I was very taken with DEAD RINGERS and HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, in general I prefer his lower-key less graphically violent stuff — basically, when he remembers to make a movie about people instead of intestines.
That said, I like his version of THE FLY a great deal, and never got the point of EASTERN PROMISES, so there you go.
What was the point of History of Violence—besides the fact that we all have this potential for violence; that it is hardwired into us?
Re: Eastern Promises
The film seems to use a generic gangster plot that taps into the deep seated instincts of men (protection—see the naked fight sequence) and women (protecting children). I like the concept, but was underwhelmed by the final results.
Jazz, if you’re interested, some of what I thought about A History of Violence can be found here
I’d just copy my part, but it’s only a one page thread and I make a comment in reference to what someone else said so it might be easier to just link to the page. I’m sure as hell not going to rewrite that whole thing.
Cronenberg is one of my favorite directors. In my opinion, his mega hits are Videodrome, The Fly, Eastern Promises and Dead Ringers. All the rest I hold in high regard too. If I had to choose a least favorite, it would probably be Spider or Fast Company.
Eastern Promises is, I think, interesting as a mirror reversal of History of Violence. Mortensen is sort of a schizo-hero in each. In the latter he’s a bad man passing as a good man, in the former he’s a good man passing as a bad man.
Well, yeah, that seemed to have been the point of HISTORY OF VIOLENCE. I remember being very taken with pretty much all of it, except for William Hurt’s atrocious attempt at comic overthetop acting, a rare mis-step in Cronenberg’s work since THE FLY.
Yeah, EASTERN PROMISES did what you said it did, and I didn’t see that it amounted to anything at all.
Matt, that’s the only reading of EASTERN that makes me even remotely interested in seeing it again.
I just checked out your post, and I thought it was terrific! I’m not sure I fully agree, but I think it’s one of the more thorough and interesting analysis of the film; it’s als the best defense of the film, I’ve read. I especially liked the insight about the multiple meanings of the cheerleader outfit!
A History of Violence is Cronenberg’s best work, hands down! I love just about ALL Cronenberg, he can hardly do wrong in my eyes, BUT there is just something so special about the Subtle application of his craft in both History and Promises . “Modern Cronenberg” just seems like he managed to peel away everything that was the “excessive fat” about his style, and leave in just the tender meat. To me it’s like in his reserve, the characters and the mood of the piece are enhanced, instead of his “gore” or “extreme” elements that can sometimes distract in his other films. It’s great, like ROSCOE said when it’s about the “people” and IMHO the “mood”, less about a “Cronenberg Spectacle” if that makes sense.
THE HITS: A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, Dead Ringers, The Fly, The Dead Zone, Scanners
THE HALFWAY eXistenZ, Crash, Videodrome
THE MISS Naked Lunch
why everyone think naked lunch miss
I’m a big fan of Cronenberg. To me all his movies are great except for the following:
Fast Company — This isn’t necessarily a bad film, but it’s not a very good one either. I found it boring. It really doesn’t fit with the rest of Cronenberg’s films. It’s a B-grade movie about race-car drivers. Who fucking cares?
Scanners — Cheesy, bad acting, and boring compared to his other sci-fi/horror films. The only good part of this movie was Michael Ironside.
The Dead Zone — This can be thrown in with all the other crappy movies based on Stephen King novels. The only director that can make Stephen King watchable is Stanley Kubrick.
Stereo & Crimes of the Future — These were a little too ‘arty’ for my taste.
I’ll just stop in to say that i recently caught up with eXistenZ, and it seemed like a precursor to Inception (though far more engaging intellectually). Does anyone know if Nolan has seen or acknowledged eXistenZ?
Scanners is a guilty pleasure for me in a way. That head explosion…
On a different note, I feel that Eastern Promises fleshes out its characters more successfully than History of Violence. I love both movies, but I don’t react nearly as much to History of Violence’s characters, they seem flat in a certain way, a step short of what they should have been.
I don’t know the answer to your question, but is there a reason you feel there is stronger connection to eXistenZ and Inception rather than the former and films like Matrix, Dark City or 13th Floor?
I don’t know if Nolan ever mentioned eXistenZ specifically, but I do know that he said Inception was inspired by the glut of movies that came out in the late 1990s that all shared the ‘what-is-real?’ theme, (films like: The Matrix, Dark City, The Thirteenth Floor, eXistenZ, etc.).
Jazz – I don’t know if I think that it has to be an either/or thing; I just saw thematic and structural similarities between eXistenZ and Inception. This may be partly due to the fact that I saw the two films only about a month apart.
To me all his movies are great except for the following:
No Viggo Mortensen Cronenberg film is better than those you listed. In no freaking way.
There were a few false notes in both HOV and E.P to me, and you have to look hard to find Cronenberg’s trademarks in them, but they are are decent films, by and large.
I much preferred Eastern Promises though.
My favourite Cronenberg films: Dead Ringers(as Matt said earlier, this was sort of a transition to more complex, dramatically rich work. Irons was robbed at oscar time imo. Completely briliant, emotionally devastating performance/s), Naked Lunch(for the sheer bizareness/absurdity), Crash(for its boldness, unique visual style and general conceptual rigour – arguably the most integrated film of his in regards to form and content. The use of sex scenes to reveal character, psychological depth, or the lack thereof, and further the narrative was quite original in its time, and i’ve seen this device used in other films too, particularly those of Catherine Breillat, and also featured, to a lesser extent, in ’History Of Violence).
@ JARDUN I love scanners, I love that head explosion. I feel no guilt about it =)
Mostly I just appreciate that how, no matter what Cronenberg film your watching, you know he shoots on beautiful film stock and uses some high-quality glass, his films have an almost “kubrickian” (as OU as that expression is) feeling of simple, clean cut beauty and such an aesthetic confidence, and Cronenberg is deadly, deadly consistent in this regard, even “back in the day”.
Also @ WESTLEY… How can you not be into Martin Sheen in The Dead Zone? He makes that film.
Yeah, Dead Ringers really does it for me. I like Cronenberg’s tendencies and his general style, so I can usually find at least something in most of his films that I like. Shivers was a wonderful early one and Videodrome later on. Naked Lunch means well and has occasional moments that mirror Burroughs cinematically and The Fly had a couple interesting moments, but I don’t understand the high regard for A History of Violence and The Dead Zone (the latter definitely being the better of the two though). eXistenz had some clever moments, but overall it wasn’t as clever as it thought it was. Spider was pretty good, Eastern Promises pretty good. Rabid rather poor, The Brood so-so; Scanners, apart from signature scenes, was a little blah for me. He’s ridiculously inconsistent, but when he’s on, he’s on.
His big misses have to be the really early stuff such as Rabid and to a lesser extent Shivers. M. Butterfly was a stylistic departure that also failed. Ive heard that his racing film is awful. I didn’t love Spider either. Im a huge Cronenberg fan though so everything else is cream to me.
I respect Cronenberg, I do think he’s original. That being said, I haven’t seen a LOT of his films, but one of the most impressive was Dead Ringers. I saw it in the theater. I saw it, I respect it, it freaked me out, and as a woman, I’m not sure I could sit through it again….
Here’s the Hit/Miss change scale for my second viewings.
Missed opportunity for a great idea IMPROVED TO ‘Hit’ status:
In each case, I think I just initially fought Cronenberg’s deliberate pacing which I found to be too dull in comparison to the originality of the synopses.
About as good as first time:
EASTERN PROMISES (decent actioner…exceptional design)
SPIDER (clunky but interesting…MORE interesting second time around, but perhaps even clunkier)
NAKED LUNCH (fantastic, and consistently funniest)
THE FLY (essentially a perfect studio movie)
VIDEODROME (essentially a perfect personal project and a triumph of pulp sci-fi movie-making)
Couldn’t make it through a second time:
HISTORY OF VIOLENCE
Forgot to rewatch, it was so forgettable the first time around:
Really wish had actually happened:
Can’t rewatch because Netflix no longer has copies:
And finally…Howard Shore’s talents were apparently somehow wasted on THE LORD OF THE RINGS projects. I find those scores unrecognizably less adventurous than his stuff for Cronenberg or Fincher. Often wonder if he was dropped form Jackson’s KING KONG remake because he refused to produce another generic score.
And, Cronenberg consistently has some of my favorite tasteful, no-nonsense opening title sequences.
How can you not be into William Hurt in History? Epic performance. Not sure which I like more, him or Martin Sheen in Dead Zone.
You can say “over the top” and “Theatrical”, but to me those performances are pure cinematic gold.
I respect him, but I find his theism mildly disturbing.
I have seen Spider two or three times now and feel that it is close to Cronenberg’s best. An amazing film.
I have also always regarded The Dead Zone very highly, particularly for the performances of Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen. Dead Ringers, Videodrome, A History of Violence are other ones I like.
I enjoyed Existenz a lot, although I think it’s a very silly film.
If you can take some Stephen King material and make it tolerable that is pretty impressive. And if you can make it actually great then you must be Kubrick.
Wow! FAST COMPANY just improved dramatically in my opinion during my second viewing last night…actually my first time all the way through since I just turned it off on my first attempt probably 5 years ago. Very funny, some great action, and a very different presentation of man/machine relationships that factors quite logically into the grand scheme of Cronenberg’s more recognizable projects.
Man, DEAD ZONE left me so unbelievably cold, in spite of really liking Walken’s performance and Sheen’s performance. However, just reading this week the interviews with Serge Grunberg I noticed that Cronenberg mentioned that the movie can be watched as entirely a delusional hallucination of Walken’s, which never occurred once to me in 1.5 viewings, in spite of that also being a common element of other Cronenberg films. Was surprised to hear that…can anyone write from experience about getting that out of the movie?
Cronenberg-for-hire TV short from 1972. Not written by him, but still up his alley
FROM THE DRAIN is up on youtube and CRIMES OF THE FUTURE and STEREO are both on googlevid.
Most of his movies are both hits and misses for me. Almost every time I see a Cronenberg film I have things I think are great about it and things I think are terrible about it. The only one I can think of without either extreme is Spider.
For instance, Dead Ringers. Jeremy Irons, excellent. The co-identity mutual dependence thing and the woman trying to extricate one from the other, excellent. Some of the insanity and the contrived ending, weak.