director David Cronenbergm
David Cronenberg is probably one of the great living, still producing filmmakers. And his films of recent years, A Dangerous Method (2011), Eastern Promises (2007), and A History of Violence (2005) have all been respectable, if not quite good films. His style has evolved far away from his early work that earned him such notoriety for creepy, visceral horror films with a somewhat twisted science fiction bent.
Frankly, I’d like to see him go there again. eXistenZ (1999) was the last film that he made that was anything of his earlier style. And while that film (it’s been more than a decade since I saw it) seemed out of step with modern science fiction, he’s been making these more polished art house dramas, while they still have psychological violence and subversive aspects, are very much different inherently.
Cosmopolis is a disappointment. Adapted from a novel by Don DeLillo, it sounds on the surface to be quite a timely bit of filmmaking. It’s set in a near future, in a New York City limousine, which moves in heavy traffic, taking a wealthy, though quickly bankrupted billionaire (Robert Pattinson) across town to get a haircut. The people are rioting/protesting (a la the Occupy movement). The president is in town, slowing up traffic, and the stock market is going to hell. All the while the billionaire philanders, gets his asymmetrical prostate checked, and talks technology, money, aesthetics, philosophy and everything as the world slowly burns.
It sounds like a prime commentary on the world of 2012 (or 2013) but Cronenberg’s style, a slick detachment reflecting the billionaire’s emotionless disconnect plus some rather high-minded dialogues between the billionaire and his visitors ends up feeling like an exercise in “theater”, something meant to appeal to the intellect or an intellect. And it’s somewhat bloodless (in the more metaphorical sense).
I didn’t really care for it. It’s not that it’s terrible. In fact, I think it’s made to do what it does and is quite polished and slick in its own way. It just didn’t do anything for me.
I’d like to see Cronenberg go back to his gruesome, psychotic physical horror corpus and forgo the CGI and tap into the elements that made his name. It might refresh him.