Cosmopolis Directed by: David Cronenberg Written by: David Cronenberg (screenplay), Don DeLillo (novel) Starring: Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Sarah Gadon and Paul Giamatti
All this modern billionaire ever wanted was a haircut, though in Cosmopolis it becomes quite clear that he pretty much has everything else a person could desire. David Cronenberg brings his typical visual menace to this deeply intellectual examination of the one percent, staging what amounts to little more than a series of conversations as increasingly intense verbal battles.
When Eric (Robert Pattinson) untints the windows of his hyper-modern limousine, we see an outside world that is coming closer and closer to collapse. He of course is numb to everything but his own concerns, a simple haircut used to exaggerate how miniscule they are in relation to everything else. As he talks (and talks and talks) to his girlfriend, his prostitute, his financial adviser and a myriad of others, it becomes clear that there is a pent-up frustration that is slowly being unraveled as the economy and his fortune near demise.
A Dangerous Method Directed by: David Cronenberg Written by: Christopher Hampton (screenplay & play), John Kerr (book) Starring: Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen and Vincent Cassel
David Cronenberg is a director obsessed with the crossroads of violence and sex. His films vary greatly in both tone and narrative structure. For proof (since we are soon talking about science) lay down the science fiction horror show Videodrome next to his more recent pulpy small-town thriller A History of Violence.
It makes since, then, that a film about the birth of psychoanalysis, revolving around the violent sexual relationship between Dr. Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and his patient Sabina Spielren (Keira Knightley), would be a work best fit for someone like Cronenberg. A Dangerous Method is not a straight-forward exercise in period filmmaking like its costumes and curiously English-speaking Europeans suggest, though. The film begins intent on dispelling that rumor, as Spielren howls with bursts of rage and laughter in the claustrophobic confines of a horse carriage. She is dragged out by a group of men and taken into Dr. Jung’s care in Switzerland.
It’s kind of ironic that Viggo Mortensen has become somewhat of a symbol of rugged masculinity on the screen, because his best characters often undo that image. Like Michael Douglas before him, Mortensen frequently does movies that put the modern American male through some kind of brutal morality test. He finds the bruised souls of these characters, and shines even when he’s part of a large ensemble (Lord of the Rings.) However, he is at his best when he is front in center, paired with a director like David Cronenberg who has some mischief cooked up to counter his archetypal characters.
Out of the dozens of reviews we’ve done since we started this blog, we’ve had only 10 A’s. For a movie to deserve a perfect rating here, it doesn’t have to be perfect: it needs to be different. It has to bring something new to the movie table, or do something old so well that it feels new. Here are our 10 ‘A’ reviews, as diverse as an obese teenager’s quest for societal independence or a man avenging his father’s death in 19th century America. (Side-note: though we rarely hand out straight A’s, we’ve also only awarded one F… to a movie ironically called The A-Team.)
A History of Violence Directed by: David Cronenberg Written by: Josh Olson (screenplay), John Wagner & Vince Locke (graphic novel) Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris, and William Hurt
When David Cronenberg decided to direct this brutal, idealistic masterpiece in 2005, it was snubbed royally by both the Academy Awards and general public. As time wore on, though, and the end of the decade lists needed to be made, A History of Violence rightfully appeared on them.
Once you see the movie, the title will evoke Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States. That’s how definitive it is on the subject. Cronenberg knows that violence is a part of human DNA, whether we want to acknowledge it or not. He uses this to create a visually stunning, relentlessly violent assault on the typical American family.
The Stahls are that family. Once the film moves past it’s brutal introduction, we see that almost too perfectly. They banter carelessly, the children are obedient stereotypes, and the couple are hopelessly in love. Thankfully, Croneneberg doesn’t stay there for long. We see Tom (Viggo Mortensen) and Edie (Maria Bello) engage in wildly erotic, kinky sex after the kids are gone. We see their son Jack (Ashton Holmes) do well in gym class and then almost get pummeled.