Sunday, March 25, 2012

Long Live the New Flesh

Few things this week made me quite as happy as this new film trailer:

I love the black-on-black titles with their sickly neon corona. I love the dark industrial electronica. I love the glimpses of a seedy urban underworld. I love the surrealistic violence, and I love the grit and grain of the camera stock that evokes the best Cult Cinema of the 1980s.

According to DuckDuckGo, Cosmopolis is Greek for 'Universe City' or 'Order City'. It is also the name of a 2003 novel by North American satirist Don Delillo about A Day in the Life of a bored American billionaire, as he travels in his limousine through a disaster-hit New York on his way to have his hair cut. I have not yet decided whether or not to read the novel before I watch the film (as I surely will), it being the latest cinematic outing of one of my favourite writer-directors.

David Cronenberg made his name in the late 1970s and early 1980s making relatively low-budget Canadian body-horror movies, during what is sometimes referred to as the 'plastic reality' era - an unimaginatively primitive time in which special effects crews worked with latex and cellulose to create practical and physical effects. Anti-pixel activists look back on that time as a Golden Age that gave birth to An American Werewolf in London, The Thing and Dawn of the Dead.

The Sui Generis of plastic reality, however, was David Cronenberg, who elevated visual metaphor to the status of Art in the low-rent but high-minded Videodrome; and achieved mainstream commercial success with The Fly (1986), for which Jeff Goldblum should have won the Best Actor Oscar.

In recent years, Cronenberg has used his considerable talents to tell stories about less outre subject matter - unassuming diner proprietors who may or may not be what they seem; murky Russian gangsters living in a modern, shadow London; and the historical tussle of ideas between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud (A Dangerous Method). Cronenberg insists that he does not care about his previous films; his only thought is to give his present project 'what it needs'. Cronenberg is serious about the idea of film as Art.


As a fan of the early, funny ones (sic) I am pleased to see Cronenberg return to the exploding heads, vaginal stomachs (see Videodrome) and horrific metamorphoses of the past. It is the rigour with which he addresses science-fiction subject matter that so inflames the imaginative intellect.

Some will carp at the casting of Robert Pattinson, but, from a hard-headed economic perspective, his casting is a very wise business decision. The thought of innocent Twi-hards (for whom the names Cronenberg and DeLillo mean nothing) going to see Cosmopolis on the basis of Pattinson's presence alone makes me smile a wicked smile. 

(((Supplemental: If Pattinson can do Cosmopolis for Cronenberg, how about casting him as Case in Neuromancer?)))


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