins, Richard Serra, Matthew Barney

PLOT: Over the course of five films, through a series of loosely interconnected stories in various film genres, characters metaphorically portray the drama of sexual differentiation in the human reproductive system during the early stages of fetal development.

Still from the Cremaster Cycle

COMMENTS: As has been remarked on this site before, the Cremaster Cycle, directed by and starring visual artist Matthew Barney, is a nigh-legendary series of films. The Cycle tends to be screened once approximately every ten years, hence its mystique. Aside from a highly-priced limited edition run of DVDs, only a 30-minute cut of Cremaster 3 (The Order) is readily available on disc. The films were originally elements of an art installation that also included drawings, photographs, and sculptures; for this reason, they are usually screened by contemporary art museums.

With that in mind, the question readers of this site are probably asking is, are these films weird enough to be worth the effort of trying to see them?

This isn’t an easy question to answer. The five films in the Cremaster Cycle are undoubtedly weird, an endless progression of strange and inscrutable imagery that can honestly be as boring as it is compelling. Each film has at least two settings and sets of characters, but only the most threadbare of plots. Barney’s minimalist website provides the basic details, which can be useful for interpreting the subject matter. To avoid spoilers, I would recommend reading the cast lists prior to viewing, and saving the synopses for afterwards. All of the films, except Cremaster 2, are dialogue-free, and until the credits roll, it can be impossible to identify who, or what, the characters are supposed to be.

Like the best weird movies, the Cycle has divided both critics and viewers. New York Times critic Michael Kimmelman famously declared Barney “the most important artist of his generation.” Film scholar J. Hoberman, in his book “Film After Film,” dismissed the Cremaster Cycle as “an overwrought 57th street yard sale.” Viewers on IMDB have variously described the films as “flamboyant,” “bizarre,” “campy,” “grotesque,” and most commonly, “pretentious.” Directors Barney has been compared to include , David Cronenberg, , , David Lynch, , and Ken Russell—all of whose work is represented on the List of the 366 Best Weird Movies. Fans of these directors are just as likely to detest the Cycle, however, as they are to Continue reading READER RECOMMENDATION: THE CREMASTER CYCLE

35*. BUFFET FROID (1979)

AKA Cold Cuts

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“The simplest Surrealist act consists of dashing down the street, pistol in hand, and firing blindly, as fast as you can pull the trigger, into the crowd.”–André Breton


DIRECTED BY: Bertrand Blier

FEATURING: , Bernard Blier, Jean Carmet, ,

PLOT: Soon after telling a man in the Paris subway about his fantasies of committing murder, Alphonse discovers the man dying with Alphonse’s own switchblade in his chest. Rushing home, he teams up with a police inspector and a hapless criminal who confesses to killing Alphonse’s wife. The trio goes out into the world, confronting both a variety of people who wish to kill them or to be killed by them.

Still from Buffet Froid (1979)


  • Writer-director Bertrand Blier won the César (France’s Oscar) for Best Writing for Buffet Froid. The film was also nominated in the cinematography, editing, and production design categories.
  • Buffet Froid feels very ian, even more so since Blier cast two actresses who had previously worked on Luis Buñuel films: Geneviève Page and Carole Bouquet.
  • Bernard Blier (Inspector Morvandieu) is the director’s father. It was his third appearance in one of his son’s films.
  • The role of the man harassed by Alphonse in the subway is played by an uncredited Michel Serrault, who is probably best known as Albin in the original La cage aux folles.
  • The opening scene is set in the Metro station at La Défense, which now sits directly underneath the monumental La Grande Arche building in the Parisian suburbs.
  • The film was not released in the United States until 1987. American critics were fiercely negative.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: It’s tempting to select the terrific jump cut when the leading trio is informed that they need to relax, and suddenly find themselves convalescing in front of a rustic cottage in the woods. But for a singular image, there’s great spectacle in the moment when a policeman responds to an emergency call only to find that he himself is the victim. His wide-eyed horror at being ushered into his deathbed while a string quintet assembles to serenade him into the great beyond is unforgettably hilarious.

TWO WEIRD THINGS: The widow moves in; assassin gets a head start in the water

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Buffet Froid is epic in its underplaying. Forget consequences; it posits a world where crime doesn’t pay because it doesn’t matter. The body count wouldn’t be out of place in a Hollywood thriller, but a strange combination of fear of dying and reluctance to be caught underlies everything. It’s telling that Alphonse doesn’t lose his cool when he finds his own knife sticking out of a dying man, or even when he discovers his wife’s murder (and murderer). No, it’s only when a man tells him bluntly, “Accept your responsibilities and I’ll be on my way” that he stops dead in his tracks. Buffet Froid depicts a world gone mad, but in the most controlled way possible.

Trailer for Buffet Froid

COMMENTS: Buffet Froid lays out its premise almost immediately. Continue reading 35*. BUFFET FROID (1979)