Cronenberg’s new Film “Maps To The Stars” is a Poison Pen Letter to Hollywood.

Maps To The Stars.

Maps To The Stars.

David Cro­nen­berg’s new film Maps To The Stars arrives here from this year’s Cannes Film Fes­ti­val where it was screened in May. Most of the famous satires on Hol­ly­wood are secret­ly in awe of the place. The Play­er, The Bad and the Beau­ti­ful, even Sun­set Boule­vard (all reviewed ear­li­er here) have an under­ly­ing warmth and exhib­it a shy love love view of Hol­ly­wood. Not this one.

Julianne Moore plays an actress who’s seen bet­ter days and has nev­er real­ly come to terms with the death of the moth­er who brought her up so dis­as­trous­ly. She takes on Mia Wasikows­ka as her per­son­al assis­tant. Her estranged moth­er and father are a famous pow­er cou­ple over­see­ing the mete­oric career of her 13 year old brother.

James Spader in Crash.

James Spad­er in Crash.

There’s a strong sense of impend­ing doom and Greek tragedy to the film, sug­gest­ing the Oresteia. And the air of neme­sis, hubris and inevitable ret­ri­bu­tion hang heavy through­out. All the cast are excel­lent, and it’s easy to see how Moore won the Best Actress Award at Cannes. But it’s equal­ly easy to see why the film failed to win any of the main prizes.

Robert Pattinson and Sarah Gadon return from Cosmopolis for Cronenberg's new film.

Robert Pat­tin­son and Sarah Gadon return from Cos­mopo­lis for Cro­nen­berg’s new film.

Yes it’s extra­or­di­nar­i­ly caus­tic, and unremit­ting­ly bleak (and often very fun­ny) about the sorts of lives that those who inhab­it Hol­ly­wood live. And, it has to be said, all too believ­ably so. But more than that, there’s a clin­i­cal cold­ness to the film’s final quar­ter. Unlike Crash, which gives an equal­ly dystopi­an overview of the mod­ern world, Maps To The Stars sinks to its con­clu­sion instead of ris­ing to an emo­tion­al crescen­do. Its spir­it is Apol­lon­ian rather than Dionysian, and it ends up being a film that you great­ly admire instead of being one that you’re dev­as­tat­ed by.

Nonethe­less, togeth­er with the recent Cos­mopo­lis (reviewed ear­li­er here) it’s anoth­er impres­sive addi­tion to Cronenberg’s august back cat­a­logue. And he con­tin­ues to be one the very few seri­ous film mak­ers around. You can see the trail­er to Maps To The Stars here.

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The Genuinely Enigmatic film “Upstream Color”.

Shane Carruth and Amy in "Upstream Color".

Shane Car­ruth and Amy Sein­metz in “Upstream Color”.

When talk­ing about his 1987 film Wings Of Desire, Wim Wen­ders said there are two types of films. Those that say this is what I am, be it a thriller, a love sto­ry, or a roman­tic com­e­dy. And then there are those that ask you, what am I?

Few films fit quite so com­fort­ably into that sec­ond cat­e­go­ry as Shane Car­ruth’s lat­est fea­ture, Upstream Col­or. This is the fol­low up to his 2004 debut Primer, which was inter­est­ing, but very much a first film call­ing-card. This is a sig­nif­i­cant­ly more sub­stan­tial affair. So what is it?

Amy Steinmetz in Upstream Color.

Amy Stein­metz in Upstream Col­or.

Well, it’s clear­ly some class of a love sto­ry. But the two leads, played by Car­ruth him­self and the impres­sive Amy Sein­metz seem to inhab­it some sort of a con­tem­po­rary dystopia, where nefar­i­ous indi­vid­u­als are har­vest­ing mutant maggots.

Against which though, there seems to be some sort of benign indi­vid­ual shad­ow­ing the vic­tims to admin­is­ter a cure, in much the same way that the angels glide through the afore­men­tioned Wings Of Desire offer­ing succour.

Bruno Ganz in Wenders' "Wings Of Desire".

Bruno Ganz in Wen­ders’ “Wings Of Desire”.

But Car­ruth is clear­ly at least as inter­est­ed in visu­al and son­ic jux­ta­po­si­tions and the con­nec­tions and moods they pro­duce, as he is in nar­ra­tive coher­ence or intel­lec­tu­al clar­i­ty. Remark­ably, and very unusu­al­ly, this doesn’t detract– at least as yet — from the expe­ri­ence of watch­ing his films.

Steven Soder­bergh has said of him that,

I view David as the ille­git­i­mate off­spring of David Lynch and James Cameron.”

But the loud­est cin­e­mat­ic echoes evoke David Cro­nen­berg (whose under-rat­ed Cos­mopo­lis I review ear­li­er here). If Cro­nen­berg had tak­en acid and had some­how man­aged to make an entire fea­ture film that night, this is what it would look and feel like.

Cold, unques­tion­ably, at times creepy, and at oth­ers some­what anaemic. But con­stant­ly inter­est­ing and end­less­ly fas­ci­nat­ing. This is that rare thing, a gen­uine­ly enig­mat­ic film. And Car­rruth is one of the very few seri­ous film mak­ers work­ing today.

See the trail­er to Upstream Col­or here.

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Cronenberg’s “Cosmopolis” Unfairly Overlooked.

cosmopolis.limosceneLast year’s David Cro­nen­berg film, Cos­mopo­lis, seems to have passed most peo­ple by. Which is a shame, because it’s got an awful lot going for it.

Don DeLil­lo’s 2003 nov­el, on which it is based, cer­tain­ly seems in ret­ro­spect to have been remark­ably pre­scient. It fol­lows an obscene­ly rich and impos­si­bly young trad­er, played by Twi­light heart-throb Robert Pat­tin­son, who spends a day in his limo as the finan­cial world around him implodes and his for­tune evap­o­rates into thin air.

All the time, and all around him, hordes of anti-cap­i­tal­ist Occu­py-type ne’er-do-wells stalk the streets. But far from pan­ic, or even react to any of this, Pat­tin­son drifts aim­less­ly from hour to hour in a state of exis­ten­tial ennui.

The nov­el came out in 2003. And although DeLil­lo had actu­al­ly already writ­ten the bulk of it before Sep­tem­ber 11th and the dot com crash of 2001, it cer­tain­ly feels like it’s a reac­tion to the impend­ing sense of doom and Armaged­don that came in the after­math. Giv­en what hap­pened to the finan­cial world in the decade that fol­lowed, it all looks remark­ably rel­e­vant and feels sur­pris­ing­ly fresh.

CrashAll of this of course is clas­sic Cro­nen­berg ter­rain. Since calm­ing down from his ear­li­er blood and gore fix­a­tions, Cro­nen­berg has devel­oped into one of the most con­sis­tent­ly inter­est­ing and thought-pro­vok­ing film mak­ers work­ing today.

Films like eXis­tenZ (1999), Spi­der (2002) and even the appar­ent­ly con­ven­tion­al Freud and Jung biopic A Dan­ger­ous Method (2011) all explore ques­tions of our place in the world, and exam­ine notions of appear­ance ver­sus reality.

But it’s the superb and crim­i­nal­ly over­looked Crash (1996) that Cos­mopo­lis most close­ly mir­rors. It falls mid­way between that and Brett Eas­t­on Ellis’ Amer­i­can Psy­cho, as our hero descends on a Sty­gian jour­ney into urban alien­ation and exis­ten­tial angst. Where every­thing is sur­face, and life has lost all meaning.

robert-pattinson-as-eric-packer-in-cosmopolis_sarah_gadenPat­tin­son is impres­sive now that he’s been giv­en some­thing grown-up to do. And his Amer­i­can accent is con­sid­er­ably bet­ter than to ought to be, if the attempts of any of this com­pa­tri­ots are any­thing to go by. Apart of course from  Hugh Laurie’s, which is obvi­ous­ly a deli­cious­ly wicked joke at the expense of all of his Amer­i­can viewers.

The sup­port­ing cast of Paul Gia­mat­ti, Juli­et Binoche and the porce­lain Sarah Gadon as his even more dif­fi­dent wife are all flaw­less. And all look pal­pa­bly relieved to find them­selves in some­thing made for peo­ple of a dou­ble dig­it age and with a triple dig­it IQ.

You can see the trail­er for it here.

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