2014年9月1日 星期一

The Films of David Cronenberg

David Cronenberg is a Canadian film director, best known for his horror films.  Along with John Carpenter, George Romero, Tobe Hooper, and a few others, he was one of the leading lights of horror cinema during the late 70s and early 80s.  These days he's making more "serious" films, but he's still strongly identified with his ventures into the "body horror" genre. 

Stereo (1969)

An hour-long film about an experiment conducted on a group of telepaths.  Incredibly tedious and arty.  I have seen three-hour films that felt much shorter.

Crimes of the Future (1970)

Another hour-long film, this one about a scientist's research into...?  Slightly better than Stereo, but still excruciating.

Shivers (a.k.a. "They Came from Within") (1975)

This is a surprisingly good movie, despite the fact that it was made 39 years ago on a minuscule budget.  A scientist develops a parasite that he believes will free mankind from its "intellectual burden," and the inhabitants of a new apartment complex are this parasite's first victims.

Rabid (1977)

Very similar to Shivers, though in this case the parasite (growth?) has only infected one person, a young woman who goes on to infect hundreds with a rabies-like virus. Marilyn Chambers stars in one of her few non-pornographic roles.  It's also a good movie, though not as good as Shivers.

Fast Company (1979)

This is the only one of Cronenberg's films I haven't seen.  It's a B-movie, has to do with car racing, and is extremely hard to find.

The Brood (1979)

Very similar to Rabid, which was very similar to Shivers.  I haven't seen this one in a while, and I don't want to give the ending away, but it's a great film and probably marks the beginning of Cronenberg's "classic" period.  Could also be seen as the fullest realization of the ideas explored earlier in both Shivers and Rabid. 

Scanners (1981)

This movie is best remembered for the exploding heads.  I've seen it many, many times, and it remains a classic film.  People with telepathic and telekinetic powers do battle in the most disgusting way possible.

Videodrome (1983)

This might be Cronenberg's best movie.  It was revolutionary for the time, predating films like The Matrix and even Cronenberg's own ExistenZ by over a decade.  James Woods stars as the owner of a cable TV company.  After a coworker stumbles upon the torture program Videodrome, everything gets weirder, and weirder, and weirder.  Long live the new flesh!

The Dead Zone (1983)

This film mark's Cronenberg's first foray into big budget territory.  Christopher Walken stars as a man who can view both the past and future of people he comes into physical contact with.  One of the less bloody Cronenberg movies, but still great.  Like The Shining, the soundtrack for this film almost makes the movie. 

The Fly (1986)

Probably Cronenberg's best remembered film, and also the end of his "classic" period.  Jeff Goldblum stars as Seth Brundle, the inventor of a teleportation device.  This is perhaps the goriest film Cronenberg ever made, and even though the central premise doesn't make a lot of sense it still holds up very well.

Dead Ringers (1988)

A transitional film for Cronenberg.  Twin gynecologists (really!) begin a descent into drug dependency and madness.  Cronenberg's first collaboration with Jeremy Irons, who would also feature in M. Butterfly. I thought this film was good, but not great.

Naked Lunch (1991)

I disliked the novel, and thought the film was a vast improvement.  As the novel is essentially unfilmable, this film remains more of a related artwork than a straight adaptation.  The movie removes almost all of the homosexual imagery from the novel, and borrows from Burroughs' other books as well. 

M. Butterfly (1993)

Not a bad film, though it certainly has its faults.  I think it might have worked better if they had chosen a more effeminate actor for the "female" role, if the scenes depicting life in China had been in Chinese, and if they had changed Jeremy Irons's nationality.  The story and the character arcs work well, but it doesn't feel especially authentic.

Crash (1996)

Though not a horror film, this was a return to form for Cronenberg.  James Spader survives a car accident and becomes erotically aroused by the experience.  Another great exploration of the links between sex, death, and violence from a director very familiar with those themes.

ExistenZ (1999)

Like Videodrome, this movie was ahead of its time.  Several players enter a virtual world and come to question the nature of reality.  This film came out the same year as The Matrix, a movie that explores similar themes.  While I think The Matrix is a more entertaining film, ExistenZ also has a lot to say - on a much lower budget. 

Spider (2002)

Ralph Fiennes stars as a schizophrenic exploring his own past.  Very low budget, but very well acted.  Miranda Richardson gives one of her best performances in this movie.  I found the ending a bit predictable, but it's worth seeking out.

A History of Violence (2005)

A lot of people love this movie, but I wouldn't say that it ranks among Cronenberg's best.  Viggo Mortenson, fresh from Lord of the Rings, stars as a man threatened by mob violence.  The part with William Hurt is great, but this one felt a bit uneven to me.

Eastern Promises (2007)

Along with Videodrome and The Brood, this film is one of Cronenberg's best.  Viggo Mortenson stars as a Russian gangster, and Naomi Watts is a nurse trying to locate an infant's mother.  It's violent, it's well paced, and Vincent Cassel is in it.  What more could you want? 

A Dangerous Method (2011) 

Familiar territory for Cronenberg, though done as a period drama concerned with Freud and Jung's early careers.  A young woman (Kiera Knightley) seeks a cure for her "insanity."  It's a very good movie.

Cosmopolis (2012)

A crushingly boring film, though this may be due to Cronenberg's desire to remain faithful to Don Delilo's novel.  Almost all of the movie occurs in the back of a limousine, and even the sex scenes aren't interesting.  Pretentious in the extreme, and not worth the effort.

Maps to the Stars (2014)

It's easy to dismiss this film as another movie by Hollywood about Hollywood, but the performances are excellent and the story has a lot of depth.  Incest, violence, and an obsession with youth take center stage in this story of a fame-obsessed family.  This movie deserves a larger audience.