Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: September 2010

Thursday, September 30, 2010

NYFF10 Movie Reviews: Inside Job (2010) and Boxing Gym

by Tony Dayoub


Two vastly different documentaries impressed me at yesterday's press screenings. Each in their own way, Inside Job and Boxing Gym take subjects we already think we know about and make them more accessible to the viewer, and isn't that what the best of such films do?

Tony Curtis

by Tony Dayoub

Tony Curtis lived the Hollywood dream. Born Bernard Schwartz not too far from where I now write this, in the Bronx, he changed his name when he started getting film gigs. His matinee idol looks and youthful energy usually saw him cast opposite older stars as the hotheaded rival in early films like Trapeze (1956), Sweet Smell of Success (1957), and The Vikings (1958). Curtis' perfectly coiffed black pompadour, in fact, inspired Elvis to dye and style his own hair in the same manner. But knowing his looks wouldn't last forever drove his need to play more substantial parts.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Arthur Penn

by Tony Dayoub


Earlier this year we lost a frequent collaborator of his, Dede Allen; now comes the sad word of director Arthur Penn's passing. Together, they were formidable in establishing the rhythms that would go on to define American cinema of the seventies with the seminal Bonnie and Clyde (1967). But one look at the Twitter page today demonstrates how unappreciated Penn was outside of this landmark film.

Monday, September 27, 2010

NYFF10 Movie Review: Film Socialisme (2010)

by Tony Dayoub


Full disclosure: I'm the last one you want to ask about either Jean-Luc Godard (of his films, I've seen a sum total of 2 full-length features and one short, all pre-1990) or avant-garde film. I know much about the pionering French director from books and my studies in college almost 20 years back. But his films, indeed all films, are to be experienced. As for the avant-garde, it is a type of cinema I have always had trouble appreciating. I'm not judging it, mind you. If anything, it is my limited ability to comprehend them that I blame. So if this review is somewhat vague, or I sound out of my depth, please forgive me. What I can say is that the somewhat mystifying Film Socialisme is oddly enthralling even to an ignorant fellow like myself.

Friday, September 24, 2010

NYFF10 OPENING NIGHT Movie Review: The Social Network (2010)

by Tony Dayoub


Midway through The Social Network, wunderkind Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) calls his estranged partner Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) from California to inform him that their new partner, Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake)—the smooth creator of Napster—has just succeeded in getting a venture capitalist group to invest half a million dollars in Zuckerberg and Saverin's Facebook. It is a crucial scene loaded with mixed emotions between the two partners. Saverin had just rescinded access to Facebook's $19,000 line of credit after discovering Parker has supplanted him as Zuckerberg's financial idea man; Saverin's clingy girlfriend almost burned down his apartment demanding to know why Saverin hasn't updated his Relationship Status from "single;" and Parker has proven his value by securing meetings with big money men while Saverin was going door-to-door in New York selling advertising to small-fish establishments like a tuxedo rental company. It is the most overt display of the rupture developing between Zuckerberg and Saverin. But for just a moment, Zuckerberg is big enough to congratulate Saverin for their success despite his anger over having the monetary rug pulled out from under him. For just a moment, Saverin is equally gracious even though his instincts tell him he is being shut out from his own company. Party boy Parker is inside their house/office with employees and female hangers-on as he pops open a bottle of champagne. And Zuckerberg is just outside, viewing the celebration through a sliding glass door, privy to—but separated from—the festivities inside.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

TV Review: Boardwalk Empire (2010)

by Tony Dayoub


I try to see.
Well, I guess that I'm blind.
It's fine with me
'Cause i'm going to keep trying.
And I've made disappointment
My very best friend.
I wait and see
Who you're going to be
And when.


-"Straight Up and Down" by The Brian Jonestown Massacre

From the opening credit sequence in which we hear the lonely guitar of the Brian Jonestown Massacre (a band I previously mistook for the Rolling Stones) as waves roll into the Jersey seashore, I knew Boardwalk Empire had me. A quick survey around the internet reveals just as many who hated the opening track, but I would guess many of these folks are oblivious to the stylings of this first episode's director, Martin Scorsese. While I can't recall such a blatantly anachronistic use of music in any of his previous films, Scorsese has always had an instinctive grasp of how to marry music to film to create cinema. In this case, "Straight Up and Down" feels so right that to quibble about it is a petty bit of complaining. But to do it after you've taken a peek at its lyrics is even more wrongheaded.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Blu-ray Review: Breathless (À bout de souffle) (1960)

by Tony Dayoub


Watching Breathless (À bout de souffle) today, with the benefit of fifty years of critical hindsight, I am struck by the way it so obviously indicates the trajectory its director's career would take over time. Jean-Luc Godard, who defended/lauded underrated American B-movies as a critic for Cahiers du Cinéma, presents Breathless as both a tribute to and rejection of said films all at once, opening with a title card dedicating the film to Monogram Pictures while doing his best to overcome the budgetary and structural obstacles such films were often subject to. It's through his protagonists' interplay, though, that we see the earliest spark of Godard's revolt against the status quo.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Blu-ray Review: Solitary Man (2010)

by Tony Dayoub


There's a certain kind of "indie" film—your Little Miss Sunshine, or Slumdog Millionaire, or Crazy Heart—films which challenge their audience a bit more than the average mainstream film, but not too much. I put "indie" in quotes because the film is not the true independent from back in Cassavettes' day. It still benefits from the positioning a major actor or a cast of major actors provides. It still gets funding (at least on the tail end of the post-production/marketing stage) from a smaller shingle overseen by a big studio, or what they sometimes call a mini-major like a Lionsgate Films. This year's trendy film in this category is The Kids Are All Right, the one with Julianne Moore and her wife (Annette Benning) meeting their kids' biological father (Mark Ruffalo) whose sperm was used to inseminate each of them. These movies are usually pleasant enough I find. And I usually venture into them with an open heart, predisposed to liking them because of the alternative they offer to "the same old shit." But I usually leave feeling betrayed, for any number of reasons. Either the film's conclusion holds a "message"; or a contrivance is offered in the course of the film to goose up a narrative which hardly seemed evident through the first two-thirds of the film; or in the case of The Kids Are All Right, some annoying alt-rock soundtrack is married to the film in order to tell me how I should be feeling every step of the way (see Away We Go). What a true pleasure it is to encounter a film such as Solitary Man then—a movie which I went into feeling fairly guarded after the number of times I'd been burned—and finding a true gem.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cronenberg Blogathon: Spider (2002)

by Tony Dayoub


Fragmentation.

Like the shoestring webs Dennis "Spider" Cleg (Ralph Fiennes) weaves in his room slice space into fragments, Cleg's mind is splintered, broken. Those who fail to see evidence of Cronenberg's "body horror" aesthetic in Spider are fixated on the gore and violence of his early career. One need only look at how Cleg's mind betrays him—a subtler but just as threatening betrayal to his identity as Seth Brundle's reluctant metamorphosis in The Fly (1986)—to see that the physical has now become metaphysical. Spider is a turning point where the maturation of this director fuses many elements from his oeuvre, internalizes them, and launches his body of work in a new direction.

RIP Kevin McCarthy


They're here!
- Dr. Miles J. Bennell Invasion of the Body Snatchers (both 1956 and 1978)

Cronenberg Blogathon: eXistenZ (1999)

by Evan Waters


[Evan Waters looks at movies, books and comics at Club Parnassus.]

eXistenZ has a bit of a place in my heart. It was the first David Cronenberg film I saw theatrically, having more or less discovered the man's work on video the year before. That was in 1999, a strange and far-off land, and seeing it in the immediate aftermath of the Columbine shootings—with media violence and video games in particular targeted as influences—made it resonate strongly. A decade later, it holds up in very unusual ways; it's unconventional even for Cronenberg and is a bit awkward in terms of how it's built and put together, but the sheer audacious oddness of it pulls us through and animates it with a unique energy.

Cronenberg Blogathon: The Cronenberg Hypothesis: Stereo & Crimes of the Future

by Bob Clark


[Bob Clark, of The Designer’s Dilemma and Wonders in the Dark, takes a closer look at two of Cronenberg’s earliest cinematic experiments, Stereo and Crimes of the Future. His thoughts on these films can also be found at The Aspect Ratio.]

We are now reaching a point in time in which the great, most notable North American cinematic voices of the latter quarter of the twentieth century find themselves the elder statesmen among filmmakers. It’s been a long time coming, obviously, a fact of life made all the more apparent by the aging appearances of men like Coppola, Lucas, and Spielberg, their dark beards grown from graying to gray, and gray to white, each one more and more the picture of wizened old masters every bit in contrast with the rambunctious youths of the 60's and 70’s. Perhaps now it becomes so much more difficult to ignore, and somehow even more impossible to accept, as the films upon which they and others made their names approach their fortieth anniversaries. George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead already had its big birthday two years ago. It will only be a year until Lucas’ feature-version of THX 1138 and Spielberg’s television-movie Duel turn 40. A year after that, it will be The Godfather’s turn to enter middle-age, and unless the world ends in some incredible Mayan apocalypse, two years later we will see John Carpenter’s Dark Star blow four rows of candles out on its own cake. But among the great modern cinematic voices to enjoy such a enduring anniversary, perhaps overlooked is Canadian auteur David Cronenberg.

RIP Claude Chabrol


If Jean-Luc Godard appeals to critics because of his extreme interest in politics and film theory and if François Truffaut appeals to the popular audience because of his humanism and sentimentality, it is Claude Chabrol—film critic, filmmaker, philosopher—whose work consistently offers the opportunity for the most balanced appeal… Chabrol’s work can perhaps best be seen as a cross between the unassuming and popular genre film and the pretentious elitist art film.
– Charles Derry (The St. James Film Directors Encyclopedia, 1998)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Cronenberg Blogathon: Reassessing Crash (1996)

by Dusty McGowan


[Trickster Dusty McGowran has an interesting take on movies. You can read more about his private obsessions at the Playground of Doom.]

Introduction

All right, so here’s my clever conceit for this blog entry. I’m going to write about Crash (1996), a film I haven’t seen in a good twelve years. I will write what I intend to be Part One first, covering what I can remember of my first impression of this film. (Assuming I have anything like an honest memory.) Part Two will be my impressions after seeing this film again all these many moons later.

Now let me pat myself on the back for my own ingenuity.

I’m patting myself on the back. You just can’t see it.

Cronenberg Blogathon: A Misdiagnosed Case of Insectivitis

by Noel Tanti


[The eloquent Noel Tanti presides over the very bohemian Nigredo's Room.]

It’s been long and hard-headedly argued that David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986) is a metaphor for AIDS. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome was quite big at the time, being hailed by some as God’s punishment for the capitalist, consumerist, yuppie-ish lifestyle that characterized much of the 1980s. Most of these "sins" are still pretty much in vogue today, unlike the AIDS awareness fad whose thunder has been stolen by cancer (watch South Park’s "Tonsil Trouble" for a shocking but brilliant take on this). It really doesn’t matter which degenerative disease one chooses to associate with Seth’s (Jeff Goldblum) tormented odyssey, the analogy simply does not hold.

Cronenberg Blogathon: Dead Ringers (1988)

by Adam Zanzie


[Adam Zanzie started blogging about film at Icebox Movies shortly before last year's De Palma Blogathon, where we got into it over his piece on Redacted. What a difference a year makes. Now, he sneakily lifts the film of choice for my upcoming contribution. What am I going to do with you, Adam? (Great essay!)]

When they were kids growing up in Toronto in 1954, Elliot and Beverly Mantle were already curious enough to want to know more about human sexuality and the female anatomy. “I’ve discovered why sex is,” Elliot tells his younger brother, walking down the streets in their neighborhood one afternoon. “It’s because humans don’t live underwater… fish don’t need sex because they just lay the eggs and fertilize them in the water. Humans can’t do that—because they don’t live in the water. They have to… internalize the water; therefore, we have sex.” Beverly is confused, “So, you mean, humans wouldn’t have sex if they lived in the water?” Elliot clarifies that “they’d have a kind of sex, but the kind where you wouldn’t have to touch each other.” To Beverly, the shyer of the two brothers, this sounds perfectly agreeable. “I like that idea,” he says.

Cronenberg Blogathon: Eastern Promises (2007)

by Jake Cole

[Jake Cole is the prolific author of Not Just Movies, a site which I predict will become one of the must-read film blogs in the near future.]

David Cronenberg's movies, to boil them down to their simplest essence, are about identity. In his old body horror masterpieces, The Fly and Videodrome, the Canadian director deconstructed identity via physical dissolution, stripping away literal flesh to show mental breakdowns. Dead Ringers, with its conjoined twins unsure how to operate once separated from each other, visualized a split personality in a manner that even Brian De Palma couldn't have dreamed up when he tread similar waters with Sisters. So fascinated is he by the nature of identity that a director then known for gross-out horror could be the perfect choice to direct an adaptation of M. Butterfly, a play about bent gender, sexual confusion, and national and ethnic clashes.

Friday, September 10, 2010

UPDATED - Cronenberg Blogathon: Considering Cronenberg Elsewhere in the Blogosphere (Part 3)

by Tony Dayoub


As we approach the final stretch of the Cronenberg Blogathon this weekend I'd like to thank everyone who helped make this a success. Whether you just came by to read some of these great pieces, commented on them, helped promote them, or actually submitted one, I thank you. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to close the door to any further submissions at this time. But we have at least ten more coming your way (including one from yours truly if I can catch up with all of this editing) through Sunday night.

Cronenberg Blogathon: The Brood (1979), or David Cronenberg Presents: MurderBabies

by John Eno


[Delimited Liminality's John Eno finds reason to think Cronenberg's ideas sometimes outpace his execution, especially in The Brood.]

David Cronenberg was pegged early on as a horror director, albeit a director of horror films that didn't fit well in the genre as it had been established up to that point. A lot of this was due to his interest in particularly visceral horror, especially that which affects the body from within rather than from without. Even before I'd seen anything he'd directed, I knew him by reputation as a director of horror in which the monsters aren't any kind of external force but rather come from within, in the most literal way. (That the title of his first feature film is, well, They Came From Within is telling.)

Cronenberg Blogathon: Hearing Cronenberg - Eastern Promises

Howard Shore
by Jeffrey Goodman

[Jeffrey Goodman is an independent filmmaker who directed Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander in the wonderful neo-noir, The Last Lullaby. You can read about his exeriences making films at his blog, The Last Lullaby (and) Peril.]

Have you heard the most recent David Cronenberg film? I bet not. You’ve probably only seen it. But it’s worth hearing, too, as I would place Cronenberg in a very small of group of directors that think about the sound in their work as much as they do the visuals.

Working with Howard Shore for the twelfth time in Eastern Promises, Cronenberg once again proves that he and Shore have one of the most important director/composer collaborations in all of cinema. Their only contemporaries that even challenge them, in my mind, are the Coens/Carter Burwell, David Lynch/Angelo Badalementi, and perhaps Tim Burton/Danny Elfman.

Cronenberg Blogathon: The Business of Junk - Naked Lunch

by Ryan Kelly


[The eloquent Ryan Kelly fashions some great, thought-provoking pieces at Medfly Quarantine. I seldom agree with his opinions on specific films these days, a sure sign that the reason I return to his blog again and again is his potent, concise writing.]

Junk is the mold of monopoly and possession. The addict stands by while his junk legs carry him straight in on the junk beam to relapse. Junk is quantitative and accurately measurable. The more junk you use the less you have and the more you have the more you use. All the hallucinogen drugs are considered sacred by those who use them—there are Peyote Cults and Bannisteria Cults, Hashish Cults and Mushroom Cults—"the Scared Mushrooms of Mexico enable a man to see God''—but no one ever suggested that junk is sacred. There are no opium cults. Opium is profane and quantitative like money. I have heard that there was once a beneficent non-habit-forming junk in India. It was called *soma* and is pictured as a beautiful blue tide. If *soma* ever existed the Pusher was there to bottle it and monopolize it and sell it and it turned into plain old time JUNK.


David Cronenberg's adaptation of William S. Burroughs' junkie manifesto Naked Lunch surely ranks as one of the great film adaptations of all time—as much a biography of the novel's troubled author as an adaptation of his most well known work, which Cronenberg has cited as his favorite book of all time. Since the novel only barely has a plot, Cronenberg was forced to improvise much of the content of the picture, and the result is an often hilarious, occasionally tragic, perpetually surreal film—one that dramatizes Burroughs' psychological state at the time he wrote the famed novel. In spite of the numerous alterations to the text, this is a surprisingly faithful adaptation, as Cronenberg's film is a scathing satire that attacks Capitalism, drug culture, Corporate America, even the creative process—ultimately, it's as true to Burroughs' novel as any adaptation could possibly be, while also a new dimension to the text: an extremely moving portrait of its author.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Cronenberg Blogathon: Notes on A History of Violence (2005)

by Montgomery Lopez


[Montgomery Lopez concentrates on the science fiction/horror/fantasy slice of the blogosphere at his Monster Scifi Show Blog]

Having known David Cronenberg primarily as a horror genre director, A History of Violence doesn’t exactly appear to be Cronenberg’s cup of tea on the surface. Even the summary from IMDB for this film, “a mild mannered man becomes a local hero through an act of violence, which sets off repercussions that will shake his family to its very core,” doesn’t necessarily sound like Cronenberg material. Even the opening 4-minute one-take shot is not representative of a typical Cronenberg film. But there is evidence of a thematic similarity that resonates throughout his films.

Cronenberg Blogathon: The Dead Zone (1983) and the Horror of the Mind

by Bryce Wilson


[Bryce Wilson, of Things That Don't Suck, enters the fray with an anecdotal piece questioning whether Cronenberg should only be known for "body horror."]

“You are either in the possession of a very new human ability. Or a very old one.”


Conventional wisdom says that the pairing of David Cronenberg and Stephen King was an odd one. Never mind the fact that the two have never shown each other anything but mutual respect. People can’t seem to wrap their heads around it. After all in one corner there’s ole Uncle Stevie, this generation’s Rod Serling: slaughtering a massive forest every year to peddle his mainstream morality plays masked as horror yarns to an undemanding public; delivering a gentle “boo” with a chuckle. And on the other hand there’s Dave Depraved himself: a man whose mind seems to work like an anthropologist from the future; a man given to dropping phrases like, “the genetic imperative to protect one’s offspring is strong” in interviews in order to explain parental love; a man if whom he ever had a sentimental bone in his body dug it out with a scalpel and sautéed and ate it long ago, but not after first examining it under a microscope; a man whose films thrive on the transgressive. How could the combination of those two ever work? Most critics when writing about The Dead Zone dismiss it, like the work of a major league baseball player making a charity visit to the farm leagues.

As with much conventional wisdom, this is all ultimately bullshit.

Cronenberg Blogathon: Heading into the Head

by Greg Ferrara

[Greg Ferrara brings his keen eye for composition—often in evidence both at Cinema Styles and Unexplained Cinema among other places—to the blogathon with a look at a disturbing image from Scanners]

Cronenberg Blogathon: Videodrome (1983)

by Kevin J. Olson


[Kevin J. Olson of Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies is one of the more renowned horror writers online. His brilliant essay is a special treat for those who crave subtext in genre films.]

What is probably one of the most unconventional horror films ever made, David Cronenberg’s Videodrome, is, perhaps, only matched by David Lynch’s Blue Velvet as one of the oddest, most surreal horror experiences I’ve ever seen. Cronenberg’s film is akin to Lynch’s in the sense that both films sit on the fringes of horror (using the prototype of the genre to explicate darker, more postmodern themes that society marginalizes and deems taboo) and really ask us to consider what makes a horror film horrifying. It’s not just the visceral nature of horror, and it’s not just the getting-under-skin ideas at play – it’s a mixture of both. On the surface both films seem to be something else entirely: Lynch’s film is dark, yes, but it’s also comical (mostly ironic in the way a lot of postmodern work is) in the same way Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (another film that stretches the genre) is darkly comical; whereas Videodrome is without laughs. There’s nothing remotely comical about Cronenberg’s exercise, an odd hybrid (as most of his movies are) of science fiction and horror; however, like Blue Velvet, there are deeper questions about sexuality and violence, and the effects those two things have (especially when combined) on society. Videodrome is as displacing a horror film that I’ve seen; a film that plunges the viewer into the depths of sexuality and violence to give us an otherworldly, uncomfortable experience that asks us not what we find objectionable about sex and violence, but how we consider platforms for these oft taboo subjects.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Mohawk Memoirs: Cronenberg Blogathon: Crash and Burn

by "Rooster" Clayborne


[Leave it to our very own mohawked contributor, "Rooster" Clayborne, to darken the celebration with our very first negative piece on the Canadian auteur.]

A few years ago while at my former place of employment—well before the mohawk sprouted forth from my head—I wandered into a water cooler conversation between two know-it-all cinéaste coworkers in a love-fest for Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan. Before I could get a plausible answer as to why Mia Kirshner exposed nary a breast while playing a stripper in Egoyan's Exotica, somehow the topic turned to David Cronenberg, another Canuck.

Cronenberg Blogathon: Considering Cronenberg Elsewhere in the Blogosphere (Part 2)

by Tony Dayoub


Midway through the Cronenberg Blogathon and I have to say this event is even more successful than last year's De Palma Blogathon. I'm drowning in submissions from so many wonderful writers. You can look forward to pieces from filmmaker Jeffrey Goodman (The Last Lullaby), Ryan Kelly, Kevin J. Olson, Ratnakar Sadasyula, and more.

Cronenberg Blogathon: Fast Company (1979)

by Jeremy Richey

[Jeremy Richey reverently champions films from some of the more esoteric cult corners in his refreshingly snark-free, retro-flavored blog, Moon in the Gutter. A friend to many bloggers, he is launching his own blogathon focused on Paul Thomas Anderson next week.]

Shot in between his legendary early works Rabid and The Brood, Fast Company is one of the most unjustly neglected and overlooked works of David Cronenberg’s career. Regarded as just an anomaly by the majority of Cronenberg’s most ardent supporters, Fast Company is in fact an extremely important work in his canon that stands as one of the most purely entertaining films the famed Canadian auteur ever shot.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Cronenberg Blogathon: Revisiting Crash (1996)

by Chris Voss


[Chris Voss' blog, Celluloid Moon, is one of those which lays dormant for a time before a post pops up, but when it does, you can be sure it is worth taking the time out to read. Today, he contributes a post on one of Cronenberg's most controversial films.]

Discussion around the films of David Cronenberg typically fall into two categories: the early "body horror"/SF films, up to and including his brilliant 1986 re-imagining of The Fly, and the late 2000s resurgence into the mainstream, marked by 2005's A History of Violence and 2007's Eastern Promises. Poke around a bit and you'll find a few places like Criterion extolling the virtues of Dead Ringers (1988) and Naked Lunch (1991), which (rightly) have their devoted followings. 1998's eXistenZ has been getting a fair amount of play lately, perhaps due to the renewed argument of video games as art, but generally speaking when it comes to David Cronenberg there's talk a-plenty about his early work and almost as much about his most recent output.

Cronenberg Blogathon: David Cronenberg - The Terror Within

by Scott Brothers


[Scott Brothers is a brilliant artist whose Catalogue of Curiosities demonstrates ample evidence of his talent. His entry is one of the most unique I've received so far. Click on the pic above to enlarge.]

Cronenberg Blogathon: The Fly (1958) vs. The Fly (1986)

by Joel Bocko


[Joel Bocko, who goes by the name of MovieMan0283 at his blog The Dancing Image, joins us with a post comparing the virtues of Cronenberg's The Fly with its "viscerally horrifying" fifties predecessor.]

Some horror concepts enter the popular consciousness and take on a life of their own. Oftentimes, these are cinematic manifestations of mythic or literary antecedents—the Frankenstein monster predated James Whale's 1931 film by over a century, though it's Boris Karloff whom readers tend to think of when re-visiting Mary Shelley's original. Other pop icons, like Dracula or the Wolf Man, are merely individual variations on long-known archetypes—while later, more human monsters like Norman Bates, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Krueger have established an enormous cultural presence without transcending the films that made them famous. They are their personalities, not just their images; whereas older monsters seem to exist as pure icons, talismans of the unconsciousness. We know, without quite having to recognize on a personal level, a Dracula or a "Frankenstein" (the creature having taken on his creator's name in a kind of osmosis which The Fly would appreciate).

Likewise, perhaps, The Fly. Even if one does not know the behavior of the mutant insect-human or the plot surrounding it, one probably recognizes and shivers at the image, the idea. First crafted by George Langelaan as a short story, the narrative—losing little in translation—was first presented onscreen in the 1958 film of the same name. In the movie, a scientist builds a teleportation device but in the process of disintegrating/reintegrating him across space, a fly buzzes into the machine and the confused computer mixes up the two creatures. This results in a dreadful fly-headed human, whose inner state detoriates until finally, with his wife's help, he has himself "swatted" by a gigantic hydraulic press.

Certainly this is the version which gave the "fly and man switch body parts" concept its widespread recognition. Whether nicked for a Ninja Turtles villain or parodied on The Simpsons, the fly-headed scientist is usually derived from the '58 version. David Cronenberg's 1986 remake is a bit knottier and headier, more difficult to pin down in a simple image or idea. It is itself a riff on the earlier film, so that's no surprise—yet it has its own distinct cultural legacy, and very much its own flavor. The two Flys share similar outlooks and tap into similar anxieties, but they take the material in different directions, demonstrating its potential for various tangents as well as differences between the 50s and the 80s (culturally and cinematically), and the distinctive stamp of David Cronenberg himself.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Cronenberg Blogathon: Considering Cronenberg Elsewhere in the Blogosphere

by Tony Dayoub


Here are links to other Cronenberg-related writings that have recently come to my attention. These are not written specifically for the Blogathon.

If anyone wants to let me know about any others I missed, email me and perhaps I can post another list of links before the Blogathon wraps up on the 12th.

Cronenberg Blogathon: Naked Lunch (1991)

by J.D. Lafrance


[J.D. Lafrance is a wonderful Canadian writer who presides over the blog, Radiator Heaven. There, he usually provides thorough overviews of all the films he surveys. Today, he brings us a typically comprehensive look at one of Cronenberg's more surreal films.]

Widely regarded as unfilmable because it defied normal narrative logic and for containing some of the most perverse, often disturbing passages of sex and violence ever committed to the page, William S. Burroughs seminal novel Naked Lunch was the ideal project for filmmaker David Cronenberg. In many respects, the themes and subject matter the book explores parallel many of the preoccupations of his films: the merging of flesh with machines, human transformation, and secret societies. One only has to look at an early film like Videodrome (1983) to see Burroughs’ influence—the mix of pulpy exploitation with high concept ideas. The characters in Cronenberg’s films—like the characters in Burroughs’ fiction—are morally ambiguous. It is not as easy to identify with them as it is with characters in more mainstream entertainment.

Cronenberg Blogathon: Written in the Flesh

A crash course in David Cronenberg
by Jim Emerson


[We kick off the Cronenberg Blogathon with a great contribution by Jim Emerson, founding editor-in-chief of RogerEbert.com and writer of one of my favorite blogs, Scanners. This video was originally made by Jim for a lecture at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle. Whether you are familiar with director David Cronenberg's work or not, this piece is as great a visual introduction as its subtitle suggests.]

Friday, September 3, 2010

Movie Review: Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 (L'ennemi public n°1) (2008)

by Tony Dayoub


A couple of weeks ago I caught an interview with Vincent Cassel on Charlie Rose in which, while promoting his Mesrine two-parter, he explained his approach to famed bank robber Jacques Mesrine. Chief among his demands on the film's producers was his desire to play the man as the criminal he was, not the mythical Robin Hood he portrayed hiself as in his memoir. So my expectation going into the second part, Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 (L'ennemi public n°1), was that this film would be the grittier and more overtly critical of the two films, a takedown of the roguish image depicted in Mesrine: Killer Instinct (reviewed here). Imagine my disappointment when, midway through the film, Jacques gives a 100,000 francs to a poor family who just smuggled him through a police roadblock, thanking them for their service.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Blu-ray Review: Sons of Anarchy Season Two

by Tony Dayoub


On the commentary for "Balm," the eventful tenth episode of Sons of Anarchy's second season (which debuts on DVD and Blu-ray this week), director Paris Barclay avers:
I think this is why [Sons of Anarchy] is going to end up being a classic television show years from now... It's just like NYPD Blue did, and Hill Street Blues before (in the David Milch universe). You could be doing something else, cop work, detective work—in this case biker club—what have you. If the family works, the show goes on. And [this] family, in its dysfunctional way, works great.
The series, masterminded by creator and head writer Kurt Sutter (The Shield) recalls The Sopranos in the way it explores a criminal subculture, Northern California outlaw club SAMCRO, and its ties to its community (the ironically named Charming) and extended family. Though the club has its redeeming qualities, namely its protection of Charming from any corrupting criminal activities (including their own... well, it's their aim at least), as a viewer my allegiance to its characters is complicated by the fact that I often realize I'm cheering for its protagonists during the commission of some heinous crime. The show's dark second season is a portrait of a family imploding. And there is hardly a better ensemble cast to help pull it off.