Archive for Xistenz


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 29, 2022 by dcairns

It’s appropriate, I think, that David Cronenberg got Greek money to shoot CRIMES OF THE FUTURE in Greece, because it may be his first utopian science fiction film.

It might not seem that way, but consider: it’s a world where infection and pain have been all but eliminated. Also, people seem to spend all their time making and consuming art. The few people we meet who have vaguely regular jobs seem to be living the dream: the tireless bureaucrats running the National Organ Registry set the place up themselves so they could work there; the sexy grease monkeys from LifeFormWare love their work; the cop has a sense of mission.

“…with all our earthly problems solved and with bigger ones worth the solving,” says Squadron Leader Peter D. Carter in A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH, and this seems to be the heaven Cronenberg offers us. No mention is made of longevity or immortality, but he might as well have thrown that in too, since his characters are all in a search to give meaning to their lives, now that the usual problems of late capitalism and biology seem to have been removed.

Also, perhaps for budgetary reasons, there are no cars: motorhead Cronenberg might not consider that utopian, but I do.

The film feels quite NAKED LUNCH-y, but I think XISTENZ is the best comparison: there are factions in ideological conflict over questions of authenticity, but instead of Phildickian Big Question #1 (What is reality?) this is more about Phildickian Big Question #2 (What is a human being?). Evolution seems to be getting out of hand… is this a good thing or a bad thing? Though a performance art piece is titled Body is Reality, the film doesn’t play the VIDEODROME/NL game of leading us into hallucination without warning. Or at least I don’t think so.

CRASH is another comparison: again, factions, individuals and couples pursuing some kind of meaning through quite extreme activities

The film looks terrific: Cronenberg’s period films have always benefitted from the added panache imparted by the past. This uncertain future has its own aesthetic: retro tech is in fashion; biomechanical gadgets are everywhere. Rather than the glassy and inhuman Canadian architecture he started out celebrating, here Cronenberg has beautiful crumbling Greek buildings, acid-lit and ominous.

I have quibbles. The internal logic is at times flakey — Viggo Mortensen’s art involves regular surgical interventions, but his body starts out free of scars. This is a distracting puzzle that doesn’t help anything and could, one feels, have been inexpensively dealt with. Is the biomechanical chair supposed to be so shonky? The design is nice, but its awkward lurching doesn’t seem to perform any service for the poor occupants, especially while they’re eating. The motivations of one lot of assassins seemed vague to me, their place in the overall narrative unresolved.

On the other hand, this is perhaps Cronenberg’s most visually beautiful film: his new collaborators, like cinematographer Douglas Koch and costume designer Mayou Trikerioti, seem to tread nimbly in the footsteps of Peter Suschitzky and Denise Cronenberg, and composer Howard Shore and production designer Carol Spier are back to provide direct continuity with the past.

I’m undecided about the ending. It struck me as anticlimactic — we’d been waiting for an IMAGE to top all before it, and Cronenberg instead focuses on performance. It’s a lovely performance, though. A second viewing may clear my doubts away. At any rate, it’s a proper Cronenberg film, arriving when it had looked like we weren’t going to get any more of those. Now do RED CARS.

Quote of the Day: Guess who’s coming to lunch?

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 7, 2008 by dcairns

pointy pointy

Can I just recommend Cocteau’s Diary of a Film very very wholeheartedly? It’s tremendously reassuring to us filmmakers, and I would think amazing and fascinating to everyone else too, that the making of such a beautiful, graceful, seemingly “effortless” work like LA BELLE ET LA BÊTE should be nothing but physical and mental anguish. Cocteau is having such an exaggeratedly bad time it becomes perversely amusing, even as you feel for him. Just as you can open Klaus Kinski’s autobio at random and find him trashing some colleague or shagging some actress (usually both) on any given page, so Cocteau’s pages are stuffed with skin rashes, toothache, carbuncles, rain, faulty electrics abd general existential angst.

It’s what I call a PAGE-TURNER.

“Wednesday the 26th, 11p.m.

“My face is only a shell of rashes, ravages and itches. It’ll take me all my strength to forget this task, and go on living underneath it. Rained this morning, but the barometer was up. Built the scaffolding etc. for the cameras whilst the artists were making up a changing. At eleven o’clock we’ll do the two shots which we missed yesterday. The light was very difficult owing to the smoke machines. Marais won’t use a double. And does the jump from the terrace with the help of a spring-board. After which we remember that he’d carried his hat in his right hand yesterday, whilst today he hasn’t got one at all.

“Marais and I lunched at Madame de Labédoyère. A strange meal. I sat on the right of the old lady; she was dressed all in black, while Marais, on her left, was still made up as the Beast. I dare say her little girls will always remember it.”

the Beast is yet to come

I first read this right after making my own first short, THE THREE HUNCHBACKS, and I identified deeply. It’s all so unpleasant, why do we do it? As Cocteau and Marais are afflicted by carbuncles, I developed an unheard-of boil at the base of my spine, like the attachment for a Cronenberg gamepod, only EXISTENZ hadn’t been made yet. Horrible.

You make a film; it gets inside you; and then it EMERGES through your skin.