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Entries in David Cronenberg (26)

Wednesday
Feb052014

William S Burroughs Centennial

Today is the centennial of the infamous Beat era writer William S Burroughs and I've been thinking about him lately due to Philip Seymour Hoffman's death via heroin (why is it that I always start stringing the celebrity junkies together when they die? Is it because there are so damn tragic many of them?) but mostly because I was really gripped by Ben Foster's portrayal of him in Kill Your Darlings, a problematic movie about guys that weren't nearly as palatable in real life (despite the movie being about murder) that had a great moment here and there. Of course the movie wasn't really about Burroughs but about Lucien Carr's (Dane Dehaan) murder of his lover (Michael C Hall). From time to time I have wondered why we've had no straight up biopic about Burroughs (Keifer Sutherland is the only other actor I can think of that's played him), given that he's a very famous white guy genius and that's the kind of biopic Hollywood likes best. But I guess it couldn't be done; The MPAA and most moviegoers and possibly even myself would just never be able to deal what with the sex, the drugs, the finger-chopping, the wife-shooting, and what not.

So let's move over to actual movies. Burroughs appeared in a small role in Gus Van Sant's terrific Drugstore Cowboy (1989) which I highly recommend to any of you wondering why Matt Dillon was a "you owe him" Oscar nominee for Crash (2005) and then of course there was David Cronenberg's Naked Lunch (1991), a film version of Burrough's, ummmm, unfilmable novel. (Incidentally our friend Nick, who you know from Nick's Flick Picks and the podcast, writes extensively on this film in his first book "The Desiring Image") Whether or not any cinematic interpretation of Naked Lunch could be considered definitive if we didn't have it we would never have seen Julian Sands buggered by a towering insect monster or Judy Davis injecting bug powder into her breasts.

Have you seen Naked Lunch or read any of Burroughs work?

Burroughs with Cronenberg during the filming of Naked Lunch

Some Centennial Celebrations
Time Magazine "Rebel, Junkie, Exile, Genius"
NPR "Possessed by Genius"
The New Statesman "To say it country simple, most folks enjoy junk” - Burroughs in 1966 on kicking his heroin addiction 
Dreg Studios Brandt Hardin celebrates the history of Burroughs with a portrait 

Tuesday
Nov122013

Long Live the New Flesh: David Cronenberg's Exhibition

It’s Amir here, reporting on a couple of films I saw at the David Cronenberg exhibition currently held at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto. As the biggest Canadian director working in cinema today, the master of body horror is held in high esteem in national circles. This comprehensive tribute to his body of work is a tremendous showcase for a filmmaker whose work has done a major service to the Canadian film industry over the past three decades.  

Running alongside the exhibition that includes all things Cronenberg like film memorabilia, set props and a life-size mugwump, Long Live the Flesh also hosts screenings of the director’s films with lectures and Q&A sessions. I had the chance to attend two of these events: a screening of Naked Lunch introduced by David Cronenberg and his longtime producing partner Jeremy Thomas (Oscar winner for The Last Emperor) and my first big screen experience with his seminal science fiction film, The Fly, which was followed by a Q&A with the film’s Oscar-winning make-up artist Stephan Dupuis. Both conversations were illuminating though the films didn’t quite affect me in equal measure.

Naked Lunch, adapted from the William S. Burroughs novel of the same name, is one of the more personal projects in Cronenberg’s canon, born of his passion for the writer’s work. Cronenberg described the film as both a dream-come-true for allowing him the opportunity to adapt one of his personal favorite novels, but also one that made him extremely anxious as he felt the necessity to get the Burroughsian elements just right. Asked if adapting the supposedly unfilmable novel was a difficult task, Cronenberg referred to the project as one of the easiest screenplays he’s written for the way Burroughs’ prose and his dialogue transfers itself directly to the screen.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Sep122013

Thoughts I Had... While Staring at this Image from "Maps to the Stars"

David Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars (2014) just released this image featuring Sarah Gadon and Julianne Moore. 

my thoughts presented to you in order they appeared...

  • I welcome a good scalp massage but I'm not sure I'd want one in the context of a David Cronenberg movie. Too many orifices!
  • My visine drops repulse me this morning. Drip this movie on my eyeballs RIGHT NOW
  • Is Sarah Gadon the new _________ ?
  • This is Sarah Gadon's fourth movie directed by someone named Cronenberg.
  • Do Father & Son Cronenberg have some sort of sick threeway relationship going on with her straight out of a Cronenberg movie? Do they tie her up with rubber hoses and talk dirty about her mutant vagina?
  • Sarah Gadon does the most amazing blank face acting. She's beautiful, sure, but the beauty is blonde generic. And yet... her face is unsettling in its robotic disinterest (Cosmopolis), society frivolity (Belle), pregnant concern (Enemy) or weird ball-and-chainery (A Dangerous Method)
  • I have guilt for skipping Brandon Cronenberg's Antiviral
  • Will Julianne Moore remember what it means to be an auteur vessel after all these disappointing or at least non-challenging movies of late? It's been a long time since the Haynes days
  • I have touched Julianne Moore twice (handshake 2002 / hug 2010) but she was not naked on a table
  • If you touch Julianne Moore's ginger locks, all your wounds are healed. True fact. Sarah Gadon will live to be 100.
  • Sarah Gadon plays a character named "Clarice". Julianne Moore surely winced every time she spoke the name.
  • I keep forgetting what this movie is about but I like to be surprised so don't tell me!

 

Tuesday
Jul302013

Goodbye Peacock. And Other Links

Los Angeles Times AMPAS elects their first African American president in Cheryl Boone Isaacs
IndieWire
on how newcomer Annie McNamara landed a supporting role in the otherwise starry cast of Blue Jasmine
Filmonic John Williams will score the new Star Wars trilogy 
Maps to the Stars on the Cronenberg exhibit at TIFF this year 
Fashionista thinks Claire Danes has lost a leg in this photoshoot 
IndieWire on the 25th anniversary of Midnight Madness at TIFF this year

Empire another big get for rising star David Oyelowo who was so good in Middle of Nowhere and also eye-catching in The Paperboy - he joins the increasingly crowded Insterstellar for Christopher Nolan
The Backlot on HBO's new gay series starring Jonathan Groff. Is it "special"? 
In Contention A Most Wanted Man could put Philip Seymour Hoffman back in the Oscar race
/Film oh dear god. they can't leave well enough alone. Dexter might get a spin-off series after 8 looooong seasons
Salon Before Fruitvale Station there was Boyz n the Hood
Cinema Blend new teaser poster for Gravity 

Finally, you have undoubtedly heard that the fine comic actress Eileen Brennan passed away earier today at 80 years of age. I have to admit a weird unfamiliarity with the most acclaimed turn in her filmography (unlike me I know!) as I never saw her Oscar-nominated work in Private Benjamin. I remember people being really into it when I was a kid but it was rated R and I somehow never caught up with it when I was old enough. I'll personally remember her most fondly as Peacock in Clue with her frazzled manner, soup sipping, and ungainly hat. Others will cherish her work in The Sting or The Last Picture Show or any number of TV appearances including time on Laugh-In with her future Benjamin co-star Goldie Hawn. What will you remember her for? RIP Mrs Peacock.

Thursday
Jul112013

Best Shot: Dead Ringers, Conjoined in Shadow

Hit Me With Your Best Shot happens each Wednesday night and usually spills on over into Thursday morning. Next week (July 17th) we're all looking at the practically perfect "Mary Poppins." This week: David Cronenberg's masterpiece...

Dead Ringers (1988)

For the uninitiated Dead Ringers (1988) is the 'Saga' of 'The Fabulous Mantle Brothers,' twin gynecologists Beverly (Jeremy Irons) and Elliott (Jeremy Irons again) and the 'destructive force' Claire (Genevieve Bujold) that separates them. I've put the air quotes in the synopsis since that's how Elliott, the more theatrical and dominant twin, and the elder by a few minutes, describes the movies from its insides. I don't want to spoil the movie if you haven't yet seen it but if you haven't (*cough* 25 years later) get on that! If you ask me Jeremy Irons deserved the Oscar he wasn't nominated for for this career topping performance(s). 

My earliest favorite movie was The Parent Trap (1961) which I watched on television countless times as a child. Though I realize it's hardly a unique fascination, twins have always done it for me. There's so much to explore and even more to never understand about the possible psychologies of two distinct people who are, genetically, the same person. Though I've seen David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers about four times now I confess that I usually have trouble differentiating Beverly and Elliott. But not this time. Visually, the clarity of their separateness, even though they're loathe to experience it as such, was riveting. Even the old trick of dividing the same actor on two sides of a clearly divided frame doesn't even feel like a sad necessity but the point.

Cronenberg's direction is so assured that you can pick a corker of a shot in virtually every scene as the Best Shot participants have done. Any number of shots will reveal top notch production design (also robbed of Oscar attention) by turning half the spaces into something out of a medical illustration, with intricate lines, weirdly sterile immobility and sleek curves and flat color. But this time through the shot that resonated most was simpler. And I don't even feel like it's cheating that I've chosen twin shots, one of Elliott and one of Beverly, which I've displayed in reverse chronological order. 

These shots are close in proximity in the narrative and each features one of the Mantle Twins reacting to Claire talking to him about the other Mantle Twin. Elliott (up top) is angry that Claire has entered the picture and attempts to intimidate her and seduce her but she won't be cowed. Nevertheless he's too cool and too controlled to lose his composure. The shadow only augments his sinister handsomeness, like a flattering accomplice in seduction and plotting. But Beverly, more emotional and more fluid, who so yearns for separation that he hides Elliot from Claire until this very scene, is also terrified by it. In this simple but brilliant shot he has been found out. Claire has uttered Elliott's name. This shadow neither conceals nor flatters; it merely wipes out his identity. Who is he without Elliott anyway?

For 12 other takes on this movie, please check out the rich array of articles provided by this week's Best Shot club in the visual index