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

WATCH THE TRAILER


OCTOBER GALE (2014)

March 2, 2015

october gale Greetings again from the darkness. Writer/Director Ruba Nadda likes to explore human nature and unexpected romantic attraction. She did this in Cairo Time (2009) and does so again here in this excruciatingly slow-moving “thriller” with an interesting beginning, muddled middle, and a final act that reminds of wet fireworks … a dud. On the bright side, actress-extraordinaire Patricia Clarkson never allows us to lose interest.

I’ve often written of my enjoyment of slow-burns and slow-builds for thrillers, and the best manage to generate a sense of caring from the viewers as they move towards the climax. Unfortunately, this one offers little more than an intriguing premise that places one ridiculous development on top of the next.

Patricia Clarkson plays a doctor whose beloved husband has recently passed away and she heads to their lake cottage for some peace and quiet. Not long after, an injured Scott Speedman shows up in her living room. Being a doctor, she performs bullet-removal surgery with needle-nosed pliers, and then of course, finds herself attracted to the young gunshot victim who is being hunted by the father of a guy Speedman killed.

We know the showdown is coming, but it seems to take forever to arrive, and then is pretty anti-climactic despite the presence of Tim Roth as the revenge-seeking father. The romantic attraction is pretty far-fetched and plays like a Nicolas Sparks story, or even a 1990’s Tom Berenger or Ashley Judd thriller.

The focus on death could have gone much deeper, psychologically speaking, and there is a brief scene where Roth tells Speedman “You always think there’s going to be more time” that leads us to believe things are going to get really interesting. Instead more attention is given to the unlikely romance and the kinda hokey manhunt. Fortunately, the cinematography around beautiful Georgian Bay helps offset the story and the manipulative score, and of course watching Patricia Clarkson and Tim Roth work is always somewhat satisfying.

watch the trailer:

 


BARNEY’S VERSION

February 26, 2011

 Greetings again from the darkness. Ordinarily, a film with Rosamund Pike and Bruce Greenwood in key roles would be sufficient for me to stay home and watch The Weather Channel. However, Paul Giamatti and Dustin Hoffman, as son and father, in a story based on Mordecai Richler’s novel was motivation enough for me to buck up and give this one a shot. And what a pleasant surprise this film is.

Giamatti has mastered the role of cynical, self-absorbed, frumpy schlub and his Barney is every bit that. The story is told through extended flashbacks after we learn a detective has written a book accusing Barney of killing his best friend (Scott Speedman). No charges were brought and it’s not until the end, in an extremely creative reveal, that we understand what really happened that day at the lake. Unfortunately, we aren’t sure if Barney ever understands, but that’s a whole different topic.

Barney’s first marriage comes about because his girlfriend gets pregnant. This one ends in tragedy and betrayal and drives Barney to spend much of his life on the path of cynicism, alcoholism and cigar-chain-smoking. He is no pretty sight – from inside or out. He stumbles into his second marriage, this one to Minnie Driver. Ms. Driver is wonderful as the Jewish princess with a Master’s Degree. How do we know? She continually reminds us of both facts. Ever known anyone that just constantly reminds you of how smart they are? How this marriage ends leads to the whole suspicion of murder and loss of best friend for Barney.

The real key to the story occurs at his wedding. Instead of worshiping his new bride, Barney watches hockey, does shots with his Dad (Dustin Hoffman) and experiences love at first sight … not with his bride, but with a guest played by Rosamund Pike. This encounter puts Barney on a singular mission of winning over Ms. Pike, despite his marriage to Driver. Can’t really give anything away here other than the story is very clever in how it handles the pursuit, failed marriage and subsequent true love story.

 The only thing is, Barney never really “gets” what true love is. Pike has a wonderful scene where she explains that life and love are in “the seconds, the minutes, the routines”. Barney nods but is clearly in over his head in so many ways. Part of the genius in the script is that we somehow find ourselves pulling for Barney, despite his long list of faults and none-too-impressive quirks.

The other thing I really appreciate about this story is how there are so many relationships that seem to spring from reality … people we know in situations we’ve been in. The title, of course, refers to Barney’s version of reality. How he sees things. We could each replace his name with ours for a movie on our life. Do we see reality, or is reality how we interpret these seconds, minutes, routines? The answer seems pretty clear.

 The film is directed by Richard J. Lewis (not the comedian) but is really a product of the amazing story and talented cast led by the extraordinary performance of Giamatti. Dustin Hoffman’s scenes are all excellent, and his real life son Jake, plays his grandson in the film. Don’t miss the quick scenes featuring standout directors Atom Egoyan, David Cronenberg and Ted Kotcheff. It’s also character actor extraordinare Maury Chaykin‘s final film. And I certainly can’t omit mention of the fabulous, spot on soundtrack featuring T-Rex, JJ Cale, Donovan and others. Leonard Cohen‘s “I’m Your Man” plays over the closing credits so don’t leave early!

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you thrill to well told stories that are extremely well acted OR you just want to admire Giamatti’s god-awful posture.

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you need a “good guy” lead character OR you are concerned that the sight of Paul Giamatti in boxers could lead to nightmares.