By Jake Howell jake.howell@utoronto.ca

Countdown To Cannes: David Cronenberg

The fifth in a series of snapshots outlining the nineteen directors in the 67th Palme d’Or Competition.

Background: Canadian; born in Toronto, Ontario 1943.

CronenbergKnown for / style: Videodrome (1983), Crash (1996), A History of Violence (2005), Cosmopolis (2012);  an evolving canon of films that are often cerebral, experimental, or otherwise disturbing; subversive spins on the mundane; themes of existential angst and domestic crises; body horror.

Notable accolades: Cronenberg’s informal title as Canada’s most distinguished filmmaker has been more or less built by North American critics. At Cannes, he absorbed a Special Jury Prize for Audacity for Crash, and in 2006, he was given the “Golden Coach” award by the Festival, a lifetime achievement prize. He’s won a plethora of local Genie awards, he’s a two-time winner of the National Society of Film Critics’ (USA) Best Director award (A History of Violence and Naked Lunch), as well as a Best Screenwriting award (Naked Lunch), and he’s been paid countless dues by LAFCA, NYFCC, and the TFCA critic societies. In 2013, the Toronto International Film Festival showcased a major exhibition on his life’s work, “David Cronenberg: Evolution.”

cusack map to the stars

Previous Cannes appearances: DC’s Palme pitches include Crash (1996), Spider (2002), A History of Violence (2005), and Cosmopolis (2012). In 2007, he participated in the auteur pantheon Chacun son Cinéma (Out of Competition). In 1999, he was President of the Jury.

Film he’s bringing to Cannes: Maps to the Stars, with Julianne Moore, Robert Pattinson, John Cusack, Mia Wasikowska, Sarah Gadon and Olivia Williams. The film unfurls as a commentary on both Western civilization and the entertainment industry, centering on an archetypically “famous” family with some unusual complications and bizarre twists. Robert Pattinson will spend more time in a Cronenbergian limousine, while Bruce Wagner’s script will feature his signature criticisms of Hollywood. (“Reality shows are the new American narcotic.”)

Could it win the Palme? We can divine a fair amount from gazing at the film’s trailer. Cronenberg’s more recent cinema has a discursive, nihilistic, distant, perhaps sterile feel, with A Dangerous Method (2011) and Cosmopolis landing divisively amongst critics. That aesthetic seems to be the case again in Maps to the Stars, and while there is more to these films than the lazy dismissal of them being “talky,” Jane Campion’s jury constellation might align differently.

MapstothestarsWhy you should care: “I infect my work with madness, then let it settle,” Bruce Wagner told LA Weekly in 2005 when his satirical Hollywood novel, “Dead Stars,” was released. “The story is infected by something, like in David Cronenberg’s films.” Ten years ago, after a decade of working on a script inspired by his time as a Hollywood limo driver (like Pattinson’s character in Maps), Wagner showed his work to Cronenberg. They’ve been trying to make this film ever since, eventually finding an A-list cast to join them. And if you’re a Twilight fan, you already care: this is Cronenberg’s second film with Robert Pattinson, an unlikely acting-directing partnership that nonetheless feels very appropriate. This is also Sarah Gadon’s third feature with Cronenberg, and starring in a film about the entertainment industry seems fitting as the Canadian actress continues to find fame.

An unauthorized-for-distribution version of the red-band trailer is here.

Follow Jake Howell on Twitter

Previous Entries:

Tommy Lee Jones

Atom Egoyan

Bennett Miller

Xavier Dolan

One Response to “Countdown To Cannes: David Cronenberg”

  1. Fredrik says:

    Jake Howell, you know that is not David Cronenberg pictured there? Even if John Cusack is in Cronenbergs latest film wouldn´t it be nice to have a photo of THE ACTUAL DIRECTOR this article is about?

Leave a Reply

Quote Unquotesee all »

“When Bay keeps these absurd plot-gears spinning, he’s displaying his skill as a slick, professional entertainer. But then there are the images of motion—I hesitate to say, of things in motion, because it’s not clear how many things there are in the movie, instead of mere digital simulations of things. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that there’s a car chase through London, seen from the level of tires, that could have gone on for an hour, um, tirelessly. What matters is that the defenestrated Cade saves himself by leaping from drone to drone in midair like a frog skipping among lotus pads; that he and Vivian slide along the colossal, polished expanses of sharply tilting age-old fields of metal like luge Olympians. What matters is that, when this heroic duo find themselves thrust out into the void of inner space from a collapsing planet, it has a terrifyingly vast emptiness that Bay doesn’t dare hold for more than an instant lest he become the nightmare-master. What matters is that the enormous thing hurtling toward Earth is composed in a fanatical detail that would repay slow-motion viewing with near-geological patience. Bay has an authentic sense of the gigantic; beside the playful enormity of his Transformerized universe, the ostensibly heroic dimensions of Ridley Scott’s and Christopher Nolan’s massive visions seem like petulant vanities.”
~ Michael Bay Gives Richard Brody A Tingle

How do you see film evolving in this age of Netflix?

I thought the swing would be quicker and more violent. There have been two landmark moments in the history of French film. First in 1946, with the creation of the CNC under the aegis of Malraux. He saved French cinema by establishing the advance on receipts and support fund mechanisms. We’re all children of this political invention. Americans think that the State gives money to French films, but they’re wrong. Through this system, films fund themselves!

The other great turning point came by the hand of Jack Lang in the 1980s, after the creation of Canal+. While television was getting ready to become the nemesis of film, he created the decoder, and a specific broadcasting space between film and television, using new investments for film. That once again saved French film.

These political decisions are important. We’re once again facing big change. If our political masters don’t take control of the situation and new stakeholders like Netflix, Google and Amazon, we’re headed for disaster. We need to create obligations for Internet service providers. They can’t always be against film. They used to allow piracy, but now that they’ve become producers themselves, they’re starting to see things in a different light. This is a moment of transition, a strong political act needs to be put forward. And it can’t just be at national level, it has to happen at European level.

Filmmaker Cédric Klapisch