“History of Violence” and “Eastern Promises” are good films. The question is that they convey little of what made Cronenberg’s approach to cinema so special and idiosyncratic. It’s true that he couldn’t keep making films like “Videodrome” which is very much a product of its time. But his perspective could certainly survive being applied to other subjects/concepts. On the other side Cronenberg (as any other man) got older and his worldview might have suffered a severe change, leading him to direct films that are more keen to mainstream appeal.
“But his perspective could certainly survive being applied to other subjects/concepts. On the other side Cronenberg (as any other man) got older and his worldview might have suffered a severe change, leading him do direct films that are more keen to mainstream appeal.”
yeah, he could have made a film about a 15 year old kid turning into an i-pod or something! or maybe not ;-)
Cronenberg has hinted in interviews that he also wants to make money from films now. I read years ago that he was practically directing for ‘nothing’, and was getting tired of it. fair enough, and ‘Eastern Promises’ was a good film, but what i don’t like is how much the critics have been jocking these accessible efforts—‘the best work of his career’ etc—and trying desperately to find elements of his style to fend off criticisms. ‘oh yeah, this scene is another example of Cronenberg’s obsession wtih the body, and the fragility of human corporeal existence etc’.. yet they will never make a point of saying that the crucial difference is that in the past, these ideas actually drove the narrative, whereas now they are just tacked on.
I hate this kind of thing in general actually. when fans/critics try to establish a link between past and present efforts to making tenuous links. ‘AHA! EUREKA! I’VE GOT IT! THIS FILM REALLY IS NO DIFFERENT FROM WHAT CAME BEFORE!!!’ etc.
What, Cronenberg’s older films don’t show he has a fascination with histories of violence?
What helped me understand A History of Violence is not because he has gory throat slashings in it, but the way he directs his actors, who can seem cold and distant in their own way but above all have this major magnetic attraction to whatever it is that, as you mentioned, “drives the narrative” (only now it’s more their own social statuses as opposed to a drill bit aiming for their dickhole).
Probably what some critics wanted to say when commenting on “Eastern Promises” was “WOW! Finally a Cronenberg film whose meaning I can actually fathom!”.
“What, Cronenberg’s older films don’t show he has a fascination with histories of violence?
i always saw his older films being obsessed with transformation and decay—both physical and psychological— rather than ‘violence’ per se. on that level, yes, you could argue that Spider and History Of Violence are very much Cronenberg films, but there is an obvious difference in how he approaches the material and the details he chooses to emphasize. that’s all i’m really getting at.
Blah. Flat response to flat humor, too much of that going on both sender and receiver side on this site lately.
I’m going to try to keep my responses serious because I am epicly failing at being silly.
^^haha Polaris, i wasn’t sure if you were being serious or not. I thought you were being funny and serious. i laughed, but just decided to respond seriously. sorry to disappoint ;-)
^ Maybe we’re just becoming the new flesh and whatnot and we don’t think weird is weird anymore.
Eastern Promises has a lot of off-kilter Cronenberg elements.
The fact that he’s ramping up the gay subtext in an action film shows that he’s willing to take a genre and bend it to its’ logical conclusion. I think Jean Genet would have approved.
" I thought you were being funny and serious."
Yup. Bad habit of mine.
I would not say “Cronenberg’s matured as a filmmaker” because I think what he’s done before is quite matured, but he certainly seems to have outgrown the new flesh, not just because of lack of financial gains methinks, but simply because people change and their older interests don’t fascinate as much as newer ones sometime. I’d like to pretend I’ll be going on and on about the new flesh until I’m a codgery old curmudgeon with nothing left to my name but a rocking chair and a shotgun (seriously, this is my retirement plan), but who knows how time and thinking will change. At this point many people almost take it the post-human for granted, for instance.
“I would not say “Cronenberg’s matured as a filmmaker” because I think what he’s done before is quite matured, but he certainly seems to have outgrown the new flesh, not just because of lack of financial gains methinks, but simply because people change and their older interests don’t fascinate as much as newer ones sometime.”
yeah, he said everything he wanted to say within that style and has now moved on. the question is whether this move will yield another truly unique and remarkable period of his career, and whether he will just become one of those competent directors for hire. He is now in the third official phase. Let’s see what the future brings.
Apparently dramas about Freud and Jung in conflict, a subject I honestly and sincerely would not trust very many people with like I trust Cronenberg with it. I mean, I do not think this has been acknowledged: this movie can easily really, really suck, but with Cronenberg on the helm I’m getting visions of Dead Ringers dancing in my head.
^ Looking forward to it. Christopher Hampton wrote the screenplay and I’m sure he could do a great job. Hopefully, he’ll add another spin on the whole competition thing he’s already covered in Atonement and Dangerous Liaisons.
Good podcast of his thoughts on writing here: http://creativescreenwritingmagazine.blogspot.com/.
^ I trust Cronenberg with it as well. I’m also excited to see a movie about Freud and Jung. I think it’s a nice fit considering some of the Freudian elements in his films.
“I’m also excited to see a movie about Freud and Jung. I think it’s a nice fit considering some of the Freudian elements in his films.”
Me too. I just hope that Cronenberg comes down hard against that charlatan Jung!
Aha. It is suddenly clear:
“From the producers of Freddy vs. Jason and Alien vs. Predator, and the director of the Fly and History of Violence comes the most perverse competition between evils yet: FREUD VS. JUNG. No matter who wins, we abuse.”
^ I would pay to see the fight.
Actually, I’ve already a better tagline: “No matter whose ideas win, we abuse.”
Much closer to the factamatter.
-always saw his older films being obsessed with transformation and decay—both physical and psychological— rather than ‘violence’ per se. on that level, yes, you could argue that Spider and History Of Violence are very much Cronenberg films, but there is an obvious difference in how he approaches the material and the details he chooses to emphasize. that’s all i’m really getting at-
The other thing I see as reappearing though much of Cronenberg’s work is the splitting or doubling of identities—Eastern Promises, A History of Violence, eXistenZ, Dead Ringers, even The Brood. I’m interested to see what he does with the triangle aspects of this and how much weight he allows Spielrein against Freud and Jung.
This speculation is starting to be more fun than the movie itself probably will be.
i love Cronenberg, especially his later work, so I’m very excited to hear this. And while I LOVE films with Freudian and Jungian themes, I’m kind of wondering how such a literal approach will turn out. I mean, is this movie going to really examine and show these ideas in action, or is he just using a couple big names to exploit their historical prestige. I’m really wondering if this will be an in-depth look at various Psychoanalytical thinking or if making a film about Freud and Jung is a superficial touch.
I loved his last two films and I can’t wait for A Dangerous Method, but there is one thing I’m increasingly concerned about: his recent casting choices. He’s found a perfect collaborator in Viggo Mortensen so I have no beef with them working together three films in a row, but I’m gutted by the fact that my all-time favourite director is now working with such mainstream douchebags as Keira Knightley in A Dangerous Method and Colin Farrell in Cosmopolis, and that he was planning to work with Tom Cruise on the since-shelved Matarese Circle.
Cronenberg may not be regarded as a typical actor’s director, but one of my favourite things about him has always been his brilliant handling of idiosyncratic, uncommercial, slightly “misfit” actors who are often difficult to cast in more conventional roles – Elias Koteas, Jeff Goldblum, James Woods, Jeremy Irons, Christopher Walken, Judy Davis, Miranda Richardson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rosanna Arquette, Geena Davis, Genevieve Bujold. Even less naturally charismatic actors like Peter Weller and James Spader have had their lack of charisma milked nicely, and the minor roles are also sensitively cast: Ian Holm, Roy Scheider and Julian Sands in Naked Lunch, Don McKellar and Sarah Polley in eXistenZ, Lynn Redgrave in Spider, Robert A. Silverman and Nicholas Campbell in countless films… they are to me a gallery of beautiful freaks who all contribute something valuable to a distinctively Cronenbergian universe. Cruise was worrying enough, but Keira Knightley and Colin Farrell are actors I find hard to stomach in anything, and I just can’t see how they’re going to operate in Cronenbergland (or, more to the point, what Cronenbergland is for me); fingers crossed, they’ll prove me wrong by doing uncharacteristically good work, but there’s no way they’ll be able to pull off performances as weirdly, beautifully Cronenbergian as Elias Koteas’ perfect Vaughan in Crash or Judy Davis’ double role in Naked Lunch.
I just hope he’s not going the Coen Brothers route. When they started using big stars, they didn’t even use interesting big stars, they used George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta fucking Jones.
It has Kiera Knightley in it.
Therefore, I will be watching it.
Eh, could be interesting. Cronenberg has always been passionate about his films and I’m sure this one will be no different, but I’m pretty skeptical that this is going to turn out to be anything spectacular. We’ll see. I hope I’m wrong.
All the talk about this is about the Freud and Jung points of the triangle, but I strongly recommend checking out Elisabeth Marton’s documentary My Name Was Sabina Spielrein for another angle on the story. Her Ph.D. thesis Die Destruktion als Ursache des Werdens ways apparently quite influential on the thinking of both men:
“In her thesis Spielrein put for the first time one of the most difficult and important questions in analytic theory and practice, the question about the death drive, which arose through her research on masochism. There is an initial we-experience that is opposite to I-experience, and that is related to destruction of the ‘I’. At the same time, the destruction of the self and regression into we-experience has positive results, because it intensifies social development and cultural progress. She concludes that destruction is the basis of further development. In any dissociation, we can find a cause of becoming.”
This is what I am hoping the film gets at.
“It has Kiera Knightley in it.
Therefore, I will be watching it."
That is noway to watch a film.
Heh, do you mean “A peek”, or, “Look at how awesome this looks, this is going to be a peak in Cronenberg’s career!” a peak?
“That is noway to watch a film.”
“This is what I am hoping the film gets at.”
Based off of your description, I agree, fullheartedly. That sounds like some interesting territory and better way for Cronenberg to go about it, PLUS it may be a big enough movie to draw attention to that underdeveloped third pillar so that we can move passed how much regard we give to Jung and Freud.
That third picture goes to show that even Cronenberg cannot resist putting Knightley in corsets. Her boobs look like they are suffering (hey, this isn’t just lewd male gazing, this could easily also represent the oversexualized repressive nature of masochistic self imagery! Or just boobs. Whichever).
@Mr. Centaur: I actually think Kiera Knightley is one of those actresses that could be good if directors would actually bother directing her instead of just sitting her around to be a pretty face. I see evidence of this in The Jacket . I think Cronenberg is good enough at what he does that if it’s not beautiful freak, it may be freaky beautiful. I will reserve judgment on that, however, until I see the actual results. Meanwhile, great analysis.
Back to that third picture: IS she acting or is she really suppressing the pain of trying to breathe in that thing?
I have not liked any of his films this last decade from Spider to Eastern Promises. They are not as good, creative, or inventive. They do not feel like they pull out any of his obsessions and play with them. Rather it is mediocre and at times downright boring.
I hope that he gets something that he had previously back. Even if it’s not the same ideas.
I actually loved eXistenz and still do. I still am hesitant with Chinese restaurants now. Shivers was alot of fun for its time as well.
Looking forward to this one, even if the boring Kiera Knightley is in it.