Friday, June 3, 2022

crimes of the future

One night, David Cronenberg's Crimes of the Future ended up infecting my dreams. The next day, the dream was a muddle, but the remnants of its atmosphere and nightmarish corporeal images remained. Cronenberg's film delves into many intriguing, smart ideas: humans evolving to a plane of painlessness, needing new forms of pleasure (one doesn't even know how to do "the old sex" anymore), and also adapting to the plastic environment around them (doesn't it feel like, in some respects, we are all headed there?). One usually thinks of Cronenberg movies with a lot of flair and panache, which this one has, but it is also interestingly more like a play: very talky and mostly set in small spaces. His actors, too, are blocked in bizarre ways--why is this one standing where they are standing? Or awkwardly hunched over against the wall? It's as if the very sense of natural human positioning is off-kilter. In these environs, the premise of a performance artist couple--Caprice (Léa Seydoux) and Saul (Viggo Mortensen)--making art out of organs--is a clever one, and also a plausible one in an avant-garde field that pushes the boundaries of craft and exhibition. Like ventricles, there are side plots of characters drawn to Caprice and Saul for different reasons: a scruffy father (Scott Speedman) using his deceased son for experimentation and spectacle and a peculiar bureaucratic medical pair (played by Yorgos Pirpassopoulos and Kristen Stewart). All seem to be linked in the idea of pushing things and bodies to its limits--almost addled, drug-like states, fueled by the next

The setting that would typically be cinematically associated with this newness and next-ness would be sleek and shiny. But Cronenberg's world here is the polar opposite: gritty, relentlessly grim, shabby old buildings, sometimes riddled with twisted strains of graffiti, and peeling interiors. It's as if the people of this world are so within their own bodies or within the bodies of others, that they could care less of the physical worlds around them. The premise, the dark optics, squishy make-up and visual effects, Howard Shore's gothic electro score and Seydoux's enigmatic performance are the standouts of Cronenberg's film. Through its oft loquacious characters, sometimes the movie talks too much--and says too much--about what it's about, rather than dwelling quietly in its mysterious shadows. Mortensen is a Cronenberg muse of sorts, but his showiness can be distracting, especially against Seydoux's ravishing sense of naturalism. The actorly tics of Stewart work well however, since Stewart's character, Timlin (quite a name--that feels like quirky mix of the words intimate, intimidated and timid) who desires after Saul, is a strong contrast to Caprice. Even if the film, on first viewing, doesn't quite coalesce as powerfully nor potently as it seems to strive to be, it's always a pleasure to be unnerved by what Cronenberg concocts, especially in the vein of morbid science fiction. **1/2

-Jeffery Berg

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