The filmography of David Cronenberg is one of the most successfully weirdest in existence, and he is one of the most skilled, unique and interesting directors to still walk the earth.
The love affair started with his body horror films The Brood (1979), Scanners (1981) -- which still manages to hold the Best Head Explosion Ever Award -- and that slice of batshit awesome known as Videodrome. I still occasionally blurt out, "Long Live the New Flesh!" in unwelcome social situations because of how young I was when I saw such a perfectly bizarre, psychosexual orgy of biomechanical sadomasochism and sci-fi prescience. Video fascism? That's awesome.
nteresting Perspective. Robert Pattinson stars as a financier having an eventful day, to say the least, in Cosmopolis.
The Dead Zone stands as one of the best Stephen King adaptations out there, sharing a box seat with Kubrick's The Shining. His remake of The Fly afforded him perhaps his first mass audience hit -- something he seemed to assiduously avoid again until A History of Violence -- with the coldly fetishistic Crash, the deeply psychological Spider and his adaptation of M. Butterfly, among others, filling the gap. He shifted away from body horror, but his strangely charming and clinically detached aesthetic thankfully remained while his mainstream story telling prowess grew.
Now, Cronenberg returns -- after his disappointing A Dangerous Method -- with his adaptation of Don DeLillo's already prescient 2003 novel, Cosmopolis, and the results comfortingly recall his dystopian (a possible byproduct of being Canadian) perfunctorily violent and kinky, quasi-sci-fi roots.
Eric Parker (Robert Pattinson) is a 28-year-old, New York billionaire asset manager who has lost complete touch with what it's like to be a human being. He's practically a different species -- almost like a vampire though instead of blood, Parker feeds on the pulsing arteries of international financial trends. Today, he's betting to lose.
Despite being married to an almost equally inhuman wife (a china doll called Sarah Gadon) his world is defined by his limousine -- he only seems to get out of it to meet his bespoke for an offhanded meal or to bed someone that isn't her.
Parker has a ride any Saudi prince would admire. Festooned with pulsing displays and tech that spans from heart monitors, both market-based and biological, to cork lined, bullet proof doors -- which he notes still don't silence all the street noise, his urban submarines' photosynthetic windows hide his meetings with cyberpunk employees and his sexual dalliances (with a still smoking Juliette Binoche) or his daily doctor visit that finds him talking business with a finger up his ass.
Against the advice of his security head (Kevin Durand), Parker wants to go uptown for what amounts to a metaphorical haircut, in the face of a Presidential visit ("Which President are we talking about?") and the onset of a more violent Occupy movement -- one that flash mobs the dens of the wealthy with dead rats, since capitalism is a plague on the masses. Parker finds himself on a path to self-destruction on his search for whatever soul he probably never possessed.
Cosmopolis is suffused with the staples of Croeneberg: characters who seem almost alien, seeking some semblance of humanity and colliding with an esoteric narrative that often defies any lazy audience. His predilection for talky, yet hot, sex and unlooked for bursts of extreme violence -- he just won The Best Eye Stabbing Death Ever Award -- drop like a pachinko ball through a narrative that is as futuristic as it is coldly contemporary. This is Cronenberg on his game.
The through line of DeLillo's tale speaks to the current state of economic inequality, and Parker never winds up being someone you can, or should, root for -- despite Pattinson's fine performance. I loved Samantha Morton, as she explained how the new species would be responsible for the genocide of anyone not like them; an analogy for when Homo sapiens supplanted the Neanderthals. But that really doesn't go anywhere for our "protagonist."
The reliable cinematography of Cronenberg-regular Peter Suschitzky (The Empire Strikes Back) and haunting tones of Howard Shore's score -- more than once recalling his Crash soundtrack -- fill out what is a return to form for all involved. Cosmopolis isn't a perfect film by any means, but if you're a fan of the idea that this entire country is circling the drain, you now have a film that fetishizes the beginning of its inevitably plutocratic death throes made by an expert of dystopia.
The Well Digger's Daughter
Sometimes the way you see a film is purely ephemeral; a story without expectation that transports you, even for a couple of hours, into the lives others. When it works, it is a connection that transcends language and time through the lens of a storyteller. And in the hands of a capable story teller, the tale leaves you enlightened -- and somewhat envious -- of the world, and people you never knew.
Such is the case with The Well Digger's Daughter, a distinctly traditional remake of the 1940 French film, brought to warm, charming tangibility by writer, director and unlikely star Daniel Auteuil.
Auteuil plays Pascal Amoretti, a caste-bound, 1930s well digger with four daughters born to his deceased wife, of whom Patricia (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) is the most luminous and refined -- despite her chaste devotion to her family and her father's lowly work. Of course, she catches the eye of Jacques (Nicolas Duvauchelle), the motorcycle riding, stunt pilot, Army officer who is the son of the wealthy local merchant Mazel family.
Pascal thinks he can marry Patricia off to his right hand man, Félipe (Kad Merad), a sweetly genuine, milquetoast man with the face of a hound dog. Their arranged date, conveniently at the air show where Jacques impresses the shit out of everyone, leads to a rendezvous between Jacques and Patricia that bears unwholesome fruit.
Beauty in Bloom. Astrid Birges-Frisbey stars as a working-class young woman in the French film The Well-Digger’s Daughter.
When Jacques' mother (a weepy Sabine Azéma) learns that her son is about to be borne off to the beginnings of the Second World War, she is tasked with meeting Patricia to deliver a letter explaining his sudden absence. The protective mother decides to burn the letter, thus setting in motion a classist misunderstanding that finds Patricia banished from her family while abdicating their mutual grandson -- a mistake she comes to regret when her own son goes missing on the front lines and Pascal rues when he realizes that honor isn't everything.
What at first seems like a simplistic and quaint story winds up being a delightful character study in the hands of director/star Daniel Auteuil. The southern French locales -- captured gorgeously by cinematographer Jean-François Robin -- go a long way to cement the period setting, augmented by fine production and costume design which bring the world to life.
But it's really the performances, from Auteuil, the charming Kad Merad, and Jean-Pierre Darroussin (as the unassumingly wealthy Mazel patriarch -- to counter Pascal's unassumingly poor one), along with Astrid Bergès-Frisbey waifish beauty, that make The Well Digger's Daughter work on such a satisfyingly, if light-hearted, level.
There's just something hilarious, and adorably quaint, about families who assume that their stations in life actually define them.
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