Category Archives: Canadian

60. Videodrome – David Cronenberg (1983)

Repeat Viewing.

“Long Live the New Flesh”

Stop me, ohh stop me, stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before, but David Cronenberg is a genius. I know I’ve been bloggin’ his praises at length recently, I can’t help it, I love him, even slightly more than I used to. <I’ll stop with the Moz paraphrasing> Although interestingly, and perhaps only interesting to me, is that Videodrome, with all it’s perverseness and horror, wasn’t banned, but “Stop Me…“, by The Smiths, was. Good ole’ BBC. Anyway, on to the review!

Videodrome is fucked up, incomprehensible, dangerous, creepy, disturbing, and it’s all done in the best possible way. Here’s the story if you don’t know it; Max Renn, played by James Woods at his absolute smarmy best, is the owner of an ultra low budget Toronto cable TV station. Renn provides his viewers with the worst material available; seedy, cheap, erotic/violent stuff. It’s basically The Sun newspaper in televisual form. Renn is also dating Nicki Brand, a radio agony aunt, played by Debbie Harry. Of course this being a Cronenberg movie the agony aunt likes to let off steam by having masochistic sex with Renn. Nothing is ever what it seems to be in Videodrome. Woods’ quest for the quintessential form of  cheap entertainment brings him to Videodrome; a TV show like no other, it’s violent and sexual beyond the normal bounds of TV. From the moment Videorome is introduced into the story it gets weird, inexplicably weird. Renn’s life is twisted apart to the point where he no longer is himself. It would give too much away to continue with the narrative, but be prepared for anything to happen.

Videodrome is the pinnacle of the Cronenberg horror phase. It’s where he takes all the gore of his previous scary movies and marries it with an attack on the brain. You literally start to wonder what the fuck is going on, and then you start to wonder how Cronenberg could have created such an alarming and psychotic story. This man must need help! Videodrome is inventive to the point where it becomes surreal, you lose yourself inside the movie, you have to let the weirdness wash over you.

I love Videodrome. It is completely unique. There’s nothing I’ve seen that can rival Videodrome for the genuine surprise of what happens in this film. And I don’t mean surprise in terms of plot twists, but surprise in the sense that a film can be so strange, provocative, powerful and affecting. Like all Cronenberg flicks not everyone will enjoy it, he’s a love it or hate it kind of director. I’ve read reviews from people who’ve hated Videodrome. They couldn’t stand watching it. I’ve read dozens of reasons why it doesn’t work, but that for me is the point of Videodrome, it’s doing something that creates a reaction from the viewer. So, fuck The Ring and it’s scary videotapes, Videodrome, the videotape, is much more disturbing. If this were a 1950s film trailer, instead of an occasionally witty blog, it would tell you to “watch it if you dare” and laugh ominously.

Marks out of ten – Ten

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57. Cosmopolis – David Cronenberg (2012)

First Viewing.

“You have your mother’s breasts”

The first, and perhaps most important thing to say, is that a  quarter of the audience walked straight out of the screening I was in. A patron quite vividly announced, “this is weird, this is boring” and promptly got up and left with his possibly mute partner tagging along. And, the person whom I saw this movie with, who hasn’t seen a Cronenberg in her life, sarcastically thanked me for taking her to see this “awful film.” So, it’s fair to say, Cosmopolis is something of a divisive movie, especially when I thought it was a vastly interesting piece of cinema. It is a challenge to watch, and I can see why the endless and meticulous dialogue makes it difficult for a person to engage in the story. It’s deliberately alienating. It’s the cinematic equivalent of reading Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. It is, however, a very rewarding film if you let it become one.

So, what’s it actually about? Well, um, there’s no much plot per se. The main character Eric, played by R-Patzzz Robert Pattinson, decides he needs to get a haircut. I believe the opening line is, “I want a haircut.” And from then on we see Eric, in his limousine, travelling across Manhattan to get his haircut. This is no ordinary limousine however, it’s more of a spaceship, it has all kinds of features that a man of immense wealth, like Eric, would have. Eric is joined by various people along his journey, predominantly in his in limousine, and they have inhuman conversations about the markets, life, sex, love and other such subjects, but, nearly always, the conversation is steered back to money and wealth.  And being a man of immense wealth Eric becomes a target, a target of greed, a target for the proletariat, a target for anarchists, and a symbol of capitalism. His wealth is a trigger for all that happens along this journey. His wealth is corrupting him in every possible way. The world is collapsing around him and he is viewing it, inorganically, inside his “Prousted” limousine. This leaves us with a road movie, of sorts, about capitalism. It’s very abstract, Pattinson described the character of Eric as ghost passing through the city, and it’s a very apt way of putting it as Eric doesn’t seem very human any more.

The dialogue in the film isn’t something you’re likely to find in any other film this summer. It’s a bizarre combination of a 21st century bastard Shakespearean language coupled with moments of pure Pintereque silences and wall street lingo. Pattinson does a very capable job of making the viewer comfortable- as possible under the circumstances- with what he/she is hearing. There are some incredibly witty, funny lines and a few lines where I had no idea of their meaning. Occasionally you can feel like the words and sentences are hitting you in the face and you can’t quite take everything in and process it’s significance. It’s nearly overwhelming in parts.

Three things struck me as I left the cinema. One, I would be interested in reading Don DeLillo’s (whose book of the same name the film is adapted from) work. Two, this film is going to have a lot of trouble finding an audience. And three, David Cronenberg is creating some of the most exciting and interesting films in the world right now. He might well have overtaken David Lynch and Woody Allen and leaped straight into the spot of my second favourite director still making movies. This movie is pushing boundaries of what is possible in cinema, it’s experimental, and I’m itching to see it again. It’s not without faults though, it’s motifs can sometimes pass over ones head and leave you bewildered. It also takes some time to adjust yourself to a movie that doesn’t want you to enjoy it on a basic movie-going level. Thus I can’t give it a ten out of ten at this moment, I’d need to watch it again and take it all in.

Finally, your average Twilight fans will hate it. I’m not entirely sure post-modern movies are their thing. It’s time for a hair cut now.

Marks out of ten – Eight

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55. A Dangerous Method – David Cronenburg (2012)

First Viewing.

I’m a big Cronenburg fan, so I was excited to hear that he was working on a film about Sigmund Freud, someone I had studied quite intently at film school. Freud, whether you love him or hate him, is always an interesting character to portray in a movie. There’s so much scope to work with. And, on a personal level, I’ve always found Freud’s work interesting and provocative, and enjoyed reading him. This film, however, is actually centred more around Freud’s protégé, rival, friend and enemy, Carl Jung, played by Michael Fassbender. Jung’s work with a patient and soon to be lover, Sabina Spielrein, played by Keria Knightley, is the dynamic which holds the film together. The fiery relationship between Jung and Spielrein takes centre stage, a little to my surprise after watching the trailer, and Freud plays a much smaller roll than I would have hoped in the movie. That being said, there’s no shortage of interest on my part for Jung and Spielrein’s exploites. Their relationship is deeply disturbing. And I’m not talking about their extreme sexual games particularly, but that the fact that Spielrein is a patient of Jung’s. It’s a typical Cronenburg subject; it has the extreme sexual exploration of Crash – Croneneburg’s Crash not the infinitely poorer film of the same name, starring Sandra Bullock, that took home a bunch of Oscars – coupled with the sexual violence of  A History of Violence. And, to make things all the more interesting, we have Freud periodically dissecting everyone’s motives.  It all makes for a good movie on paper.

However, having read a few reviews of A Dangerous Method before watching it I was disappointed to see that it wasn’t getting the best feedback. The focus of complaint seem to be twofold. One, the pacing of the film was too slow, and two, the performance Keria Knightley gives as Spielrein. It’s fair to say the film is quite meandering, but I think that works perfectly for the subjects being discussed. This isn’t a Hollywood movie, things need to be digested, lingered on, and then talked through. There isn’t a lot of fast paced drama going on, it’s more of a slow burning internal conflict gripping the characters and the film does well to keep the viewer constantly interested with gentle prods and pokes in the right direction. So I think Cronenburg gets the pacing pretty much on the money. Keria Knightley’s performance is up for more debate. I do think she plays the part well, to an extent, but she seems quite miscast for the roll. I never fully bought into the idea that Knightley got her kicks from being humiliated and beaten. She seems too rigid. She’s more Austen’s Pride and Prejudice than Ballard’s Crash. The film, I feel, would have worked better with a more complimentary actress. Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen, who plays Freud, however, are wonderful. They have great chemistry in their scenes together and bounce off of each other with probing barbs in a most entertaining and insightful way.

All in all it’s a fascinating film. I can see why people have hated it, you need to put some work in on a viewing level to get the film’s rewards. It’s worth it though. The film isn’t especially long at a tad over an hour-and-a-half, so you don’t ever feel bogged down in psychoanalysis. It’s also wetted my appetite for rewatching some old Cronenburg classics like The Fly, Crash, and, one of my all time favourites, Videodrome. And that can’t be a bad thing.

Marks out of ten – Eight

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48. Cube – Vincenzo Natali (1997)

First Viewing.

Super low budget, it’s Canadian and it’s about, well, a Rubik’s cube with serious issues; it likes to kill people. On the face of it it’s not exactly the type of film I’d be rushing out to watch usually, but I thought I’d give it a go due to a combination of good reviews and peer pressure. And, I’m not going to say I wish I hadn’t seen it, but it didn’t rock my world (I’ve never used that phrase before, and, reading it back, I don’t think I ever will again!) I can live with the dubious special effects, I can live with the weird set-up, I can almost live with the awful dialogue, but when certain characters started acting like they’ve been lobotomised half way through the film I lost interested. I understand that the characters, who are trapped inside this killer box, are under intense pressure to escape, but really, you don’t go from being a good guy to a total dick in the space of 30 seconds. If you’re a huge sci-fan it’s probably worth checking out, or if you find a regular Rubik’s cube just far too easy you might want to take a look too, otherwise I’d watch something else.

Marks out of ten – Five

*Bonus Oscar related content!*

Being a huge Woody Allen fan I’d like to see Midnight in Paris sweep the Oscars up, but that’s never going to happen. Midnight in Paris isn’t actually even close to some of Woody’s best work, so I shan’t be overly gutted if he goes home empty handed. It’s not like he’ll give a fuck either way. I quite liked Moneyball too, but that’s because I’m a closet baseball and stats geeks. I guess I might not feel the same if I had zero interest in the sport. I’d also like to see Gary Oldman win for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but I’m finding it hard to find any other films I truly love out of the nominated bunch, so that’s a big “meh” from me on what goes on to win tonight…

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