Director Wonder Russell’s REVELATION is surely a beautiful work of art, but cinema is unfortunately not its proper venue. In many ways, REVELATION reminds me of the work of Matthew Barney. However, I think his grand epic Cremaster Cycle —presented at the Guggenheim Museum—is more an installation piece than a series of films (even if some choose to label them as such).
Russell’s art concerns a series of silent vignettes within fields of music. These pieces can be analyzed singularly or as a whole. In each segment, a different actress, attired in all variations of costume and mask, has a life altering experience that educates her, and the viewer, about something. Though the experience may begin in the mundane— as for example, the loss of a baby— the end result takes the character closer to paradise—or the other way.
REVELATION is very much about identity, reflected in the faces and bodies of the varying actresses who could perhaps be analyzed as one entity. Identity is also referenced in costume and the mask—a very theatrical concept.
Some might argue that Alice Guy explored religious themes, costume and identity, and her work was surely filmic. That is all true, but I must reiterate, Guy’s work was very cinematic, and was not only about far reaching concepts, but film itself—-i.e. film stock, texture, color variations within black and white, etc.
Others might say, that REVELATION is much like the work of that queen of Avant-garde, Maya Deren. But still, I think not— as Deren’s work was even more so about film stock, lighting, and how one affects the other.
So how to rate REVELATION… I admit that Russell has put me in a very difficult position. As always, a critic’s analysis is an opinion, and should be taken as such. My rating in this instance is strictly my own statement, that REVELATION would be much better placed within the venues of theatre, ballet or installation than presented as a film.