Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Zero replies on this post, I guarantee you.

David Cronenberg is probably my favorite director of all time, mostly because he is absolutely and wonderfully insane.  Roughly half of his filmography is about people either destroying themselves, turning into monstrous arthropods, or being eaten alive by a twisted perception on reality.  Cronenberg's most popular film is easily "The Fly", the masterful horror movie where Jeff Goldblum grotesquely transforms himself into a fly and we as an audience get to watch every single disgusting moment of that metamorphosis.  Then there's just classic cult horror films like "Scanners" and "The Dead Zone", which are all excellent Cronenberg properties.

But really, "The Fly" is Cronenberg being grounded.  The hard stuff is movies like "Videodrome", where James Woods gets devoured both physically and mentally by exploitation torture movies.  Or "eXistenZ", where the characters get lost in a nightmare of virtually fantasy and guns made out of fish bones that fire teeth.  "Crash" features a group of characters getting aroused by car accidents and attempted suicides - also James Spader fucked a scar on the back of a woman's thigh.  And all of this pails in comparison to "Naked Lunch", which is a movie that refuses to make any sense and is an excellent storm of surrealism and SciFi insanity.  David Cronenberg is a dark wizard of madness who will take you places that no other filmmaker dare imagine, and then proceed to make his characters have sex with the raw entity of lunacy that he's conjured.

This is why reviewing "Cosmopolis" , Cronenberg's latest film, is so unfortunate for me.  I've been waiting awhile to tackle a Cronenberg product on this blog, and I was getting worried that Cronenberg had committed himself to relatively grounded dramas (but still disturbingly compelling movies) like "Eastern Promises" and "A Dangerous Method".  Those movies have their little deranged subtexts, but they're coherent and take place in the real universe.  "Cosmpolis", however, is completely out of its damn mind, it makes no sense on any level.  So you'd think I'd be really pleased and happy right now?  ...But no.  "Cosmpolis" sucks.  This is the worst David Cronenberg movie I've ever seen.

Most of the big industry buzz around "Cosmopolis" was about its star, Robert Pattinson, who we all know and ironically love as Edward, the tortured and dull vampire from "Twilight".  Pattinson recently was in the midst of a tabloid firestorm when his girlfriend, Kristin Stewart, betrayed the dream fantasies of millions of teenagers by diddling the director of "Snow White and the Huntsman".  Kristin Stewart and Robert Pattinson, you see, were supposed to live happily ever after forever as vampires, but now that Stewart dared have an independent sexuality of her own, she's now the WORST PERSON EVER!!!  And poor Robert Pattinson is single again and all you females can enjoy a few months where you can imagine that you actually have a shot.  To the tabloids, "Cosmopolis" was little more than a prop to represent Robert Pattinson getting back on the horse and celebrating his independence from that awful bitch Bella Swan.  No surprise, this weird independent movie was virtually ignored and overwhelmed by its star.

Conclusion:  the tabloids suck, celebrity culture sucks*, whatever, we all knew that already, moving on.

"Cosmopolis" is actually the story of a modern-day Wall Street yuppie on a grand odyssey across Manhattan... to get a haircut.  He's locked himself inside a heavily armored limo van, ignoring work and the office to instead focus entirely on prostitutes, vodka, and being a huge upper class cocker.  Meanwhile, outside, there appears to be a working class revolution going on, with some kind of anarchist group focused on the symbol of the rat.  Read:  Robert Pattinson and his greed is the rodent in question.  So you'd think this movie would have been a stirring attack on the infinite speed and crushing effects of capitalism where little shits like Robert Pattinson can control the entire world from the comfort of their limousines.  And as he continues to enjoy his decadent yuppie lifestyle, trying his best to not notice the poverty around him, suddenly it all comes crashing down.  That's certainly what the critics wanted, and I was hoping for something a little stranger, actually.  And I got it.

Unfortunately, I really wish that "Cosmopolis" actually was that pretty straightforward Occupy Wall Street tract.  Or even an over-the-top parody of Occupy Wall Street's 1% boogie men.  I was looking for the "American Psycho" of the 21st century.  Instead I got... a lot of bullshit that really doesn't go anywhere.

The first problem immediately is the dialog.  97% of all possible audiences for this movie will instantaneously be confused and turned-off by this bizarre alien world where nobody talks like real people.  The remaining 3% are literature majors and social critics who will spend an excruciating amount of time trying to dig through the double-talk to see if they can find a deeper meaning, will fail, but still will publish a twenty page essay with their best guess as to what it means.  I am one of the 97%, though I still tried my very hardest to not zone out of the movie and attempted, hopelessly, to follow what the characters were talking about**.  Eventually it all kinda fell into its own weird rhythm and I got used to the strange poetry of it all, but it succeeded rather brilliantly in keeping me from ever getting engrossed in the movie.

The dialog is like the disjointed prose of a cynical existentialist novel - which in fact, "Cosmopolis" is a direct adaption of a cynical existentialist novel.  Its poetic at times, a few lines manage to stick out as rather inspired, but its something you'd expect to read off a page.  Real people don't talk like this, nobody talks like this.  The characters wind up sounding like creatures from another dimension trying their very best to sound like real people.  Maybe its supposed to represent the disconnect of these upper class types from the rest of the society, which might be a bit clever.  But then 70% of the time it sounds like the stoned ramblings of a pretentious twit who has been talking nonstop for ninety minutes and hasn't realized that nobody is listening anymore.  Most Cronenberg movies have naturalistic dialog, or at least stuff that seems to fit the situation.  Ultimately "Cosmopolis" comes off as an arthouse waste of time, completely incomprehensible and ultimately annoying, much like the disappointing "Beyond the Black Rainbow".

There is a slow general feeling like Cronenberg is revving up the tension towards... something.  But we never quite get there.  Robert Pattinson starts off the movie as a man utterly separated from humanity, talking in doublespeak, with his main focus and drive to get a haircut.  He also has an ulterior motive in that he's trying to get his new wife to fuck him, without success.  He bets everything he has against the Chinese Yuan, and loses.  We're told he's lost all his money, but that doesn't seem to stop his army of assistants and cronies from hanging around with him.  He murders his chief of security for no apparent reason, nothing comes of that.  The attempted Rat Revolution comes and goes, while Robert Pattinson ignores it all so he can listen to one of his assistants babble endlessly about the philosophy of capitalism.  Finally it all leads up to Pattinson meeting with a would-be assassin, played by a very confused Paul Giamatti.  This should be some kind of huge confrontation between the two forces that have been dividing the story so far.  Instead both characters are utterly lost, which might be the point, but I don't understand what they were going for at all.  There's literally a gun pointed at Pattinson's head for an entire scene, while Giamatti talks about his fear that his penis will disappear and how the fungus in his foot speaks to him, that gun never gets fired.  Its a perfect metaphor for the entire movie... its a gun being loading, Cronenberg has the ammunition to do amazing things with this storyline, and then ultimately... it goes nowhere.  Nothing happens in this movie.

Does Pattinson manage to have the raw acting charisma to hold this giant trainwreck together?  You bet you ass he does not!!  Its starts with the fact that his motivation is pretty dumb anyway.  Riots?  The President in town?  A Funeral?  Robert Pattinson doesn't care, he's getting that goddamn haircut from this one specific place.  Which of course, could not be a more vapid motive, and that's the point, but it doesn't help us like this character.  He's not magnificent or brilliant or engaging, he doesn't have the personality of a Wall Street superstar.  Put Gordon Gecko in that car and I'd care, he could make a trip to the barber shop fascinating.  He lets his fortune be ruined.  WHY?  WHY???  I don't know!  I can't explain why the main character does anything, I don't get him at all.  He's cold and remote to me at the beginning, and just as cold and unappealing at the end. Which again, might be the point, that capitalism and upper class professionalism is all pointless and self-destructive in the end.  I don't get it, nobody gets it.

I suspect Cronenberg himself didn't get it.  He just adapted the Don DeLillo novel straight, probably because he saw there was an unnerving sense of tension behind the story.  Or maybe he just really really wanted to film a movie almost entirely in a limousine.  Which I grant you, was a very cool effect and a great visual metaphor for the hero's disconnect from reality.  Also, filming Robert Pattinson get a rectal exam in the middle of New York traffic could not have been anything less than great fun.

I also wish they used the rat motif more.  Giant rat monsters should have attacked the cab.

There were things that were kinda funny in "Cosmopolis", because it might have been some kind of weird satire.  Robert Pattinson at one point tries to buy a church.  The only scene where Pattinson shows any emotion at all is when he learns that his favorite rap star has died, which is also the best scene of the movie.  And as it turns out, the barber shop was his childhood barber shop, which is filled with memories for the character.  He might have been trying to look back to his simpler past, but that's not really clear.  The best laugh though comes from the realization that Pattinson has an asymmetrical prostate.

In conclusion, "Cosmopolis" is not going to be a very well-remembered movie.  If you've heard of it at all, then I hate to disappoint you, but don't see this.  Some critics were fooled into thinking there was some kind of Occupy Wall Street message, so they praised it, there isn't an Occupy Wall Street message.  Politically, its incomprehensible.  I don't get it.  The cool thing with Cronenberg is that all his movies keep you thinking, you never fully see every angle of the message.  But in this case, there's nothing to grasp onto, it slips right by, leaving you with nothing to do by keep checking your watch until it was over.

I did however, catch a Drilbur during the movie.  And in fact, watching this gave me plenty of time to level him until he evolved into Excadrill.  He's going to murdering my Pokemon foes soon enough!

* Interestingly, Brandon Cronenberg, David's son, has just released a movie dealing with deranged celebrity obsession called "Antiviral".  That's about crazy people infecting themselves with the diseases celebrities get in order to feel closer to their heroes.  Looks to be a nicely grumose attack on the idiotic fascination people hold to celebrity lives, and also a terrifying picture of self-destruction.  So proper Cronenberg family fun!

** Let me specify this:  Shakespearean plays do not have natural dialog.  Its poetic and dramatic, and of course, centuries archaic.  But I accept that those plays were not trying to be realistic as movies typically do, they were stylized with beautiful dialog.  Also, again, its goddamn Shakespeare, that was a man who could write, he's the cornerstone of English literature, and his work is amazing.  This dialog comes off like a bad Diablo Cody movie, where everybody is trying way too hard to be clever and at same time make very little sense.  And even then, even when you're absolutely lost by Shakespeare's verse, a truly great actor and a great director can still manage to give profound emotion and amazing performances behind it, so that you can still see the real human emotions and motives that the dialog is giving.  "Cosmopolis"'s dialog does none of that.  It just trying to be clever, and failing badly.


  1. I had really high hopes for this one, disappointed to hear you didn't like it. Might still rent it, someday.

  2. Bam, 2 Comments!

    I've never actually seen a Cronenberg movie (which probably warrants eviction form this blog), but I must say, even if this particular one wasn't too flash, the guy's style seems intriguing, especially Cronenberg the Younger's movie. Looks like I have some renting to do.

    Also, can we expect Pundit Month 2012?