CRIMES OF THE FUTURE (2022)

June 2, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. So, what happens when society evolves to the point that pain barely exists? Well, of course, people will then desire pain for pleasure and will go to extremes to experience the new forbidden bruised fruit. Anyone familiar with filmmaker David Cronenberg’s 40+ year career is already anticipating ‘what else’ the master of ‘body horror’ and twisted provocations will add to the proceedings. And the answer is … plenty.

Viggo Mortensen stars as Saul Tenser, and Lea Seydoux co-stars as Caprice, his performance art partner with benefits (such as they may be). If you’ve ever wondered what a second career for a trauma surgeon might look like, well Caprice’s role in the live shows is to first tattoo and then remove the newest organ that Saul’s body has generated – all while the appreciative audience looks on as if Picasso were painting or Edith Piaf were singing. Wait, what? His body grows new organs? Yes, Cronenberg has set this in a future where a segment of the population has an evolved digestive system and mutations, pain has been mostly eradicated, and Saul’s body grows new organs that may or may not have a legitimate function – they’re never left in the body long enough to find out because it’s Show time!

An opening sequence features a young boy’s inexplicable action, which leads his mother to an unfathomable next step. We are clearly in a (not so bright) future and Cronenberg delivers his first crime. That boy is linked to one of the many sub-plots in the film, though it’s Saul and Caprice who are at the center of most. A secretive government agency is responsible for registering all new organs, and it’s run by Wippet (Don McKellar) and Timlin (Kristen Stewart). Wippet worships Saul as an icon, while Timlin takes it a step further by whispering in Saul’s ear, “Surgery is the new sex.” Stewart plays polar opposite to her usual subtle on-camera style, delivering a humorous take on a curious, bird-like creature with tics and a lack of social graces.

Outstanding supporting work comes from Scott Speedman, Welket Bungue, Tanaya Beatty, and Nadia Litz. I’ll say little else about these characters or their story lines, because this film works best as you uncover each layer for yourself. A general description of the film would be what happens when anatomy and art collide with science-fiction. One can easily draw connective dotted lines between this Cronenberg film and many of his earlier ones. It has the bizarre sensuality of CRASH (1996), a nod to THE FLY (1986), common ground with EXISTENZ (1999), a line from DEAD RINGERS (1988), and social commentary in line from both VIDEODROME (1983) and SCANNERS (1981). This is Viggo Mortensen’s fifth collaboration with Cronenberg, but surely the first where he’s said, “I’m not very good at old sex.”

Carol Spier’s signature Production Design plays a significant part in the film, and best I can tell, she has worked on each of Cronenberg’s films since 1981. The two Canadians make a good team. It’s been 8 years since Cronenberg’s last film, and the 79-year-old filmmaker is already in pre-production for his next. The Inner Beauty Pageant and Accelerated Evolution Syndrome are elements within this film, and as you would expect, he delivers visual effects that will stick with you. That said, nothing is over the top, and if anything, the cult filmmaker is on pretty good behavior, though he fully expects “walk outs” within the first few minutes. While I’m not sure the twist is even a twist, this is vintage Cronenberg offering no apologies while choosing to leave us with yet more of his provocations … “don’t spill”.

Opens in theaters on June 3, 2022

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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: