David Cronenberg’s Crash immerses us in a world where dispassionate lovers seek new thrills to bring something tangibly gratifying into their unfulfilled existence. Based on the 1973 novel by J.G. Ballard, Cronenberg’s film brazenly collides the western world’s secret fixations while exploring his own preoccupations with the corruption and enhancements of the human body through technological accoutrements, cold contrivances that ultimately rob us of that which makes us human. The dystopian vision of Toronto in which Crash takes place is a concrete wasteland of bustling traffic, and automobiles extend into infinity in every perceivable direction, hiding the face of humanity in steel behemoths that act as secret sanctuaries to the apathetic passengers of life’s freeways.
Browsing: Editor’s Pick
TIFF’s From Within - The Films of David Cronenberg: Jeremy Irons and David Cronenberg on Dead Ringers
The TIFF Bell Lightbox has a David Cronenberg retrospective going on this month. There’s an exhibit, films, and events. Some of these include introductions to films by actors, producers, screenwriters, or directors. For their screening of Dead Ringers, I sat in on a small Q and A with both David Cronenberg and Jeremy Irons. Piers Handling, Director and Chief Executive Officer moderated this great discussion.
It must be incredibly frustrating to want to constantly destroy the planet, only to have the world change all around you. Roland Emmerich has spent a large part of his directing career attempting to create the definitive onscreen apocalypse, yet every time he does it the anxieties of his audiences slightly change around him and he has to change tactics.
The trivial objective of Claire Denis’ 2005 documentary, Vers Mathilde, was to follow dancer/choreographer Mathilde Monnier through the enigmatic steps involved in the creation, rehearsal, and performance of a production titled Deroutes, but below the unassuming surface lies a nuanced dissection of the human animal’s boundless capacity for expression and the uncalculated accidents that constitute the grist of artistry.
“It has a philosophy, and that is what makes it dangerous,” says a character at one point in Videodrome of the eponymous snuff broadcast discovered by TV station programmer Max Renn. She might well be speaking of the movie itself: arriving at a time when horror cinema was turning toward a trend of slasher sequels and increasing excesses of violence—a fact slyly acknowledged with blandly-titled, blood-soaked background posters for Something and Evil—Cronenberg’s eighth feature carried with it a philosophy quite unlike any other around it, informed as much by the lessons learned from his prior works as the failings of his fellow filmmakers. It’s for good reason that TIFF’s “Cronenberg: Evolution” exhibition should conclude its first stage at this point; Videodrome, certainly at least in the traditional sense of the word, is Cronenberg’s masterpiece.
As part of our coverage of TIFF’s From Within - The Films of David Cronenberg series, this is a video essay comparing and contrasting Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone with Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, two adaptations of Stephen King. I was inspired by Next Projection’s own Luke Annand’s essay “Comparative Examination: The Shining and The Dead Zone” and Drew Morton’s video essay “Free Will in Kubrick’s The Shining.” A transcript of my voice-over narration is printed below.
David Cronenberg’s masterful 1986 horror film The Fly intuitively understands that the best horror films deal with internal, not external, threats. Sure, there’s enough external evil in the world to keep anyone busy, but none of the badness out there strikes as close to home as that which inhabits our own bodies. Humans seem unique among animals in their pervasive fear and shame at their own bodies; from snot to poop to any other excretion, we keep private what we cannot keep contained within ourselves. The fear that our bodies might escape our control touches on the deepest recesses of human terror. Keep your crazed stalkers - for a good scare I’ll take Seth Brundle transforming bit by excruciating bit any day.
It may be self-evident to some, but adaptations of literary works in film are entirely new works of art, inspired by their namesake but filtered through the creative genius of an artist that flourishes through other modes of expression. Cronenberg takes William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch and adapts it in the only way possible as he filters it through his own preoccupations, neuroses, and pre-established devices available in the artistic venue of film. Film doesn’t easily offer the boundlessness of literature and so one must find ways to work within the constraints of a medium that has strengths impossible to express through words alone and create art that showcases those strengths while staying rooted in the source material.
Every family has their holiday traditions, and this often extends to what movies get watched annually during the winter months. Roger Ebert once remarked that his family always watched Planes, Trains and Automobiles at Thanksgiving. Growing up in my house meant repeat viewings of A Muppet Christmas Carol, skipping over the boring love song but rewinding to watch Tiny Tim hack his lungs out again and again. Since leaving the nest and meeting my wife our tradition has been to watch Love, Actually every year, a film she introduced me to while we were dating. Like most family traditions, holiday movies can seem inscrutable to the outsider’s eye (I know many people love Planes, but I suffered my way through it with only a few chuckles). Love, Actually has certainly endured its share of critical hate over the years, and I can understand people’s reservations about the film, if not the vitriol with which they sometimes express these reservations. See Love, Actually is a bit like dinner on Christmas Day (or perhaps Thanksgiving): there’s way too much going on to savor each bite individually, and some of the component parts might be downright nasty (canned cranberry, anyone?); but if you let the experience wash over you as a whole, there is plenty to satisfy.
TIFF’s With Blood On His Hands – The Films of Nicolas Winding Refn Review: Drive (2011) - NP Approved
The car, and more specifically, the act of driving is one of the most resonant existential metaphors in pop culture. People often make the mistake of thinking driving is about speed, but it isn’t, not really. Driving is about control, about being able to guide yourself, to escape from the things that seek to exert control over you, about the possibility of giving up that control to someone you trust. The act of driving is an extension of the driver, an expression of their worldview and their approach to life. It is telling, then, that the title of Nicholas Winding Refn’s 2011 film is more than just a descriptor; it’s a command. The film could have been called The Driver (although, to be fair, there is a film with that title already), but it isn’t. It is a message to the audience as much as a reflection of the main character’s outlook. Its telling us to Drive.