Another quintessentially Canadian artist is the focus of today’s Canada week entry. There are quite a few famous Canadian film directors, James Cameron, Atom Egoyen, Norman Jewison, Ivan Reitman (and his son, Jason), but my favourite, by far is David Cronenberg.
I am a lover of dark subject matter, that questions the mainstream perception of beauty, in both books and movies. So, it would seem, is David Cronenberg. His films often deal with topics that challenge people’s of fear of body transformation and infection and have been labelled ‘body horror’.
I still remember the first Cronenberg movie I ever saw. It starred Jeremy Irons (one of my favourite actors on the planet) as twin gynecologists , Dead Ringers. That movie haunted me for weeks after the first viewing. So much so, that I found myself watching it a second and third time, just to try to figure out what it was that triggered me so deeply.
That’s the thing about a Cronenberg movie, they really mess with your mind and challenge your perception. After Dead Ringers, I sought out more of Cronenberg’s films. The next one I saw was Videodrome, a movie that challenges the psyche on a very base, sexual level. Another thing I like about Cronenberg’s movies is that he takes as many risks with his casting choices as he does with the subject matter. In Videodrome, Deborah Harry (of Blondie) is cast as a sado-masochistic psychiatrist and radio show host… a non-singing role for a celebrity mainly known for her singing was risky at the time. Perhaps, a more famous casting risk that payed off for Cronenberg was in the movie Rabid, when he cast porn star, Marilyn Chambers in the lead role.
In 1999, the same year the Matrix was released, Cronenberg released a movie called Existenz, which also dealt with the perception of reality (among other things). It didn’t do near as well in the box office, perhaps due to less CGI effects, less of an advertising budget and less black patent leather, but for my money it was the superior of the two movies. The story was riveting and far less convoluted than that of the Matrix and much more cleverly written (by Cronenberg, himself).
By far, my favourite David Cronenberg movie is Crash.
I am a fan of the author J.G. Ballard, whose novel of the same name, the movie is based on. I saw Crash in a theatre in Toronto the day it was released. There was not an empty seat in the house. I knew exactly what to expect from having read the book and was very much looking forward to seeing how Cronenberg would deal with showing some of the more graphically sexual scenarios. The film did not disappoint, even in showing the two male leads in a steamy scene, which I was almost sure wouldn’t make the final cut. Kudos to Cronenberg for, not only remaining true to the original text, but for being brave enough to show two men having a sexual encounter and not just imply it.
While, I have yet to see all of the films in his catalogue, there is no denying David Cronenberg’s impact on the way I view the world around me and the people in it.