Orlan – Carnal Art

Queasy-making but instructive documentary "Orlan -- Carnal Art" is not for the squeamish, but delivers visceral food for thought. Performance-art mavens and the piercing-and-mutilation crowd are obvious target auds, but any hardtop or tube programmer looking for something different could exploit the midnight-movie potential.

With:
With: Orlan, Pierre Restany, Barbara Rose, Serge Francois, Sandra Gering, Gladys Fabre, Joel Raffier, Marjorie Kramer, Linda Weintraub, Connie Chung. (French & English dialogue)

The proud epitome of suffering for one’s art, radical French artist Orlan uses major invasive plastic surgery to modify her primary canvas: her own flesh. Queasy-making but instructive documentary “Orlan — Carnal Art” is not for the squeamish, but delivers visceral food for thought. Performance-art mavens and the piercing-and-mutilation crowd are obvious target auds, but any hardtop or tube programmer looking for something arrestingly different could exploit the midnight-movie potential lurking in film’s serious discourse. Docu recently enjoyed a month-long theatrical run in Paris.

Orlan’s sincere mission in life is to remold her body to echo historical examples of beauty, some of which have fallen out of aesthetic favor. Declaring “the body is obsolete,” she’s undergone a series of compound surgeries staged as art performances. With Orlan under local anesthetic, surgeons dig around under her skin much the way a woman may dig through a purse for her keys. Cheekbones, chin, ears, waist, ribs, thighs, nose — you name it, she’s tampered with it.

Highbrow art crix and philosophers offer mostly admiring commentary about the deeper meanings of Orlan’s endeavors. Only one commentator, an American psychiatrist, thinks what she’s doing is outright wrong.

Footage from a trip to Madras in the early ’90s yields wonderful, Hindu-inspired visuals, including massive portraits of Orlan rendered by the sign painters who supply cinemas in India. In a 1993 seg, TV reporter Connie Chung tries to remain neutral while covering a vivid bout of Orlan’s surgery. Orlan replies to questions beamed in from all over the world while surgeons energetically mutilate her ear. The procedures are riveting because they’re so incongruous, yet so real.

When Madonna and Orlan were both guests on a French TV talkshow, Orlan presented the singer with a piece of jewelry containing morsels removed from her cheeks. “It looks like caviar,” notes a thrilled Madonna, adding, “I’ll always cherish it.”

Tech aspects vary from ragged to decent, but get the job done just fine, given the topic at hand.

Orlan - Carnal Art

France

Production: A Myriapodus Films release of a Myriapodus Films production, with participation of CNC and Centre Pompidou. (International sales: Myriapodus, Paris.) Produced, directed, written, edited by Stephan Oriach.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W), Oriach; costume designers, Paco Rabanne, Franck Sorbier, Lan Vu; sound (Dolby), Emmanuelle Sachet, Eric Morelon, Nico Las Joly, Emmanuel Soland. Reviewed at Quartier Latin, Paris, June 2, 2003. (Also in Cannes Film Festival -- market.) Running time: 76 MIN.

With: With: Orlan, Pierre Restany, Barbara Rose, Serge Francois, Sandra Gering, Gladys Fabre, Joel Raffier, Marjorie Kramer, Linda Weintraub, Connie Chung. (French & English dialogue)

More Film

  • Lebanese Prime Minister Steps In to

    Lebanese Prime Minister Steps In to Overrule Ban on 'The Post'

    The proud epitome of suffering for one’s art, radical French artist Orlan uses major invasive plastic surgery to modify her primary canvas: her own flesh. Queasy-making but instructive documentary “Orlan — Carnal Art” is not for the squeamish, but delivers visceral food for thought. Performance-art mavens and the piercing-and-mutilation crowd are obvious target auds, but […]

  • Jessica Chastain, Octavia Spencer to Reunite

    Jessica Chastain, Octavia Spencer to Reunite for Holiday Comedy (EXCLUSIVE)

    The proud epitome of suffering for one’s art, radical French artist Orlan uses major invasive plastic surgery to modify her primary canvas: her own flesh. Queasy-making but instructive documentary “Orlan — Carnal Art” is not for the squeamish, but delivers visceral food for thought. Performance-art mavens and the piercing-and-mutilation crowd are obvious target auds, but […]

  • Armie Hammer and Timothée ChalametVariety Studio

    Variety Studio at Sundance Sets Interviews With Top Festival Stars

    The proud epitome of suffering for one’s art, radical French artist Orlan uses major invasive plastic surgery to modify her primary canvas: her own flesh. Queasy-making but instructive documentary “Orlan — Carnal Art” is not for the squeamish, but delivers visceral food for thought. Performance-art mavens and the piercing-and-mutilation crowd are obvious target auds, but […]

  • Sundance: Pulse, AI Film Launch Film

    Sundance: Pulse, AI Film Partner to Launch New Film Fund Backed by Len Blavatnik

    The proud epitome of suffering for one’s art, radical French artist Orlan uses major invasive plastic surgery to modify her primary canvas: her own flesh. Queasy-making but instructive documentary “Orlan — Carnal Art” is not for the squeamish, but delivers visceral food for thought. Performance-art mavens and the piercing-and-mutilation crowd are obvious target auds, but […]

  • Sundance 2018 Preview Indie Film World

    Sundance: Changing of the Guard Opens Door for Forward-Thinking Players

    The proud epitome of suffering for one’s art, radical French artist Orlan uses major invasive plastic surgery to modify her primary canvas: her own flesh. Queasy-making but instructive documentary “Orlan — Carnal Art” is not for the squeamish, but delivers visceral food for thought. Performance-art mavens and the piercing-and-mutilation crowd are obvious target auds, but […]

  • 10 Must See Film at Sundance

    10 Buzziest Films at Sundance Film Festival 2018

    The proud epitome of suffering for one’s art, radical French artist Orlan uses major invasive plastic surgery to modify her primary canvas: her own flesh. Queasy-making but instructive documentary “Orlan — Carnal Art” is not for the squeamish, but delivers visceral food for thought. Performance-art mavens and the piercing-and-mutilation crowd are obvious target auds, but […]

  • Sundance Womens March

    Ethan Hawke on How He Survived 11 Sundance Fests: 'You Have to Be Strong and Humble'

    The proud epitome of suffering for one’s art, radical French artist Orlan uses major invasive plastic surgery to modify her primary canvas: her own flesh. Queasy-making but instructive documentary “Orlan — Carnal Art” is not for the squeamish, but delivers visceral food for thought. Performance-art mavens and the piercing-and-mutilation crowd are obvious target auds, but […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content