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June 6-June 15

Viewers watching The Cremaster Cycle in its seven-hour entirety—possible during marathon screenings on June 7 and 14—may assume that New York art star Matthew Barney finally mastered filmmaking with episode 3. But one of the mysteries of Barney’s pentateuch, a series of portentous tableaux (Cremaster 1 is pictured) linked by thematic motifs but not by any coherent story, is that it wasn’t made in numerical order. The three-hour Cremaster 3 is actually the most recent of the five films. It’s also the best, thanks in part to the most lavish production values of the series, but mostly because Barney finally learned enough about editing and camera movement to create the illusion of continuity, if not actual narrative. Although 3 begins somewhere near the Celtic Sea—as does 4, the first of the chapters despite its number—most of the action takes place in the Chrysler Building and the Guggenheim Museum, where the film was later shown in one of Barney’s installation pieces. Masonic ritual is a major theme, and Agnostic Front, Murphy’s Law, and an amputee dressed as some sort of leopard-woman all appear. Also featured are such enduring Cremaster obsessions as racing, water nymphs, Busby Berkeley choreography, medical torture, sheep and goats, gooey substances, and oval shapes. (The cremaster, Barney novices may not know, is the muscle that controls the movement of the testicles.) For those not ready to commit to the marathon, 3 is the one to see, followed by the double bill of episodes 4 and 5. See Showtimes for the series’ full schedule of screenings at the American Film Institute’s Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. $8.50. (301) 495-6700. (Mark Jenkins)