David Cronenberg, Surgeon of Human Nature

David Cronenberg charms as much as confuses, seduces as much as repels, charms as much as sows suspicion and discord. His films, under their undeniably provocative layer, have a tremendous tendency to produce reflection, fruitful discourses and an invitation to immerse themselves in the labyrinths of analysis. Pictures showing – skull explosion in Scanners (1981), Body interference with TV plasma in Videodrome (1983) A bloody ambush in the Turkish baths in Shadow Promises (2007) Or a small blood stain on a clean sofa in it maps of the stars (2014) – leaving a permanent imprint on the imagination they encounter and always keeping something resolutely contemporary, as if they were constantly catching up with reality from one side or the other, methodically finding new breaches to be inserted into it.

Whether we appreciate Cronenberg’s films or not, the images they generate remain in our minds. Sometimes a movie gets old, through thick and thin; David Cronenberg’s cinema, which, perhaps, has not only given birth to masterpieces, does not age like others: it always finds an echo with the contemporary world. It is a cinema that is evolving, or “transforming”, one should say in light of its filmography, from which new interpretations emerge. Perhaps this is the peculiarity of cinema: like everything triggers Cronenberg’s films invite reaction, never leaving anyone indifferent, because they evoke a moral sense and provoke reactions that are to say the least, in every sense of the word. And perhaps the excitement of reaction is all that matters to Cronenberg.

Transformed bodies, transcended morals

He hasn’t released a movie since. maps of the starsfor which Julianne Moore was awarded the Interpretation Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. The director, born in Toronto in 1943, had sly pleasure portraying neurotic, unbreathable, and decadent Hollywood. In this fuel-hungry dream factory, Cronenberg delivered one of his most vicious and ferocious films, the culmination of a period in which the director gradually abandoned the horrific imagery that made him famous — more than visible mutations, pollution, or crossbreeding of bodies, no more gaping wounds to scrutiny — to settle into a surgical aesthetic. and corrosive, as if Cronenberg were piercing a wound deeper and less physically, attacking something like the unconscious of an age even if it meant going back, in And the dangerous way (2011)And In the source of the psychoanalytic theories that saturate his films.

Mia Wasikowska in maps of the stars (2014) © Daniel McFadden

After such a long wait, which led some to believe that Cronenberg had simply retired after he had used all the possibilities that cinema offered him, like David Lynch in his time – his last film, Inland Empiredating back to 2006 and the latest news director Twin Peaks And Mulholland Road Not ready to get back behind the camera – Canadian Filmmaker He is finally back in the spotlight with a new movie, future crimes Which suggests that Cronenberg never really finished with “physical horror”, a literary genre with somewhat vague lines, as he despite himself became one of the heroes at the crossroads of the 1970s and 1980s.

It was at this time that Cronenberg made his mark in Canadian underground cinema. In his first experimental feature films made with available means, such as stereo (1969) and future crimes (1970)—which has nothing to do with the homogeneous film we can discover today—the director sharpens his tools and develops themes that will return later in his more assertive films. Then come films sealed with “body horror” like goosebumps (1975), anger (1977) or Chromosome 3 (1979) who, though They still lack the means and come close to cinematic exploitation, however, they make people talk and start discussions.

Chromosome 3 (brood) by David Cronenberg © Capricci

We note the bell’s frequent motifs in his filmography; A perverted sex linked to a “founder” act of viral contamination, like a parasite that suddenly infects building occupants with a strange sexual fever in goosebumpspsychological shock – chromosome 3, Where the mental disorders of patients take the form of growth and other organic matter – Physical mutations, like a vampire organ that grows from the armpit of a protagonist angeror more broadly explore new forms of enjoyment and dream a new meat ‘, as predicted by Max Wren (James Woods) in Videodrome.

Beyond good and evil

Probably from Scanners (1980), his first real commercial success, states that Cronenberg’s cinema retrospectively takes on a more intellectual and philosophical layer. The question of the relationship between the body and technology, along with a game on the increasingly blurred boundary between reality and fantasy, is gradually interfering with his films – such as VideodromeMax Renn shoves a VHS player in the stomach, or even inside the fly (1986) with Jeff Goldblum, which remains the director’s biggest box office success to this day.

However, Cronenberg would always remain quite wary of the studios, despite some tempting offers – he turned down Return of the Jedi I worked on conditioning for a while Total Recall (Paul Verhoeven finally brought it out.) Despite recognition, Cronenberg always refused the temptation the current. His films then begin to contemplate new possible modes of existence: through their mutations, bodies reach another level of reality, free themselves from traditional moral values, and discover another relationship to the world and to the self through a confrontation that could not be more physical between man. and the device.

James Woods in Videodrome © All Rights Reserved

Before cinema’s “vitalism” took a more psychological turn in the early 2000s, Cronenberg never ceased to support his fascination with what transforms beings from within, never succumbing to easy perspiration and instead going through the representation of hybrid beings, resulting in or Not from the imagination of her characters. what we think about the fly and the almost “cool” transformation of Seth Brandel into a giant fly, weak excuses (1988), in which Jeremy Irons played twin surgeons who fantasize about an organ beauty pageant, in Naked feast (1991), adapted from the novel by William S. Existin (1999), where the transition to the virtual world assumes connection to an organic game console, Cronenberg’s characters are never passive and evolve in coexistence with those who are vaccinated with them.

refused at the entrance

This great concern from the director for disease, pollution, and alteration of the organism does not indicate a form of dissociation and nihilism so much as a creative and even liberating event. “ For Cronenberg, illness allows the body to transform and re-invite itself ”, notes Fabian Dimangot in the article he dedicated to the director (Infringement according to David Cronenberg, Ed community playlist). Therefore, it is not surprising that the filmmaker decided to auction – in the form of NFT – his kidney stones; when he himself navigates embracing his remains; Or when he affirms in his first novel (consumable, ed.Gallimard, 2016), that “ The philosophy is surgery. surgery philosophy A creed that appears to be repeated in her new movie, where Kristen Stewart’s character whispers that “ Surgery is the new sex “.

Crashes By David Cronenberg © Carlotta Films

movie like Crashes (1996) undoubtedly represents the culmination of this surgical work by Cronenberg; The aesthetic becomes more radical and more abrasive. In this adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s novel, which made headlines when it was presented at the Cannes Film Festival, the damaged and disfigured body goes so far as to become a pure thing of pleasure for the characters who develop in a sterile world, where only metal surfaces seem to be cars and scars capable of giving Guaranteed to desire. ” The collapse marks Kronenberg’s path to a dream-like form of mental abstraction Olivier Beer, Director of Arte Cinema, notes in the small work dedicated to the film (Crash, steel dreams, Carlotta Films) on the occasion of its release in 2020.

Cronenberg managed to create a myth about infected corpses.

true that Crashes It constituted a perfectly logical turn in Cronenberg’s work in the early 2000s. At first glance, this seems less subversive, as it is stripped of the science fiction and very special texture of the fantasy elements that made the flavor of his earlier feature films. However, the director is guided by his obsession with internalizing his characters: spider (2002) in Cosmopolis (2012) then star maps, And so the director continues to probe the depths of the human soul. His cinematography is more theoretical and clinical – he went so far as to recreate the conflicting relationship between Jung and Freud in And the dangerous way – Not to say very pessimistic about modernity. No more spikes and bumps then, but a similarly powerful blast of deeply buried impulses and neuroses; After the human body, Cronenberg proceeded to x-ray the social body and exhume its remains from the underlying violence, as in history of violence (2005) is undoubtedly one of his greatest films.

David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortensen on set future crimes In theaters May 25, 2022 © Nikos Nikolopoulos

Today Cronenberg returns to a more organic cinema – which also seems to indicate shrouds His upcoming action-packed project with Vincent Cassel – basically less surprising than intriguing; Should we see in him a harbinger of inspiration rediscovered in content as well as form in a filmmaker called to a fiery objective horizon, or rather the lure of theoretical comfort and self-quoting? because what is future crimes Will they be able to say that Cronenberg’s earlier films did not actually say content about the decadence of modern man? You will soon find out.

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