Feb 12, 2011

A Fire in My Belly

Lately, I find myself revisiting short films more often than feature-length works. I can say without hesitation that the phantasmagorical occult sinema of Kenneth Anger has swayed most of my more recent cinematic attention. Whether it be a film or an album of music, I find myself most attracted to artistic works that lack filler material. I find that short films generally lack filler material as the filmmaker is often more careful and disciplined when it comes to directing and assembling a film that is less than 10 minutes in length. Over the past couple of years, my taste in cinema has become more refined, resulting in a stricter personal criteria for films that I find to be worthy of artistic praise. Fire in My Belly directed by David Wojnarowicz, despite being around 4 minutes in length (a 20 minute version of the film also exists), is certainly not the kind of ideal short film that I find perfectly palatable, as it lacks fluidity and hypnotic majesty; two rare cinematic attributes that I find imperative when conclusively deciding whether or not a certain a flick is an authentic work of art. After reading up on director David Wojnarowicz and watching Fire in My Belly (the filmmaker's most notorious work), it is apparent to me that the postmodern polymath artist (working within many artistic mediums) never fully developed a cohesive and original cinematic/artistic voice. 

In 1985, Wojnarowicz successfully sued United Methodist minister Donald Wildmon and The American Family Associate (a conservative Christian organization) for copying and distorting (protected under the New York Artists' Authorship Rights Act) his art. Although dying from AIDS-related complications in the early 1990s, Christians would later have their revenge against Wojnarowicz in 2010 by having his short Fire in My Belly removed from the National Portrait Gallery. The Catholic League and intelligent design advocate John Boehner merely complained to the National Portrait Gallery and the short was ousted. Christians demanded that Fire in My Belly should be removed from the gallery because of a vacuous scene in the short featuring ants walking over a cross. Surprisingly, Mr. Boehner was not as offended to see the gratuitous boner featured in the film. My main problem with Fire in My Belly is that it lacks originality and artistic cohesiveness; undoubtedly a pastiche mess that personifies the cultural bankruptcy of most 'postmodern' art. After watching the short, it was obvious to me that the director was especially influenced by Scorpio Rising, almost making Fire in My Belly in certain parts feel like a gross parody of Anger's sadomasochistic masterpiece. I guess David Wojnarowicz felt that by showing an erect cock for a couple seconds (the male members featured in Scorpio Rising are quickly inter-cut randomly in the film, making them seem like subliminal homo-occult messages), he was making a huge leap in artistic progress.

At best, Fire in My Belly is an alright way to waste 4 minutes (do not even bother watching the 20 minute version). At worst, the short is a testament to the lack of evolution in the way of cinematic artistry. You are better off watching the 1929 surrealist masterpiece Un Chien Andalou created by Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali. After all, David Wojnarowicz seems to have lifted his interest in creepy insects and blasphemous imagery from Un Chien Andalou. It is a sad day when anti-Christian sentiment has become so trendy and hip that it manages to bore the viewer. Fire in My Belly is comparable to the 'scandalous' 1987 Piss Christ photograph (which was partially funded by the United States Government via the National Endowment for Art). To be an artist in the modern world, you do not need talent and skill, only banal iconoclasm and borderline pornography. French decadent poet Arthur Rimbaud (a major influence on David Wojnarowicz) may have been a libertine but he was also a purveyor of beauty, something that Wojnarowicz was never able to accomplish. I am not surprised that Wojnarowicz contracted a fire in his belly, as it was probably the result of consuming too many hot pieces of past art (he could never compete with) over the years.  By creating A Fire in My Belly, Wojnarowicz was able to release his confused incendiary influences, creating a postmodern work of visual farts.

-Ty E





jervaise brooke hamster said...

Who gives a fuck, i just want to bugger Eva Amurri when she was 6.

James O'Meara said...

Great review. Says what needs to be said, and now I don't have to watch the film.

Boner and Wojo are symbiotic. In a healthy society, both would be laughed off the stage. You wouldn't 'need' Boner to protect your eyes or taxes because Wojo would not get any further than art-school Hitler did.

And ditto on short films. Hollywood only adds timewasting pork. I learned just this morning that not only was The Island a bloated ripoff of a fine though dumb B flick called Parts [I knew this from MST3K] but there was even a "high class" novel and Brit film, Never Let Me Go, that also ripped it off. Both films of course were big budget, long, wastes of time.