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  • Crimes of the Future 1970

    ★★½ Watched 21 Jul, 2014 2

    Like Stereo, fascinating and a clear indication of a career to come, but somehow too dry for that driest of filmmakers. It almost feels like some of the more out-there Slothrop chapters of Gravity's Rainbow strung together, with its protagonist just sort of wandering about organizations with names like Metaphysical Import-Export in a post-woman apocalypse where men adapt socially to a lack of femininity, and then go one further and demonstrate physiological changes. Some of them make sense—one guy grows…

  • M. Butterfly 1993

    ★★★ Watched 21 Jul, 2014

    Auteurism hits an interesting wrinkle here. As Cronenberg shifts focus from Hwang's political allegory to a warped examination of broader performativity and idealization that goes with love and especially love at first sight, is Cronenberg guilty of himself acting with white authority over Hwang's text about the same subject? That thought gives me misgivings, and I also have some hang-ups about the use of shadows to make two-faced Januses of everyone, a clichéd choice for a director who has much…

  • The Brood 1979

    ★★★★ Watched 21 Jul, 2014

    It's interesting (and disturbing) that Cronenberg wrote this while undergoing a messy custody battle. Disturbing, obviously, to see one of the finest male cinematic critics of misogyny indulging in it himself, but fascinating for how evocative it nonetheless remains of maternal instincts and legacies of trauma. It's obvious from the general dramatic arc that husband Frank is maybe the only decent person in Nola's periphery, yet it's impossible not to root for her, even as her psychic distress births demon…

  • Rabid 1977

    ★★ Watched 20 Jul, 2014

    Feels more like an idea Romero let die in a draft than a controlled Cronenberg picture, too narratively and thematically loose to stick. By the same token watching Marilyn Chambers give a surprisingly strong performance, demanding not only seductive properties but anguish and rage at being forced into that dual victim/destroyer role of patient zero without her knowledge or consent. Her work first and foremost is her own, a fine showcase for someone whose day job was in a field…

  • Shivers 1975

    ★★★½ Watched 20 Jul, 2014

    A film of great promise; it lacks the sense of total aesthetic control that Cronenberg would really cement by Videodrome but it nonetheless showcases his facility with gruesome effects, creepy mood and a streak of black humor. I love that the story is set in motion by a character who could have had an acid vision forecasting Cronenberg's career of movies about people falling prey to overanalyzed, over-repressed sexual urges and bioengineering some kind of horny nuclear option to prevent…

  • Stereo 1969

    ★★½ Watched 18 Jul, 2014

    For a film called Stereo, Cronenberg's first feature is disappointingly bereft of the sublime aural control he'd evince in later work. But then, no-budget first features often sacrifice sound for image, and you can already see how developed an aesthete he was (esp. incredible given how he came to the idea of directing well into his time at the University of Toronto). The use of wide-angle lenses to subtly distort the contours of reality looks ahead not just to the…

  • Barking Dogs Never Bite 2000

    ★★★½ Watched 17 Jul, 2014

    Bong's first feature is his weakest, though its intimate scale and low-stakes black comedy makes it easy to see how finely detailed his direction is. Dig the scene of the dog-stewing janitor in the bowels of the apartment complex relating a ghost story to a colleague. The decrepit lamp above them burns out, prompting the man to place a large flashlight on the ground pointing up to give his face the classic campfire story lighting, with cutaways to underground corridors…

  • Female Trouble 1974

    ★★★★★ Watched 16 Jul, 2014 1

    The prevailing image I have of John Waters' filmography is smeared lipstick, a nod to his characters' simultaneous acquiescence to standards of beauty and their inability (usually willful) to meet them. It looks childish, like a kid who broke into mommy's makeup to carry out a rudimentary imitation, but also defiant, a deliberate smudge on the "proper" image that does as much to suggest a parallel dimension as the puke-pastel and polyester aesthetic that makes his films look like German…

  • The Fly 1986

    ★★★★★ Watched 19 Jul, 2014

    David Cronenberg is not a minimalist—I think any claim to that term evaporates right around the moment a man turns into an undulating mass of tumors in real time—but his economic formalism, I think, displays the same strengths as the best in that field. That is to say, he has an incredible knack of specifically guiding and manipulating the viewer to certain topics but giving enough leeway to invite all manner of interpretations. Released into the context of the exploding…

  • Sex Tape 2014

    ★★ Watched 16 Jul, 2014 1

    The big Rob Lowe scene is so much fun (and such a long chunk) that I have to bump it up somewhat, but this is such a prudish film, nominally interested in sex lives but really only dredging up the topic to mock it and to embarrass those who find a way to have fulfilling sexual relationships. This film is already obsolete, something it even acknowledges when a porn king played by Jack Black (the other highlight of the movie)…

  • Pickpocket 1959

    ★★★★★ Rewatched 15 Jul, 2014

    A film of uncommon depth made possible by its austerity. At once leaves everything open to you the viewer and clearly shows a guiding hand working to make what seems so minimal and unadorned purely focused on getting an intended response. The tragic prequel to L'ARGENT's horror.

  • eXistenZ 1999

    ★★★★ Watched 17 Jul, 2014 1

    Cronenberg’s late career kicked off with this sort of bridge between his body horror days and the increasingly interior monster movies that typify his work in the last decade. Perhaps as an easing measure, eXistenZ employs a great deal of on-the-nose dialogue to go along with its flagrantly anal/vaginal imagery. Dig the way Jude Law say “I have this phobia about having my body penetrated,” waiting just a split-second before clarifying “surgically.” There’s also all the loaded “first time” talk,…