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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“The city to me is the only possible vehicle we have to measure human achievement. We’re an urban species now. If you look at Karachi or Mexico City or Hong Kong or London or New York or Yonkers or Baltimore or any of these other places, the pastoral is now a part of human history. We’re either going to figure out how to live together in these increasingly crowded, increasingly multi-cultural population centers or we’re not. We’re either going to get great at this or we’re going to fail as a species.”
~ David Simon

“I wondered how different it would be to write a novel and it’s totally different. It’s very internal. The weird thing about it is that I found that novel-writing was much more like directing than it is like screenwriting. You’re casting it, you’re lighting it, you’re doing the costumes, you’re doing the locations, you’re doing it all yourself as a director would. In screenwriting, you don’t do that stuff. You don’t describe the face of the actor or the character when you’re writing a screenplay because Tom Cruise is going to do it and he doesn’t look like that, whereas in the novel to describe what he is is what he is. The actual act of writing, just like shooting on a set, is a slow slog. It’s going to work every day.”
~ David Cronenberg On Screenplay vs. Novel