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David Cronenberg (#110 of 57)

A Deadly Blessing Cult Cinema: An Arrow Video Companion

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A Deadly Blessing: Cult Cinema: An Arrow Video Companion
A Deadly Blessing: Cult Cinema: An Arrow Video Companion

A figure named Death dressed in black standing in front of the sea. A woman shot through her glasses with blood pouring down her face. A man huffing gas while stroking a garment made of blue velvet. These images—all iconic moments from watershed films—first presented themselves to me during my adolescence as I intensely perused a 1999 volume titled Entertainment Weekly’s 100 Greatest Movies of All Time. Most cinephiles surely have a comparable story, a moment when the local multiplex started to take a backseat to the larger scope of a cinematic past that seemed far more mysterious than anything Anakin Skywalker and the gang were getting into.

Review: David Cronenberg’s Consumed

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Review: David Cronenberg’s Consumed
Review: David Cronenberg’s Consumed

Consumed is clearly the work of David Cronenberg. The novel suggests a print fusion of the filmmaker’s early, grungy, bluntly metaphorical work with the subtler, formally refined, classical elder-statesman films of his most recent period—and the contrast of those sensibilities allows for occasionally quite effective shocks. The prose is chilly and erudite, suggestive of Nabokov and, particularly, of Ballard, which will resonant with fans of the director’s Crash. In the tradition of those authors, Cronenberg sweeps you up in the pure power of his aesthetic command, coaxing your guard down so as to spring perversities that eventually cast the entire book in unsettling hues of twisted inevitability. Cronenberg isn’t moonlighting; he’s a real novelist.

Naomi Seberg and Nathan Math—the names are clues—are 21st-century yellow journalists who thrive on the instability culture of YouTube, Twitter, and TMZ. Nathan, who has aspirations to write for medical publications, is given to justifying his more exploitive story choices; Naomi, though defensive about her lack of intellectual bona fides, more instinctively gets off on the kill of nailing a scoop. Both of them, it’s explicitly established, are married to the endless variety of phones, cameras, and recorders that Cronenberg details with an agency that’s at once enticingly sexual, banal, and actively off-putting. The author frequently attributes human characteristics to the journalists’ tools of the trade, while assigning mechanical attributes to the humans themselves; as in his films, he’s equally repulsed and aroused by innovation as a pathway toward evolution that paradoxically dehumanizes our species. In an early seductive passage, a woman’s struggle to look upon Nathan is described as a “process so electromechanical that it seemed photographic.” A subsequent sex scene is writ so metaphorical as to slyly, deceptively, outline eventual late-act revelations:

Fantasia International Film Festival 2014: Starry Eyes and Cybernatural

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Fantasia International Film Festival 2014: <em>Starry Eyes</em> and <em>Cybernatural</em>
Fantasia International Film Festival 2014: <em>Starry Eyes</em> and <em>Cybernatural</em>

Why are they laughing? This was the question I posed to my colleague as the lights rose in the DB Clarke Theatre, at the end of my first screening of the 2014 Fantasia Film Festival. We’d just endured a rather bleak horror film called Starry Eyes, and I was confounded by the atmosphere in the room—an air of revelry better suited to a midnight presentation of The Rocky Horror Picture Show than an amateur feature’s Canadian premiere. I was duly warned, upon arriving in Montreal that afternoon, that Fantasia is resolutely a people’s festival, which is to say that its spirit resides in the pleasure of the crowd. And certainly a paying audience is free to enjoy whatever delights a film affords them. Horror films, in particular, tend to draw out the boisterous, and I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised that a room of eager Montrealers could hardly suppress their guffaws. And yet it seemed to me that before a crowd this rowdy, Starry Eyes didn’t stand much of a chance. As the film heaved into action, its seriousness was clearly at odds with the levity the room had anticipated. Nobody cared. The hoots and titters passed through the room like a chill.