pseudopodium
. . . Cronenberg

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Movie Comment: David Cronenberg's Crash - We are all in the ditch, but some of us are looking at the scars.

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Sticky Fingers

This graphic (via Beth Rust) does for connectivity what Microsoft Outlook has done for love letters, prompting the question: Might David Cronenberg have a future in Bell Canada commercials?

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Kyra Schon Bosco We're doing everything possible. Movie Comment: Night of the Living Dead

"But if in either period brain tentacles had come out of Ludwig's ears and started waving about, it would have been even better." -- UFO Breakfast
Even more than most mad scientist movies, David Cronenberg's dedicate themselves to a Nietszchean critique of ego: The will never swaggers more than when in the grip of compulsion, and consciousness feels feeblest precisely when it has most freedom of choice. Thus an admirably honest way to make a plot seem driven by "character development" is to let physical metamorphosis take over the actual steering.

But self-loathing remains a form of self-obsession, and more often than not remains a form of self-aggrandizement; Cronenberg's heroes seem awfully close to the wannabe-macho breast-beaters of mainstream indie film, even if they're more likely to crack ribs and break skin doing it. Nietzsche never successfully became Beaumarchais.

And so I often find myself instead turning for relief to less egocentric misanthropy, whether it be the lowbrow slapstick of Herschell Gordon Lewis or the political savvy of George Romero's more sophisticated social comedy.

As much as I like Dawn and Day of the Dead, their nostalgia for a Howard-Hawks-style camaraderie of competence sweetens the medicine a bit -- although, true, opposing camaraderies always seem ready to spring up in the interest of mutual annihilation. As much as I respect The Crazies, its ambition and budget clash a bit too noticeably -- although, true, now is probably a very good time to revisit its weave of biochemical weaponry, governmental incompetence, and mass panic. OK, never mind; the "although"s win.

But the point I was going after is that Night of the Living Dead is still about as bracing a pleasure as the terminal ironist can find. In a genuinely novel emergency, all human connections and reactions seem tailor-made for maximal entanglement. Love (familial, romantic, or purely neighborly) betrays, hate betrays, rigidity betrays, compromise betrays, and even Hawksian competence reduces to newsprint images of lynching parties and genocides. No one can think things out without immediately becoming slaves to their own analysis ("It's important to be right, isn't it?"); no plans can begin without a power struggle and no plans can be carried through without disastrous improvisation.

Despite the lapses in acting and pacing, Romero's decision to leave the script unchanged after Duane Jones's casting makes the movie far more time-resistent than, say, Shadows. And the next-to-final irony -- that the brave leader is wrong and the snivelling villain is right -- not that it really makes a difference, given the final one -- is not only satisfying in itself but a continuing source of new satisfactions in the form of viewers who miss the point and thus help prove it all over again.

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Ba-lue Mun-deii Ba-lues-Are: Answer Song

Art is short; regret is long. More than a decade afterwards, when I hear the Bobbettes, I relive all (well, four) of the regrets I felt while watching David Cronenberg's Naked Lunch.

  1. That Cronenberg didn't have Burroughs dub all the characters' voices. Better yet, do it George Pal Puppetoon style, like the best of 1991's overabundant crop of hallucinating-writer movies did. Or at least cast Dr. Benway with someone capable of conveying the exuberance! the whimsy!

  2. That Cronenberg didn't use a more honest title, like "The Introduction to Queer."
    (Not that it would necessarily have guaranteed a better experience. Some years later, I was an appalled witness to Queer! The Opera, which set the novel's text [slightly edited: insults to "transvestite lizzies" and "Californian brandy" were deemed too shocking for Bay Area sensibilities] to de-tuned Andrew Lloyd Webber with summer-stock-Fosse choreography. All through the first act, I kept telling myself, "At least they aren't going to shoot Judy Davis, at least they aren't going to shoot Judy Davis...." Just before intermission, the characters fell silent, the lighting turned grim, and a previously unseen woman made up as Judy Davis walked out and got shot. I missed the second act.)

  3. That Judy Davis wasn't allowed to interpolate a lip-synched music video of "I Shot Mr. Lee".

    Cronenberg must be the only reader to open Naked Lunch and find a novel about wife-killing and writer's block (although it would certainly explain Norman Mailer's enthusiasm). The Bobbettes could've supplied a little balance:

    One - Two - Three
    Hey!
    I shot Mr. Lee.
    Uh oh!
    Three - Four - Five
    Hey!
    I got tired of his jive.
    Uh oh!
    Woh oh oh, he should've never
    Uh oh!
    Woh oh oh, he should've never

  4. That I've never been able to find an appropriate "I Buried Paul" song for Judy Davis to lip-synch in the movie's other great imaginary music video opportunity.
Well, regret is long, but art is reproducible. All together now:

Shot him in the head boom boom.
Uh oh!
Shot him in the head boom boom.

 

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Public domain work remains in the public domain.
All other material: Copyright 2015 Ray Davis.