May 4, 2010

If you want me you can watch me on your Videodrome; or, that belated David Cronenberg post!

A looong time ago I promised I'd share excerpts from my Film Crit essay on David Cronenberg's career just so I could start living up to my blog title again and because I like random entries. If you'll look around you'll notice that didn't happen, mostly because I would hate to fail a class for plagiarizing myself. And I was kinda busy writing the essay at the time (it was time consuming). So yeah.

But! I finally got my grade back on said paper and it was an A (yay!) so now I can share at least SOME of it with you, now enhanced with Youtube clips & what not. I apologize in advance if they don't play in your country/region for whatever reason and if you have issues let me know.

Now, briefly: if you're not familiar with David Cronenberg, let me just warn you I'm going to include as many asplodey clips as I can as that's pretty much what he does. Graphic! Unpleasant! Violence! Violence with a point, but it's violence. And some potential spoilers but I think I mostly averted them. Also my formal essays have about as much purple prose as my blog posts so cringe away. My timely commentary is in italics.

Belated edit: Trolol if you haven't figured it out by now, plz to be clicking me.

"David Cronenberg is an award-winning Canadian director and writer who is mostly known to United States audiences for his cult films, although he has had great mainstream success starting with A History of Violence. (hmmm now that I think about it that's not entirely true, he's had a little mainstream success before like with Videodrome)

His career began with the short film Transfer, a surreal art house short film that would contain some elements of his later works (I wasn't interested in saying what apparently). Cronenberg’s first feature film was Stereo in 1969, which was also the first of Cronenberg’s signature and infamous body horror period.

It is, however, better to split up Cronenberg’s directing career into two halves (which sometimes over lap): with few exceptions, from Stereo in 1969 up until Dead Ringers in 1988, Cronenberg was indeed invested mostly in low budget body horror films. But from the 1990s on Cronenberg made a switch to more subtle dramatic films, including the crime thrillers A History of Violence (2005) (HOW MANY TIMES AM I GOING TO MENTION THAT MOVIE?) and Eastern Promises (2007), his most accessible films to date. These aren’t very strict categories as many of his films cross over between them, but it is more effective in getting a feel for the man’s work and spotting his signature style.

If we look broadly, Cronenberg prefers dark, moody films with plenty of unflinching violence, gruesome special effects, and tortured anti-hero protagonists that don’t always win in the end or even live to see the end. To enhance the often bleak philosophy of his movies, Cronenberg often employs stark, atonal, synthetic music."

Example! Opening scenes of Scanners via Youtube because I think it's most noticeable in that movie:

Your initial reaction may be "My god that music is annoying and that man cannot act!" and on both accounts you'd be correct. The high pitched grating synths are MEANT to disquiet. I can't explain Stephen Lack's acting non-ability though.

Anyway, I go on:

"... From his early period, the films that best exemplify these (body horror) tendencies would be Shivers (1975), the Brood (1979), Scanners (1971), and Videodrome. Shivers is a more conventional horror story of a doctor who unleashes a parasitic venereal disease that causes unquenchable sexual desire in its host. (wonky sentences ahoy!) Videodrome, one of Cronenberg’s best known films, is a far more surreal and experimental film about the dangers of new media and the debate of television’s influence on the masses—is it harmless, mindless entertainment, or is it a dangerous, literal tumor capable of warping reality? Both movies are fairly topical regarding their times—promiscuous sex in the 70s, out of control media in the 80s—and show the more notable characteristics of Cronenberg’s work: special effects that make the best of a low budget, violence, gallons of blood, and a preoccupation with human flesh. This is more evident in Videodrome with the motif line, “Long live the new flesh!” but is present in Shivers as well. For Cronenberg, flesh seems to be a reminder of humankind and its mortality, an anchor in the face of increasingly bizarre and unreal events."

Damn, I don't even remember writing most of that, it's kind of brilliant. Let me enrich it with a clip from Videodrome. The only real context for this scene is James Woods is the good guy suffering from a massive dose of trippy shit happening (warning: GORY. Holy shit.)

I talk about the Brood & Scanners some more, but I've already given you an example from Scanners (let's just pass on the whole head explode meme). I then proceed to negate myself IN THE PAPER on Cronenberg's lack of mainstream success until History of Violence proving once and for all I cannot proof read for the life of me.

"After Videodrome and the remake of the 50s B-movie classic the Fly (1986), Cronenberg found more profitable mainstream success that funded films such as the adaptation of Stephen King’s the Dead Zone (1983) and Dead Ringers." (TROLOL what the hell me? What did you just say in your opening paragraph? Damn!)

Anyway I won't torture your souls with clips from the Fly so here's a Dead Zone trailer:

So anyway, a while after the Dead Zone Cronenberg goes on to make Crash (the 96 film about car crash fetishists--yeah you heard me) which, while disturbing as all get out, isn't what one necessarily thinks of when you imagine Cronenberg. I also start making sense again in my paper.

"The story of Cronenberg’s new dramatic output ... begins with his 1970 movie Crimes of the Future. That movie has more in common with his earlier body horror work, but Cronenberg’s interest in the crime genre is nothing new. From this later period, the movies Crash (1996), M. Butterfly (1993), A History of Violence, and Eastern Promises perhaps best represent this new career turn. The movies still retain much of Cronenberg’s signature style but somehow manage to contain more disturbing violence and sexual content. In cases like Crash they are borderline sexploitation flicks. Crash is a strange entry in this pool, a movie about car wreck fetishists and the havoc it wreaks on their lives. It blurs sexuality in ways Cronenberg hadn’t before in previous films and shorts, including lesbian encounters in the fray. If he had thrown in a strange parasite or more head explosions, Crash could have fit comfortably among earlier works. But it represents a transitional period that ends with eXistenZ in which the body horror is abandoned completely. Instead of horrible outward transformations, characters now feature more internal conflict in human settings."

Man, I make myself proud. Oh and here's that lesbian scene from Crash, although I warn you there's disability fetishism going on too (well, it's in the whole movie actually).

Then I FINALLY get to talk about A History of Violence and Eastern Promises...and only give three sentence to each! Well shit.

"A History of Violence is a sort of paradox in Cronenberg’s filmography in that it hardly feels like him at all. (That's such a creepy sentence) The only traces that remain in this story of a hit man who attempts to leave his past behind until it literally comes knocking at his door is the extreme violence and boundary-pushing sexual content, and the tortured main character who pushes the line between protagonist and antagonist, who by the end of the movie is left facing an uncertain but decidedly unpleasant future. (Holy shit that was all once sentence. How did I DO that?) If Violence is bleak, then Eastern Promises is downright pleasant. This is a conventional crime film—albeit with an unusual twist—about a seemingly simple minded chauffeur moving up in ranks in the Russian mafia. While it does contain the usual disturbing graphic sexuality (the rape and murder of a young girl and her baby are the center focus of the film), for once there is at least a satisfying resolution, (well, as satisfying as Cronenberg will allow) something that hardly appears with Cronenberg where everyone ends up severely traumatized with more questions than answers."

I wish I could post the nekkie fight from Eastern Promises. That was pretty grande. Well, here's a trailer.

And that's about the end of my paper. If you could stand my interesting syntax & structure and graphic Youtube clips, I hope you've learned something about David Cronenberg and his films. Or at least enjoyed me mocking my own paper. Did I mention that was an A paper? I have no idea how sometimes, I think my teachers just pity me.

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