Anaphora is an on-going series of video essays exploring the neglected films by major directors. David Cronenberg's Cosmopolis (2012) is showing November 24 – December 23, 2018 on MUBI in the United Kingdom.
For the first two decades of his career David Cronenberg was an aerodynamic funnel for an iconoclastic spin on gender, sexuality, media and economic theory. He had the white, North American Homo sapien down to a science. He knew us. Each of his fiction works were a little window under flaps of skin that the forces of capitalism wanted cauterized shut. If we ever pried up the scar tissue we’d become aware of the implanted narratives that drive us. Spend, produce, reproduce. Long before John Carpenter gave us glasses to see the subliminal purpose of capitalism Cronenberg was ripping those messages out from our veins and presenting them to us like a lounging cat, seemingly above our most hideous desires.
After 1988’s The Brood Cronenberg started adapting famous works of fiction to try and situate his understanding of the human condition in a literary tradition, returning to his greyscale dystopias only when prompted by a particularly exciting work. His adaption of J.G. Ballard’s Crash was answered by his 1999 video game odyssey eXistenZ. His touching upon the deviant sexuality of A Dangerous Method lead to him filling a minor Don Delillo novel with the seed of his itchy, revamped form. Cosmopolis was his first film since eXistenZ to have the claustrophobic setting and scope of his early classics.
Cronenberg acknowledges this dislocation by showing the film’s setting, one of a thousand limousines trolling New York (by way of Toronto) for sustenance, and then letting us see that it’s as fake as any make-up effect. We won’t need a constructed American reality where we’re going, the crooked, sickly beating heart of our economy.
Our hero is a Brit masquerading as an American millionaire; everything is pliable and fake. The undeniably true only makes itself known after we spend time in realms of the unreal with men who define themselves by seeing their image in a beehive of data. When the data vanishes and they’re just skin and bone, reality, concrete physics, return. A bullet pierces skin, a life ends—money is not a tourniquet.