Tag Archives: david cronenberg

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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