Did I see this film before I started to do reviews? I remember “eXistenZ” as a nice Cronenberg, but not his best. Seeing it again, this conclusion stands. The film is in the ‘old style’, the “body horror” style, of Cronenberg. Gruely looking, semi-living artifacts and a dirty step in technology combined with surgery. The title of the film is a game in which the players Matrix-like plug in to. The players find themselves into a virtual world with an unknown asignment. The game-economy is booming, so the author of eXistenZ is hunted after. Another reason for this is (I suppose) that not everybody likes what Allegra is doing with her games.
The film has a lot of Cronenberg elements, a good atmosphere and a descent story. Indeed, not his best work, but certainly worth the watch if you like his ‘old style’.
After visiting the great David Cronenberg exposition in Eye Amsterdam we went to see his latest film. In the exposition a lot of stress is laid on Cronenberg’s weird creations, mixes between bodies and technologies and the like, but nothing of that can be found in his latest film. “Maps To The Stars” is mostly a drama about Hollywood actors and their lives. Julianne Moore once again plays a heavily troubled woman, this time an actress whose carreer is as good as over. Then we have another troubled woman, Agatha Weiss whose past is getting on with her. Agatha’s husband is the successfull New Age Hollywood star doctor Stafford Weiss who goes to great length to keep the drama out of his life so that it does not interfere with his cashflow. Agatha and Stafford have a successfull child-star as a son. Then there is Jerome Fontana who is one of those typical youngsters working in Hollywood to get money and at the same time trying his luck with acting and writing.
All characters are part of the same story, but different sides of it. Nothing fancy for a change, but there are some surprising connections. It looks like Cronenberg wanted to show the dark side of Hollywood and use that element in a slightly mysterious story, or at least, a story which shows the dark side of man.
“Maps To The Stars” is a good drama with good acting, but I must say that I was more in the mood of the old Cronenberg after the exposition.
Of course I have seen “The Fly” several times since it came out. My girlfriend had not so we ended up watching this Cronenberg classic. “The Fly” is not as dark and gloomy as “Videodrome” or “Naked Lunch”, but is it nonetheless a somewhat disturbing and still very actual film about experimental science.
Seth Brundle is a scholar experimenting which his self-designed “telepods”. In one of these “pods” he can have his computer decompose its content, send it to the other pod and put it back together. This works perfectly on dead things, but not immediately on living things. Brundle continues to ‘teach’ his computer until he can also transport living things. Of course he also tries this on himself, but when a fly unseen joins Brundle’s transportation, but result is quite unforseen.
Brundle talking to his computer which displays quite a level of artificial intelligence was pretty scifi in 1986, but in several ways it still is. The fact that for us today not everything is science fiction anymore may be the most disturbing part of the film. Storywise “The Fly” is a bit weird. How comes that the result of Brundle’s experiment develops after the proces has taken place? Of course this development allowed Cronenberg to make his gruesome special effects, combine horror and drama and add continues surprise for the viewer. As a film “The Fly” stands firm. Of course everything looks very 1980’ies, but the drama works, the sex-scenes are steamy, Brundle’s situation continues to appeal and of course, there are some gruely scenes.
Indeed, a classic.
“The Dead Zone” is a typical early Cronenberg, but not of the “Videodrome” type that was released in the same year and which would mark a new and weirder direction for this author. Cronenberg used a story of the, in that time, world-famous horror author Stephen King. We follow Johhny Smith (Christopher Walken) who awakes from a lenghty coma with new abilities. What you get is a drama with thriller touches and a nice, dark undertone and of course, ‘unworldly elements’. “The Dead Zone” is one of those classics that you should watch some time, but not of the level of Cronenberg’s masterpieces.
The new Cronenberg is not your average film. Not very typical for Cronenberg either! Even though it is a strange book turned into film, it is nothing like “Naked Lunch” or similar films. “Cosmopolis” is a slightly surrealistic ride of the young yup Eric Packer. This absurdly rich 28 year old made his fortune with speculating the market (I think). In the entire film we follow him crossing Manhatten in his stretched limo. The film is very minimalistic in story and acting, sometimes becoming annoying. The opening scene sets the tone. Eric tells his head of security that he wants a haircut way across Manhattan even if that means crossing through a city that welcomes the president, is filled with anti-capitalist protestors and with a thread on Eric’s life. During the ride Eric welcomes several employees in his limo with whom he has lengthy philosophical discussions about capitalism and modern life. A few times he gets out and the intellectual but hollow discussions continue. Imagine a very slow pace (the traffic is jammed, the film has an according pace) and a few weird habbits of the extremely wealthy and you might have a faint idea of what this film is like. “Cosmopolis” is certainly a film that I have to see again at some point. As of now, I am tossed between finding it annoying (but that is probably on purpose) and finding it inventive. When it was finished, I did not have a bad feeling about it. Now, some time later, I mostly remember what I did not like, rather than what I did. I guess the overall atmosphere and the uniqueness of the film makes my opinion positive. Nope, not an easy film.
An old Cronenberg featuring Patrick “The Prisoner” McGoohan, what more do you want? The “scanners” from the title are people with a psychic abilities. The story reminds of Cronenberg’s more early films “Stereo” and “Crimes Of The Future”. McGoohan is a doctor (Paul Ruth) who is specialised in the scanners and who works for the government. The government had no program for the scanners and thus an underground has been formed. An old acquaintance recruits scanners and those who refuse do not live to tell. Ruth finds the last unrecruited scanner and wants him to infiltrate the underground group. “Scanners” is not as dark and weird as some other of Cronenbergs oldies, but it contains some funny horror elements and an interesting story with a couple of twists that would later become obligatory in modern cinema. Also he managed to film at some futuristic locations and the use of computers is wonderfully dated. Recommended!
I thought that this was a Cronenberg classic, but it is actually a recent film. Now knowing the year it was put in the cinemas makes me have to change my opinion about it. Watching “A History Of Violence” it occured to me that the brothers Coen used quite a bit of the atmosphere of this film in their more violent films. Actually it now more seems like it is the other way around. Like the Coens, Cronenberg uses this cold, suppressed kind of humour in “A History Of Violence” with a couple of violent and gruesome outburst. This would have been more funny when this film was 20 years old. Actually, when comparing this film with more recent ‘new violence’ and related films, it is quite… tame. Still I find “A History Of Violence” a very good film. It is not really original in story and, as we saw, not really original in execution, but Cronenberg proves himself a good director. We follow Tom Stall who lives in some small town somewhere out in the USA. When two people try to rob his diner, Tom’s reaction is swift and kills both robbers. The press turns Tom in a local hero and he appears all over the television. This causes him to be recognised by some people from his violent past. Or do they see Tom for the wrong man? Like I said, the film is well done, in all aspects actually. There a few good sex scenes (in contrast to most of which we see in popular films), the ‘normal’ drama is well done, the undercooled humour is good and the violence is funny and gruesome at the same time.
That is funny, this is the second film in one weekend with Gabriel Byrne (who I know from the X-Files), but there is a 12 years lap between both films. Anyway, even when the box promises a “Videodrome” level film, I find this Cronenberg not too interesting myself. “Spider” is a psychological drama about a boy/man of the same name. Different times run through eachother and Cronenburg leaves a lot to the imagination of the viewer. “Spider” is not a bad or boring film, but I guess I expected a bit more…
For a Cronenberg this film is not even that strange. The identical Mantle twins gynaecologists are very close until the arrival of a certain special woman. After that things go downwards for the both of them and Beverly and Eliot almost grow apart. They plan to separate definately.
“Dead Ringers” is not reall a horror, or even a thriller, but more of a drama but of course not of the dramatical sort. Cronenberg has created a nice psychological film in which two men slowly loose their minds. A nice watch.
In a nice ‘digipack’ two of the very early films of David Cronenberg: Stereo and Crimes of the Future. Both films are about an hour and both play in a remote concrete institute inhabeted by weird characters. “Stereo” is about a group of people who are artificially made telepathic and who are isolated for the sake of experiments. “Crimes Of The Future” is about a student of a “mad dermatologist” who has discovered a strange illness. “Stereo” is completely silent, save for the voiceovers, almost the same goes for “CotF”, but that film has ‘enlarged’ (by lack of a better discription) sounds here and there. Both films can be described as experimental art-films with a liking for scholarly language and strange futuristic visions. I quite like “Stereo”. It is extemely slow and minimalistic, but I kept wondering what was to come. “CotF” is less interesting in my opinion. It is an interesting watch, but a bit too little happens in it to remain interesting. However the films are presented as “two early films by the master of body horror”, you should not expect horror, however the films might give you an idea of how Cronenberg developed towards his masterpieces “Videodrome” (1983) and “Naked Lunch” (2001), there is a lot of material in between that I have not seen though.
So, I guess this box is for people who like experimental art films and for people who are interested in Cronenberg as a director and since this box is quite well available, I suppose there are enough people for that.