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 Declaring “the body is obsolete,” she’s undergone a series of compound surgeries staged as art performances.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

  • No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No

    Barbara Harris, Actress in 'Freaky Friday,' 'Family Plot,' Dies at 83

    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 […]

  • Letitia Wright Henry Golding Zazie Beetz

    Variety Announces Actors to Watch for 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 […]

  • David Koepp'Mortdecai' film premiere, Los Angeles,

    Veteran Screenwriter David Koepp Sells Publishing, Film Rights for First Book (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 […]

  • Danny Boyle

    Danny Boyle Exits 'Bond 25'

    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 […]

  • Scooter Braun

    Scooter Braun to Develop Korean Pop Movie With Fox

    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 […]

  • Natalie Portman Drama 'Vox Lux' Joins

    Toronto Film Festival Adds Natalie Portman Drama 'Vox Lux'

    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 […]

  • Anthony Bourdain and Asia ArgentoCreative Arts

    Asia Argento Denies Sexual Assault, Says Payoff Was Anthony Bourdain's Idea

    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