Night Moves

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.

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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?

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DEADLINE: How does a visualist feel about people watching your films on a phone or VOD?
REFN: It depends on what kind of movie you make. We had great success with Only God Forgives on multiple platforms in the U.S. Young people will decide how they see it, when they want to see it. Don’t try to fight it. Embrace it. That’s a wonderful opportunity. We’re at the most exciting time since the invention of the wheel, in terms of creativity because distribution and accessibility have changed everything. A camera is still a camera whether it’s digital or not; there’s still sound; an actor is an actor. Ninety-nine percent of what you do is going to be seen on a smart phone – I know this is the greatest thing ever made because it allows people to choose, watching what you do on this format or go into a theater and see it on a screen. That means more people than ever will see what I do, which is personally satisfying in terms of vanity. But you have to be able to adapt, to accept things in different order and length than we’re used to. We are in a very, very exciting time.
~ Nic Refn to Jen Yamato

DEADLINE: You mention Tarantino, who with Christopher Nolan and a few other giants, saved film stock from extinction. To him, showing a digital film in a theater is the equivalent of watching TV in public. Make an argument for why digital is a good film making canvas.
REFN: Costwise, it’s a very effective way for young people to start making movies. You can make your movie on an iPhone. It’s wonderful seeing how my own children use technology to enhance creativity. For me it’s a wonderful canvas. Sure, I love grain in film. I love celluloid. But I also like creativity. I like crayons, I like pencils, I like paint. It’s all relative. Technology is more inclusive. A hundred years ago when film was invented, it was an elitist club. Very few people got to make it, very few people controlled it and very few people owned it. A hundred years later, storytelling through images is everyone’s domain. It’s ultimate capitalism. There are no rules, and no barriers and no Hays Code. Where does this go in another hundred years? I don’t know but I would love to see it.
~ Nic Refn To Jen Yamato