Cronenberg often delivers original films, which is a merit in itself, but of those, which to you are hits and which are misses?
(Because God knows they’re not all hits.)
while i loved it, i can understand why crash wasnt much of a hit. for me its a few of his earlier films that dont gel, especially the first few horror flicks.
I would say that “Dead Ringers” and “Videodrome” might be his most interesting, but I’ve found something in each of his films, even “M. Butterfly” and “Spider”, which I didn’t get on with on first viewing, but gave a second chance to, and found more to engage with. I was a huge fan of “Eastern Promises”, especially the original use of the city of London locations. As a Londoner, he managed to make me see London with fresher eyes, even if he was exploring the underbelly of the Russian Mafia. “Rabid”, “Shivers” and “The Brood” are quite concerned with gloop and gore, but they have effective moments and can be see as a sort of ‘body trilogy’ all of their own- original work, all made throughout the 1970s, two years apart from each other.
I did find “Crimes of the Future” and “Stereo” quite slow, but they showed evidence of a future talent. His racing drama, “Fast Company” was good fun, if a little rough around the edges. “The Fly” remake boasts a great performance from Jeff Goldblum, not to mention some great, horrific moments and, at its core, a very skewed romance, an anti-Valentine love story, if you will.
“Scanners” is o.k too and I’ve always enjoyed “The Dead Zone”. Come to think of it, I’m not sure he’s made too many misses from my point of view. I suppose the hardest thing he undertook, and the results were uneven, was “Naked Lunch”. If a book is supposed to be unfilmable, Cronenberg made a brave attempt to make it accessible, but it didn’t always work. Same for “Crash”, which left me cold. Sometimes his almost clinical exploration of the human body can be so devoid of emotional engagement that it’s easy to become alienated by him.
But, like I said, he’s a highly original talent, and if you’re making original work in this era of endless remakes, sequels, studios obsessed with PG-13 sanitized horror films and other assorted crap, Cronenberg must be applauded for making truly adult films without compromise. There’s not many of his kind left and we have to cherish the fact he hasn’t been pressured to make a daft comedy or become obscure. He’s a national treasure of Canada and a cinematic essential for those seeking out his unique take on the body politic laced with certain aspects of horror movie conventions, but, importantly, avoiding cliche as much as possible.
I didn’t really care for Crash. I’d read the book, and thought it was OK, but it seemed cold and uninvolving. I shot an interview with Deborah Kara Unger, and afterward I said I’d liked Crash, (though I didn’t) just so I could ask about Cronenberg, but the guy who had actually conducted the interview interrupted with something along the lines of “Yeah! With Terrance Howard!” and we both said something like “No. The David Cronenberg one.” He didn’t really know what to say, I guess, and probably hadn’t even realized the Cronenberg one existed.
My favorite Cronenberg is probably Dead Ringers. The whole thing is just so creepy and twisted, and a lot of the imagery kind of gets at your brain in a subtle, unpleasant sort of way. The experimental gynecological tools are especially odd.
The Brood just seemed sort of silly to me, though I did like Rabid OK. Marilyn Chambers did a decent job, I thought, despite being a porn star.
Everything hes done would be a hit rather than a miss for me. Even the films that didnt work so well (eg Spider) were worthy of respect for what they tried to do.
I haven’t seen as many as I should have. It’s been too long since I’ve seen Scanners, I need to check it out again. The Fly was great, but a little more of a mainstream effort than most of his stuff, I think. Not that that’s always a negative thing.
I like Videodrome, but hated eXistenz.
I remember looking forward to Crash, but I didn’t care for it once I saw it.
And Dead Ringers is an excellent movie…that I never, ever want to see again. :P —Wait, there’s a topic in there, I’m gonna go start a thread.
I love Videodrome, Crash, The Fly, The Dead Zone, Rabid, The Brood, Eastern Promises and Dead Ringers. I really like eXistenZ, Scanners, A History of Violence and Spider. I like Fast Company, Shivers, Crimes of the Future and Naked Lunch well enough. Stereo and M. Butterfly are fine and I don’t have a problem with watching them.
I’m a fan, what can I say?
The Fly was great, as was Dead Ringers
Videodrome was OK, History of violence was ok,
Naked Lunch was somewhere between ok and terrible?
crash and existenz were terrible
I don’t remember the rest well enough to comment. His movies never seem to be really consistently good even when they are good though.
I have yet to find a film by Cronenberg I’ve not loved. I personally feel that Dead Ringers, Videoromes, Naked Lunch are flat out masterpieces of the twentieth century, and The Fly, The Brood, Existenz, Dead Zone, and Crash were all exceptional film that were all highly enjoyable and standouts of their genres. The three films hes done for this decade have all been great films and hugely underrated (especially Spider). I can see how he can be be hit or miss with people, but I’ve yet to a miss.
I’m a big admirer of Cronenberg, so, as Andrew has already, I’m able to find something of value in all of his films. Of all of his films, I find M. Butterfly the least vivid, and Fast Company is so outside of Cronenberg’s oeuvre. So if I have to pick “misses,” I’ll point to those two films.
Crash didn’t work for me. Try as I might, I don’t find car crashes erotic. Sensual, maybe, but you’re stretching it. Erotic, no. I’ve been in car crashes. They didn’t get me off, to say the least.
HOWEVER, I still really appreciate his style, and I find the way he works his characters to be most interesting of all. The men are such non-entities and the women are graspers, and for some reason I love it. Sure there’ve been some movies not as good as others, but overall Cronenberg is both one of my favorite filmmakers, and the type of filmmaker that I don’t think really every makes a “bad” movie. Going back to Crash, it didn’t work for me… but the plot, especially once the cult arrived, was very well-crafted, and the tone was pitch-perfect.
So, in terms of hits and misses, I don’t think Cronenberg ever misses what he intends to do, but I think the audience sometimes doesn’t fit into the target.
Cronenberg’s biggest problem is that he is so great when he’s great — so original, so mind-blowing, so subversive — that when he’s anything less than great he is a huge disappointment. His greatness is also his greatest weakness, and he would probably want it that way, being a bit of an over achiever. But I’d rather have someone who has at least scaled Olympus several times, than someone who is only consistently mediocre. So I don’t like him much as a commercial filmmaker (we already had enough of those), but I will never give him up when it comes to Rabid, The Brood, Dead Ringers, Videodrome, and maybe Scanners and Naked Lunch.
I don’t know, I have to disagree with you there Justin, just because I really love how he combines his previous sensibilities and thematic material with the more genre-specific commercial crime flicks he’s been making. I think we need all the great films that we can get, commercial or no, and Eastern Promises in particular is just that; great.
It’s also a question of slickness. It’s like coming to Loaded after listening to White Light White Heat. For Cronenberg, a certain amount of grit was part of the invention, part of the artistic project. Even Naked Lunch begins to suffer from the bigger budget and the name actors. It’s no longer as strange, as spartan, as end-of-the-worldy. Nothing is as original as Rabid, The Brood, and Videodrome, certainly not a spy movie.
While I have to agree with you that nothing is as original as Rabid, The Brood and Videodrome (kudos for nailing three of my top five, other two being Crash and Dead Ringers), I enjoy Eastern Promises and A History of Violence as much or more than Scanners, eXistenZ,The Dead Zone, Shivers, Stereo, and Crimes of the Future. I think the grit is integral to the films which have it, indeed Shivers wouldn’t be nearly as much fun or apocalyptic if it were slick, but that his approach has adapted to the material. Take The Fly, it’s still very much a part of his ‘it came from within’ body-horror work, yet his technical prowess is perfectly suited to the material and so produces a sleeker, more unified vision of it.
Though I have to admit that the spy movie has me shaking in my booties, but because I’ve enjoyed his recent efforts at least as much as his earlier work, I’m willing to give it a try.
Yes, Crash is excellent — how could I have forgotten that? And there he was able to make the professional actors seem less smooth, and to give the whole film that “depleted” look that his early films have — a kind of withdrawn, impoverished look, very alienated, like the eyewear convention in Videodrome, the last scene of Videodrome, the bar scene and shopping mall scene in Rabid, etc. It’s like a lack of realistic detail that is an effect of low budget filmmaking but which gives everything a dreamlike strangeness — some of Corman’s films are like this.
Justin, I couldn’t agree with you more on the positive effects of Cronenberg’s low budget filmmaking, yet I still don’t see it as depriving his later work of equal, but completely separate and distinct value. Something like Eastern Promises as a pitch is a kind of generic idea, something at least which doesn’t require the individuality that Cronenberg displays. However, I find that in execution he adds so much depth and life to the script with his personal touches, that he elevates it to a film worthy of his filmography.
Cronenberg definitely began to transition towards a more classical style beginning with his working with the cinematographer Peter Suschitzky on Dead Ringers, but I think that what’s lost with the lack of the viscera and the stripping away of the “sci-fi concepts that float on the surface” in the early films—Shivers, Rabid, The Brood, Scanners, and Videodrome—is more than made up for with the complexity, subtlety and precision of the later films. For me his later films are not merely utterences of genre conventions, but interrogations of those conventions—questionings of the “immutables of film narrative,” as Cronenberg has put it.
I love all of the cronenberg films I have seen, yet I see him drifting towards more mainstream acceptabale material ( A History of Violence, Eastern Promises) which bothers me, I liked the strangeness and unpredictability of his older films and I want an unending supply of bizarre cronenberg movies….but I know someday that supply shall run dry…I would not condem him for changing though. If he did not change his work probably would have become a bit repetitive…although I do wish he’d included that self referential deleted scene dream sequence in A History of Violence.
>>But, like I said, he’s a highly original talent, and if you’re making original work in this era of endless remakes, sequels, studios obsessed with PG-13 sanitized horror films and other assorted crap, Cronenberg must be applauded for making truly adult films without compromise.<<
Seconded. And it goes without saying (or ought to) that any artist who is looking to explore new territory is going to have his share of “misses,” if that’s what they really are (maybe we just haven’t caught up). Sometimes I think some people are down on Cronenberg because he’s moved beyond cheesy, underbudgeted but thought-provoking horror films.
i like cronenberg, he’s one of my favorites, but crash was a huge misfire. all the elements are there for a great film (sex, violence, james spader) but instead of snapping into cronenberg overdrive it just idled at boring kink. interesting as an experiment, but tiresome and nearly unwatchable.
his most successful films, in my opinion, are videodrome, a history of violence and naked lunch. psychologically and visually gripping, well acted, written and directed films. camera, a short he made in 2000, is pretty cool too, and a change of pace for him.
Like Vicari said, my mind’s been so blown by the movies of Cronenberg’s that I instantly loved, that I felt very let down by the other titles which didn’t immediately strike me. However, upon re-watching, I’ve massively appreciated those titles…can’t wait for THE BROOD, second viewing, at Lincoln Center tomorrow. Do not, however, expect M. BUTTERFLY or SPIDER to improve upon subsequent viewings, but only time will tell…
>>i like cronenberg, he’s one of my favorites, but crash was a huge misfire. all the elements are there for a great film (sex, violence, james spader) but instead of snapping into cronenberg overdrive it just idled at boring kink. interesting as an experiment, but tiresome and nearly unwatchable.<,
I have to admit I had much the same reaction to CRASH. But I also think I need to watch it again to be sure. It didn’t feel as compelling as I was expecting it to be, given its outre subject.
Strangely the first time I saw spider it was amazing, I was in a dark room, alone, one of my first nights in college wearing large stereo headphones, and after seeing the movie I felt quite schitzophrenic myself. Subsequent viewings have never recaptured that feeling or any measure of the enjoyment of the movie close to the original time.
Haven’t seen it all but here are my thoughts :
Hit : Shivers, Videodrome!!!!, Dead Rigers!!!!, Crash, Eastern Promises
Miss : Rage, Fast Compagny, Spider, History of VIolence,
In between : Naked Lunch
Haven’t seen The Fly, M. Butterfly…
I like his sci fi and his b films like shiver and existenz
i dont care for this new viggo mortenson direction that he has taken.
I don’t understand why A History of Violence got so much “Best/Most memorable/Most important of the Aughtie’s” distinctions, and nobody traded it for Eastern Promises. Both are good movies, but I found Eastern Promises to be the superior of the two. Why does History get so much kudos and respect, but Promises is pretty much already forgotten?
I’ve found myself pretty drastically reevaluating Cronenberg movies on second viewings. I had always been thrilled by the descriptions of almost all of his plots, but turned off or at minimum underwhelmed by their execution. Upon rewatching, a lot of the titles I was initially luke-warm about in fact seem, well, pretty amazing. Chilly to the core, visually sterile, empty, and incredibly lonely. RABID, in particular, seems to me now to be a very funny Romero-homage with an ambitious script whose cast of characters is much larger in scope than the budget for such a movie usually permits.
If you really love or have re-watched, History of Violence and Eastern Promises, I’d be interested in your thoughts. I never understood the acclaim these films seemed to receive.
Also, my own personal take on Cronenberg is that he has a lot of good ideas, and his talent is just shy of being a great artist.
mostly miss tho with enough hits to make him worth checking in on from time to time.
He has not had a great film in decades tho.