“You could be right. But my comment comes from something like the filmmaking in Crash. There are some good looking scenes, but my personal feeling is that a better filmmaker could have really made this look even better—and I’m not thinking of someone with Spielberg’s strengths. But that is a rough impression, based on very limited knowledge of filmmaking”
Maybe, but i think the look was just right for the film really. those metallic blues and greys(?) were really evocative. The score was just as brittle and chilly.
I agree with you that his visual style is not as sophisticated or interesting as some of the best of the ‘arthouse’ directors, and that he can be more of an ideas man(like Schrader and Egoyan), but he does have his moments. and he knows how to disturb you with ideas and images. A lot of his visuals concepts are really unusual, and they are particularly well realised with the help of Carol Spier, as well as the cinematographer that Matt mentioned above. I mean, who can forget the cool alien pod design in The Fly? or the unholy alliance between man and technology in Videodrome? The list goes on.
Is he a master of aesthetics? No. Is he an impressive film maker with a unique and relevant voice? Yes. In my opinion anyway.
“The failure is surprising given the cast and even the material. It seems like the kind of thing that he theoretically should be able to do well, but it was so conventional and boring. A nothing movie.”
It’s really hard to buy in the film that Gallimard wouldn’t be aware that Song Liling was a male and spy, yet you don’t really get enough, psychologically, to chalk it up entirely to denial and self-deception either.
Fast Company is the other Cronenberg film that doesn’t do much of anything for me.
“To what extent does the knowledge of the principle characters and their theories determine one’s appreciation of the film, Matt?”
Well, dramatically the film sits on a couple of triangles—relationships between:
1. personal—Jung, Spielrein, and Jung’s wife
2. professional—Jung, Freud, and Otto Gross (and later Jung, Freud, and Spielrein herself)
So, the first is relatively unencumbered by theory, the second might benefit from some knowledge of particulars, but the film gives you enough info to piece the general concepts together I think.
“Fast Company is the other Cronenberg film that doesn’t do much of anything for me.”
That is actually the only one i haven’t seen, aside from Cosmopolis.
Matt, I would only add that those are intersecting or overlaid triangles as the personal bleeds into the professional and vice verse. So relationships themselves are also under examination, so to speak.
Cronenberg is all about ontological and epistemological concerns after all, so looking at how relationships informed the ideas about how we understand is right up his alley. I sometimes wonder if some people would respect Cronenberg more and would better see the connections withing his body of work if his films were made in reverse order. That way he wouldn’t have such trouble getting past the “body horror” talk as if those films are radically different in theme.
^^Greg, i think there is a difference between strong connections and weak ones. Films like Dangerous Method can be traced back to his earlier films, but it’s a weak link that requires much work on part of the viewer/fan.
As i said before, i don’t get enough enjoyment out of doing that kind of thing anymore. and i find it ironic how so many of the anti-auteur posters on here spend so much time immersed in such detective work. hehe
I would suggest it doesn’t take much detective work to see how “body horror” figures into A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, Spider, or A Dangerous Method, it’s just the manner of illustration that has changed. If people can’t see Freud wasn’t dealing with issues arising from horror at bodily wants, then I’m not sure what to say. Similarly, the way the same “body” is seen in different lights in A History of Violence, is pretty clear to me. The mistake, I think, is in people hearing “body horror” seeing the images and associating it wholly with the “body” and forgetting the “horror” comes from the mind. It’s how the body is perceived and/or how it effects our perception/how our perception shapes our view of the body which is at issue in most of his films I think.
^^But hasn’t the ‘horror’ largely shifted from the body to the mind in recent times? There have often been aspects of both in his films. e.g Dead Ringers. I understand that he isn’t trying to separate the two necessarily, but i think the emphasis has shifted, yes.
Regardless, the problem i have with Dangerous Method is the expression. I just thought it was dull. and i’m not huge on his early body horror stuff really.
All down to taste i suppose.
Yeah, taste I have no problem with, it’s only some of the other talk that I was responding to as it felt like people were sort of missing the point of his later films, which I like a lot.
As for the first part, I would say that it is as much in the outward expression changing which has made people think the themes have changed as much as it is anything else, but, yes, there is some emphasis shift as well which comes in part from making more “realistic” movies and which also comes from broadening his scope to include more interactive perspective. Which is possibly why he needed to move away from the old imagery as that tends to limit the possible perspectives.
Greg, have you seen Cosmopolis yet? I can definitely see him meshing well with Delillo.
Curious about the Eastern Promises sequel too
No. I haven’t, but I’m looking forward to it. Maybe even more so for it allegedly being a lesser Delillo since that might allow for more room for Cronenberg than one of his major works. (I haven’t read Cosmopolis so I’m only judging by what others have said there.)
Eastern Promises is one I need to see again as I liked it, but I’m not entirely sure why, so I’ll check it out again sometime before the sequel comes around.
Without having seen M. Butterfly, and thus leaving me unable to comment on anything about it directly, let me offer an anecdote that might possibly make some sense to the film if what I gather about it is correct and assuming it isn’t simply another Crying Game with a shock ending. I had a friend who dated a drag queen. All of his friends knew the person he was dating and were aware of him/her being a drag queen. Nonetheless, my friend vehemently denied being gay or bi. It wasn’t that he was homophobic, he worked at a gay bar and was friends with many of the clients and performers and had no problem with gay porn or anything else of the sort. He was just insistent that his relationship wasn’t gay because he only dated, and had sex, with the person when they were in drag. He wasn’t dating the man performing, he was dating the person being performed. Essentially, he saw himself dating a woman, a woman who just happened to have a penis.
That might sound funny, and it certainly tweeks a lot of standards or ideals people have, but the questions of identity and perception which it touches on aren’t nearly as, um, straight forward as it might appear to most people who live in cisnormative relationships. Whether that fits in with the movie or not, I don’t know, but the psychology involved needn’t rely on self deception of the sort that seems to be suggested.
^this film is set in a much earlier time though Greg. i think Matt is ultimately correct. the lack of an adequately developed psychological mechanism—whether overt or implied—really hurts the film. it is also dramatically flat too, which doesn’t help.
Yeah, I didn’t mean to imply any belief in gay rights or other more modern values, the main point was more the idea of falling for the performed person as a separate entity from the performer and how a piece of physical equipment, to be genteel about it, may not figure as much as one might think into a notion of “woman” or “man”, which are also “performed” identities in a culture to varying degrees.
yes the performative aspect is there but it is played like tragedy that largely hinges on the reveal. and Irons psychological response to that reveal. that is where it fails to me.
check it out and get back to us. i havent seen it in well over 10 years.
It’s in my Netflix queue, so I’ll get to it sometime> Unfortunately my local videostore doesn’t carry it. if the film hinges on the reveal, than I too am concerned as that was what I was hoping wouldn’t be the case, well, depending on how it works I guess.
I’m always a bit shocked to encounter a film that you haven’t seen, Greg.
Yeah, Greg, I think that’s, at the level of the romantic relationship per se, clearly what Cronenberg intended, but the way he does the film doesn’t put you nearly as strongly into Gallimard’s subjective point of view as does Hwang’s play (and apologies to any and all who might be reading for mangling matters of gender identity/sexuality above in the course of trying to be breif late at night). But beyond that level of it, there’s the additional level of Song Liling having been a spy for the Chinese government all that time, so, reading the film, one has to come to some sort of conclusion about what Gallimard was actually aware of in that regard as well. The implication is sort of that, by choosing not to acknowledge things that other Westerners like him would have consider important in terms of male/female distinctions, he also either intentionally or accidentally supresses the sort of routine political awareness that likely would have prevented him from getting caught in a “honeypot.”
“Matt, I would only add that those are intersecting or overlaid triangles as the personal bleeds into the professional and vice verse. So relationships themselves are also under examination, so to speak.”
Right, an obvious example: Spielrein begins as Jung’s patient, then they become lovers, then they become professional collegues. Also, Gross is sent to Jung as a patient, but it’s Gross that seems to be more successful in “analyzing” Jung, and some of these insights (if you want to call them that) later feed into Jung’s relationship with Spielrein, while at the same time start to seperate him from Freud to a certain degree. For a time Jung and Freud are both friends and collegues with a professional rivalry. More generally, the relationship between Jews and non-Jews (Freud: ““We’re Jews, Miss Spielrein, and Jews we will always be”) . . .
I like the way he has evolved in the last decade with his latest films, not that I don’t love all his films. Watching “A Dangerous Method,” it was hard to believe it was a Cronenberg film.
Kasman’s review of Cosmopolis. He also briefly deals with A Dangerous Method.
Ok so after beginning with A History of Violence and Eastern Promises, I am going back to catch up on his films.
Watched Dead Ringers. Enjoyed it. Was not as unusual/weird as I had expected. I was prepared to not recognize Cronenberg going off the first two films of his I watched. But there were definitely elements I found familiar.
It will be interesting to see what you think of his other films. The two you’ve seen are pretty different from this other films (at least on the surface).
Yes, on the surface is crucial. I’m not smart enough to figure out what it is that unites his films….but there is something there. I think it’s how he attempts to get into the psyche/minds of the characters. There is something unique in the way Cronenberg tries to penetrate that barrier.
I said earlier in this thread that based off History of Violence and Eastern Promises that I was really looking forward to going through his works. Seeing Dead Ringers doesn’t change that. And that’s coming from someone who is not into horror at all.
Are all Cronenberg films so damn serious? He is emotionally draining without the theatrics. The guy is both visceral and intellectual. Love it.
In an interesting juxtaposition I’m catching up on Cronenberg and Wes Anderson concurrently.
I’ve seen, in order, History of Violence, Eastern Promises and Dead Ringers.
Enjoyed them all.
done deal. will report back.
I don’t know how I feel about Videodrome.
My initial thoughts are that it lacked the psychology that I’ve come to expect from Cronenberg. The gore was nothing special but I’m not big on horror in general.
Something I’ve noticed about Cronenberg is that he gets really good performances from actors. And that his films depend on this. This one is no exception. Strong acting all around.
So far it’s:
Eastern Promises > History of Violence > Dead Ringers > Videodrome (withholding rating until 2nd viewing)
Next up is the The Brood.
I don’t know how I’ve held out so long for seeing Videodrome. It sounds so interesting.
“My initial thoughts are that it lacked the psychology that I’ve come to expect from Cronenberg.”
Hah, yeah, that’s probably one of the hazards of starting with the late films and then going back to the earlier ones. Many who have seen them in order complain about the lack of visceralness in his later films.
Back read through this thread.
Re: Spielberg being a better technical filmmaker than Cronenberg. I can see that argument being made. I would just say that the themes Cronenberg explores are better suited with his style. I saw an interview where Cronenberg said he likes his films to be intimate and physical. And I felt that was spot on for HoV and EP. You don’t feel the artifice of you watching a film. With Spielberg I always know that I’m watching a director do his thing (admittedly he’s talented at that thing). Yea, I know not precise analysis but my gut reaction.
Spielberg can’t do psychology.
Agreed. Or at least adult psychology.
@Matt Parks where does The Brood rank for you?
edit- judging by the length of this thread, Cronenberg doesn’t really have that many fans. A Wes Anderson thread would blow up in a matter of days. This, not so much. Probably has to do with the material Cronenberg has covered. Not exactly for the masses.
always interesting but hes been going so long that theres going to be inevitably be dips in quality. and hes just a diff kind of director to spielberg or scorsese. none of their films wanted to really shock or were so naturally weird as cronenberg used to be. even cronenberg isnt as weird as he used to be! and i loved cosmopolis.
To me The Brood is the film where he fully realizes his early aesthetic—-essentially taking complex psychological states and objectivying them in the body via the conventions of the horror film, so I think it’s his best film until Videodrome, but you didn’t particularly like Videodrome, so . . .
Like Mogambo, I’m also largely unitiated in Cronenberg, and slowly making my way through his filmography. I’ve seen The Fly, Dead Ringers, Crash and eXistenZ and really liked them all (probably his 90s ones more than the 2 earlier ones atm). I have Naked Lunch recorded which I’m excited for, because I really like the source novel (I realise it’s not a literal adaptation, but I’m interested in the character of Burroughs himself also). Also have Dead Zone recorded. My local has History, EP and Scanners at least, so I’ll get to those over the coming weeks hopefully as well. And lol Mogambo, I also have been going through Wes Anderson simultaneously, they do make for a curious juxtaposition ;). I dig Wes, sure, but Cronenberg is seeming to be more up my alley.