COSMOPOLIS (2012)

September 3, 2012

 Greetings again from the darkness. David Cronenberg is a brilliant filmmaker. Brilliance doesn’t necessarily translate into popular or even accessible. He tends to make movies that force a level of discomfort while viewing, while also stretching our intellect as we attempt to follow. Even his films that come closest to mainstream (A History of Violence, The Fly) refuse to allow us to just sit and be entertained. His more esoteric films (Naked Lunch, Crash) will cause your thoughts to swim and your gut to churn.

This latest is based on the Don DeLillo novel and there is no known group of film lovers for whom this can be recommended, save Cronenberg fans. Even that doesn’t reduce its brilliance. Robert Pattinson plays Eric Packer, the ultimate example of the 1% that is receiving such notice these days. Packer is a young, billionaire, who rides around in his mobile high tech ivory tower (you might call it a white stretch limo), taking meetings while on his mission to get a haircut. The meetings are vignettes designed to grow increasingly abstract and dialogue heavy as the film progresses.

The meetings feature Jay Baruchel as his Chief of Technology, Philip Nozuka as an Analyst, Emily Hampshire as his Chief of Finance, Samantha Morton as his Chief of Theory … oh, and a special meeting with his mistress Juliette Binoche. He also manages to continually run into his new wife played by Sarah Gadon, and work in his daily doctor’s exam which is extremely thorough. All of these occur while he is being protected by his security chief played by Kevin Durand.

 This film is not plot driven, but rather ideal and theory driven. From the discussions we can tell that the financial systems are collapsing and Packer is losing millions by the minute. His fortune is vanishing and there are threats on his life. The most interesting threat comes from his true polar opposite in life – Benno Levin played by Paul Giamatti. This sequence is the film’s longest and most dialogue heavy. Understanding every sentence is not necessary to realize it’s a comment on the faceless many vs the evil privileged. The paranoia has boiled over to the point where anarchy and violence somehow make sense.

Twilight fans will not be pleased with Pattinson’s performance, but he is absolutely perfect as Packer. His cold, arrogant nature and monotone voice are anything but emotionless. He apparently realizes his path is leading to the Village of the Damned, and he seems to have designed his own purgatory. One of the funniest, yet still odd, moments arrives in the form of Mathieu Amalric, who will generate recollections of a Rupert Murdoch incident.

Howard Shore provides an extremely subtle score that fits with the mood changes a the film progresses. Again, this is a bit like watching a philosophical laboratory experiment and certainly won’t appeal to a wide audience. If you are a Cronenberg fan, have at it. If not … the risk is yours.

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you are a big time Cronenberg fan (I can’t think of another reason)

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you are a Twilight fan expecting Robert Pattinson’s bedroom eyes to steal your heart

watch the trailer:


A DANGEROUS METHOD

December 26, 2011

 Greetings again from the darkness. This film and story is yet more confirmation for my life-long belief that, in general, psychiatrists and psychologists tend to be the most unstable and consistently loony people in society. Whether in the medical profession, business world or scientific realm, over-blown ego affects judgment and clarity; and sometimes leads to the mis-guided notion that proving one’s theory is more vital than finding real truth.

Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) are considered the founding fathers of what we accept today as psychoanalysis. In this film, we see how the two men came to know each other and the subsequent prideful battle of egos that drove them apart. Just as importantly, we see how Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) evolved from clinical hysteria sufferer in 1904 (as the film opens), to Jung’s patient, to Jung’s lover, and finally to the level of respected colleague of Freud and Jung within the field. Her growth and change as a patient provided clinical proof to “the talking cure” method, which took the place of electro-shock therapy (except in extreme cases).

 The film is directed by David Cronenberg, although you might not believe it if you didn’t know it to be so. Mr. Cronenberg is known for such work as The Fly, Eastern Promises and A History of Violence. This is easiest his most dialogue-intensive work to date. Of course, that makes sense given that it’s based on Christopher Hampton‘s play “The Talking Cure” and John Kerr‘s book “A Most Dangerous Method”. The two main subjects love to hear their own words, though here Freud spends much of his screen time puffing a cigar and tossing in a few well-timed grunts. This goes to his belief that silence often leads others to conclude that his theories are so solid, debate becomes unnecessary.

 It is very interesting to see the personality differences between the subdued Freud and the more open-minded Jung. When mystical and supernatural subjects are brought up by Jung, Freud quickly dismisses them as hooey. Freud was almost a master marketer is his attempts to get psychoanalysis accepted into mainstream. He fought Jung’s more exploratory ideas. At the heart of the film is the evolution of Sabina and it’s impact on the three leads. There is also a bit of Otto Gross (Vincent Cassel) thrown in to show just how open and vulnerable Jung could be.

Learning about these pioneers is crucial to understanding the topic of today’s psychiatry and psychology. There is no question that the foundation of their work led to the salvation of many suffering people over the years. Of course, it’s clear that many patients have also suffered at the hands of those in the field who are less scrupulous.

The look of the film is beautiful, as are the costumes and sets. An added bonus is the terrific score from Howard Shore. It’s difficult to see this one attracting a wide audience, but the performances and subject matter should please those who are drawn to it.

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you fancy yourself an amateur psychiatist OR you would like a primer in the beginnings of psychoanalysis

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you aren’t up for frequent tie-ins to sex … after all, it is Freud!

watch the trailer: