I noticed there were no threads regarding Cronenberg’s latest film, so I decided to start one.
I have just finished watching it. Here is my very brief review (SPOILERS ALERT):
Cosmopolis already seemed like a captivating ride to me judging by its trailers. Not only it is a new film by David Cronenberg, but also a picture that reflects the current problems in economy, politics and, most importantly society that the States are experiencing. Although visually rich, the film fails on many occassions to live up to expectations. It might be a faithful adaptation, indeed, but it is far from being called a good film. Watching it was equal to the passive way of reading the novel with chracters almost senseless and their dialogues striving to sound highly philosophical and profound, yet failing massively to make their points. Characters’ interactions lacked any subtlety and wit. They were cold and unreachable, as if they wrote it for themselves. Cosmopolis has several stunning moments, but not enough to compensate for an over 90-minute ‘meaningful’ conversations. Noteworthy, I particularly found the cast as the saving call of the film and was especially surprised by Pattinson’s superb acting. Cronenberg is arguably a great director; yet, the path he took to adapt Cosmopolis was, in my opinion, a big mistake. The film turned out to be another disappointment of this summer for me.
I am giving it 2.5 out of 5. A faithful adaptation, yet a barely enjoyable cinematic experience which takes its viewers through a series of bland and overcynical dialogues that try too hard to make sense out of themselves than to actually exhibit anything beyond their flat implication.
There is a guy on imdb that has gone to great lengths to prove that Cronenberg doesn’t understand the novel. Claims he doesn’t understand that the point of DeLillo’s novel is about the unique destructive capacity of cypercapital, whereas supposedly Cronenberg treats it the same as any other form of capital.
All i know is that novel itself is cold and distant. It’s dealing mostly with the problem of abstraction, and what happens when humans lose sight of the fact that they are dealing with abstractions and not reality, which is far too chaotic and unpredictable to conform neatly to our theoretical models. Alfred North Whitehead referred to this problem as the Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness. This seems to be one of Delillo’s major thematic obsessions of the 00’s. It’s all over Point Omega too.
Cosmpolis—if my memory serves me correctly—deals with Packer’s obsession to understand and predict the financial market(along with the world and human existence) through ‘code’, and the manipulation of numbers, and this ultimately leads to his ‘demise’(and subsequent rebirth, depending on how you interpret the narrative).. Does the film get this idea across well or not? It would not be the easiest thing to translate to film.
Haven’t seen it, so can’t comment directly. Just for the sake of argument, this question: must all adaptations of novels be by literal and faithful to their sources? Cronenberg’s adaptation’s of Naked Lunch, for example, certainly wasn’t.
^ Also haven’t seen it and can’t wait to do so to talk about it, but for what it’s worth adaptations seem at their best when they’re either lovingly true to the spirit of the original (Lord of the Rings) or only use several of its primary sources to build something entirely new (Shining). The stuff in between, the literalized adaptations of, “this is what’s in the book, visualized” is my least favorite. That is where the Harry Potter movies fail. Overly expensive illustration.
That’s a keen and intriguing observation regarding Whitehead’s Fallacy and late DeLillo. I think particularly of Point Omega indeed, and how Elster’s job consists of turning the entire Iraq war into an abstraction.
Though, granted, with DeLillo, this line of thinking inevitably brings us back into more Baudrillardian territory…
I liked it. I liked how it portrayed this era of constant information with its cold and cynical dialogues that constantely give new information, and how the character of Pattinson, one that first seems clean and without any breaches, slowly loses parts of his shell and sanity to reveal a very violent and sociopathic persona. I like how it’s basically impossible to pinpoint in which era this takes place as it is both futuristic and 90s looking. It’s not for everyone, I admit there is a lot to take, but I still genuinely liked it.
…Maybe because I’m a quiet psychopath.
Just found out my art house will be playing “Cosmopolis” (and “Killer Joe”) next month!
Cosmopolis is one of my most anticipated of the year (though Django, The Master and Cloud Atlas are pretty close up there too!)
Thank you for the question, it is certainly an important one considering how majority of films are based on literal sources these days.
I will proceed to agree with Polarisdib. A faithful adaptation is not always a good film. Personally, I have found many direct page-to-screen adaptations badly fitting in the dimension of the cinema. They often look rather dull and lacking in refinement. Many books are hard to transfer to the big screen, as, although well-written, they might not easily adjust to the cinematic language.
To me, faithful adaptation does not mean the need to have every single chapter be directly translated to the screen, but rather its primary idea, themes and vibe that has to be present in the film. The former approach, as I believe, greatly restricts a film from breathing in its own manner.
Along with the examples mentioned by Polarisdib, I would call more such fine adaptations as A Clockwork Orange, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Midnight Cowboy, Blade Runner, The Godfather, FIght Club, Rear Window, Children of Men, Amadeus, Akira, etc.
There are also those adadptations are only loosely based on their original sources and use them as the fundamentals for constructing their own ideas. Such ones are also remarkable for their visual approaches, which might appear to be actually not close to their sources, yet captivating as cinematic pieces. Such are 2001: A Space Odyssey, Once Upon a Time in America, My Own Private Idaho, There WIll Be Blood, etc.
One of the most interesting adaptations I have ever watched was Adaptation. Charlie Kaufman is well-known for his some of the most surreal, non-conventional, mind-bending and absurdist screenplays. His Adaptation opened to me a new angle at how to treat original materials in your favor. Both Kaufman and Jonze took a great risk to take this vision to the cinema and it paid off well.
yeh a film adaptation should at least capture the ‘essence’ of a book and if not, impose a different, perhaps more interesting, layer of complexity. With DeLillo though you already have complexity so it is going to be interesting to see what Cronenberg does with the material. some critics have complained that it is too talky and cerebral, which suggest to me that it probably is a relatively faithful adaptation hah
this was horrid
I watched this the other day and thought it was very good, by and large. I might have shaved 10 minutes or so off the running time and the ending was a little weak, but other than that I’d say it was a great effort. I’ve been a lifelong Cronenberg fan, and he keeps coming up with interesting projects. Haven’t read the book, so I can’t comment on the faithfulness of the adaptation, but I do know that Cronenberg comes from a heavily literate background, so I would doubt he doesn’t understand the point of the book.
OK, so now four months later I have seen it, and it is good. But, yes, a couple of things that might turn people off:
1, indeed it is “talky”
2. in a sense, it’s mis en scene is visually limited due talking place largely in the interior of the limo.
1. I don’t mind “talky” if it is good talk. I found too much of COSMOPOLIS to be not good talk. The final scene in particular. Even the reliable Giamatti couldn’t breathe life into it.
2. I found the limited mise en scene to be one of the film’s strong points. Cronenberg managed to keep the film visually alive while in the limo, I’d say.
A problematic movie, one I’d like to see again at some point. I can’t say it made a great first impression. But I’d happily go through it all again if only to get another glimpse at Juliette Binoche stretching out in that limo, making herself comfortable.
I thought the film really crescendoed nicely into the finale—and the Giamatti pieces were the highlight of the film. His breathless, angst-ridden delivery was the perfect counterpoint to the detached calm of Pattinson (who does fine without having to sparkle, thankfully).
One of my favorite films of the year. Haven’t read the book yet, but will after White Noise.
I’d just like to say (and I’m not sure if you were saying this too and I just misunderstood) that the point of the film is that the characters are speaking an abstracted form of language that has no meaning. It’s at least partially about the Pattinson trying to achieve something more real than the drone of the meaningless conversations he has throughout the film, trying to feel something (thus, the shooting himself in the hand, the taser, the gun to his head at the end). I’m not saying that you have to enjoy the pretentious conversations, but I think that its intentional.
I didn’t mind the talkiness. I didn’t mind the limited mise en scene. Hell, I thought the whole thing should have taken place in the limo. I did mind the utter failure of most of the actors to find the characters in the dialogue. Pattinson is the chief offender in this regard. He just drones on through the words like an auger, without inflection or apparent sense of why these particular turns of phrase have been chosen. An actor through whose impassively intellectual surface we can see the flickering of animating intelligence (like Jeremy Irons, say) might have been able to do something with the thicket of syllables, but Pattinson seems utterly lost.
The opening sequence with Jay Baruchel is excruciating. Neither convincingly portrays the kind of smart, superficial, cynical man who might actually have this conversation. The brief riff on rats could have been funny if batted back and forth quickly in the casually competitive style of old screwball comedies, but here both actors struggle just to keep track of the language. The only moment that rings true is the brief exchange about Pattinson’s haircut ambitions. You can almost see them relax into it: “Oh, thank god, a haircut, something we actually understand.”
The following exchanges with Sarah Gaddon (as Pattinson’s wife) and Philip Nozuka (as a whiz-kid tech guru) are just as bad. So horrible, in fact, that I couldn’t believe this movie had been commercially released. At that point, about 15 minutes it, I had to shut it down for a while to recalibrate, and came back later to watch the rest.
Surprisingly, I quite enjoyed the next half hour, the sex-obsessed stretch that starts mid-tryst with Juliette Binoche and ends post-coital with Patricia Mckenzie (as a rather imposingly athletic security guard). That section of the film is pretty great, overall, and includes its two standout high points: the “sexy proctological exam” with Emily Hampshire and Samantha Morton’s clearly Laurie Anderson-influenced portrayal of the theoretician. I loved those segments. The former is weird and hilarious in the manner of Videodrome and Naked Lunch, and the latter has a wonderfully understated tone of luxurious, serene menace. I even liked Gaddon’s second appearance. Lunch with Mrs. Rich Guy works far better than either breakfast or dinner.
The last hour of the film gets bad again, though, and never recovers. Even Paul Giamatti seems lost. I didn’t find his character or his performance interesting, though he’s obviously a very capable and intelligent actor. Point for Kevin Durand, though. He handled the language with aplomb. Would have loved to see him in the lead role. Cosmopolis is an interesting and ambitious film, but a failure on so many levels. Maybe the dialogue was always impossible. Maybe no one could have made these characters seem credibly human or coherent. But I have to think that it could have been at least a little better.
I found it of interest for about an hour. But part of what I didn’t much like was that it felt like watching a stage play being read to us, which is not too engaging. Even though I think I got the basic ideas.
My favourite film of 2012 as of now. Not saying much as I’ve only seen about 15 films released this year. By no means a great film, but another very good one from Cronenberg.
“I found too much of COSMOPOLIS to be not good talk.”
But, whatever you think of it, it seemed to me to be pretty much largely DeLillo’s dialogue . . . isn’t it? Maybe someone who’s read the novel more recently than I can comment on this?
“But, whatever you think of it, it seemed to me to be pretty much largely DeLillo’s dialogue . . . isn’t it? Maybe someone who’s read the novel more recently than I can comment on this?”
Haven’t read the novel, so I can’t say, but I have to ask: does being DeLillo’s dialogue make it necessarily good talk? It might work on the page, but onscreen it was absolutely DEADLY.
No, of course not (and, by the way, I’d say it’s one of the least of DeLillo’s work anyway), but what I was getting at was that most of the dialogue (to my recollection) is decidedly stylized . . . that is, not stuff that actual people would actually say.
It wasn’t the dialogue that I found fascinating, thoughh much of it was at least intersting and useful to the overall picture. I found the structure of the film fascinating, and the emotions and lack thereof within the characterizations.These aren’t really “deep” characters we’re dealing with, and nor is their dialogue very deep at all. As a novel, I likely would’ve disliked it (haven’t read the novel); but as a film, I thought Cronenberg has made something pretty cool, imbued with doubts, re-starts, “never-happeneds”, and poetic justice melded with perverse falls. I love the ending. I like the vibe and depiction of Pattinson’s character, as a person who wants to feel but cannot for the life of him, and if he does, it is sick, shallow, vacuous, and bent to destruction, either visible or invisible, either toward others or toward himself. The assassin conversly as a man who feels too much and subsequently is going mad, however logically (yet perversely). I dug the soundtrack. Not a bad social commentary. I like the portrayal and parts looking at generation gaps throughout the film, and how it fits into the character development. And dang, the film has style.
A really bad movie from a great director.
@Matt — right, I see what you mean. But for me, stylized DeLillo or not, way too much of the talk in COSMOPOLIS was frankly painful, especially toward the end. Even Giamatti couldn’t make me give a damn.
Fair enough. I think a number of DeLillio’s films would probable walk that line if they were adapted to the screen. Probably why it’s not attempted more often.
I’d love to see a director take a chance on Point Omega.
Running Dog too.
in a dream world perhaps………
The scene with the Mecca song – the Pattinson shot inside the limousine thinking in the funeral, “death, no matter where you go, come and get ya!” – was fascinating.
Point Omega seems like a natch for a film adaptation.
So DeLillo fans — I’ve read WHITE NOISE and LIBRA, and enjoyed them a good deal but wasn’t exactly blown away. I tried to read UNDERWORLD and RATNER’S STAR, ha ha yeah right. Is there another DeLillo I should look into?
^^Define ‘enjoyment’ on a scale from 1-10? Because that will largely determine the advice i will give you :-)