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Cosmopolis

David Cronenberg once famously referred to his film, The Brood, as his version of Kramer vs. Kramer. Both films were about a disintegrating marriage and the ensuing custody battle over the children. Except that in Cronenberg's vision, this translates to the extreme body horror for which he was famous for at the time. Well if The Brood is his Kramer vs. Kramer, then perhaps Cosmopolis may be aptly described as his Inception. Both are stories about a man attempting to resolve his past, present and future, within a realm where the borders between reality and fantasy are uncertain.



But when any story passes through the filter of Cronenberg's mind, the result is a unique vision even if that vision is derived from a pre-existing source - in this case, Don DeLillo's novel. Whether it be The Dead Zone, The Fly, Naked Lunch or A History of Violence, none of these were quite the same after Cronenberg had fiddled with them, moulding each one to reflect his personal world view, building and focusing the ideas in each story to create something new, something greater than before. And so it is with Cosmopolis, albeit to a lesser extent. For although the film is practically a duplication of DeLillo's book, Cronenbergisms inevitably seep through to make the story his own. Where DeLillo's book feels more literal in its narrative, Cronenberg injects an ethereal quality that blurs slightly the boundaries of reality, a common staple in Cronenberg's body of work and no better realised than in Videodrome.

Like Videodrome, Cosmopolis contains a wealth of material to digest through repeated viewings. Centering on issues of economic crisis, celebrity, social paranoia and the dominance of technology, its pointed dialogue washes over us in waves of such rapidity as to be impossible to absorb within a single sitting. Pausing to reflect on one line of poignant dialogue results in missing the next three and on it goes until the first credit scrolls unexpectantly up the screen.

True to form, Cronenberg seeks not to preach a given viewpoint but rather question accepted norms no matter how confronting they may be; his observations both deft and pointed. Each incidence of capitalistic dehumanization, for instance, is offset by an act of socialist primal regression and the absurdity of each extreme is laid bare for both sides to see. There are no simplistic answers here, just shades of grey to consider.

Cronenberg has a history of getting career best performances out of his lead actors - think James Woods in Videodrome, Christopher Walken in The Dead Zone, Jeff Goldblum in The Fly et al - and Robert Pattinson is no exception.

Pattinson is excellent as our protagonist, Eric Packer. This is not to say he's a great actor. Nobody would accuse Arnold Schwarzenegger of being a great actor but he plays a damn good robot. So it is with Pattinson - his self-loathing, disenfranchised schtick meshes effortlessly with Cronenberg's trademark austerity. Pattinson and Cronenberg are just a great fit. In any case, it's difficult to see prior contender, Colin Farrell, being better than this.

Juliette Binoche shows that even in her late 40's she's still pure sex on a stick. Actually she's more like a double scoop of sex in a sugar cone that is melting, dripping down the sides. And Paul Giammatti is mesmerising in his final scene, together with Pattinson, which has you hanging by a thread, only to have Cronenberg infuriatingly cut us loose at the moment of maximum tension.

The rest of the supporting cast is equally great with special mention going to Sarah Gadon who was tasked with replacing Marion Cotillard.

Cosmopolis will fall alongside Videodrome as one of Cronenberg's major efforts and, like that film, just may be an iconic snapshot of our time, if not our future.
Stuart Jamieson

www.iconmovies.com.au








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