Crash ★★★

A pitch perfect opening shot: a nipple rubbing against a metallic surface with all the pleasures that could possibly entertain. Crash is so distinctly Cronenbergian and ambitious in its thematic material it's hard to not enjoy the film: obsessions with the relationship between man and machine, how psychological developments manifest themselves into physical scars, and an addiction to the sexual perversity as a sign of humanity. Cronenberg's camerawork—his ability to diamond cut sequences together and move the camera into the compositions that evoke the anxieties of his characters without ever flinching—just as strong here as his best work. And it was never going to happen, but the makeup artist Stephan Dupuis should have won all the awards for designing both realistic and expressionistic scars, bruises, and blood.

But Crash seems to - wait for it - sputter once it gets revved up, preferring to riff on the same variation than dig deeper than its surface intrigue. Elias Koteas even proposes a greater than theme—seeing addiction as a search for faith, a theme prevalent in Videodrome, A Dangerous Method, and Cosmopolis—only to have him later deny that idea. Sequences become repetitive: an amusing car dealership trip, sex with a scar, and repeated sequences of creating car crashes for sexual arousal. Some of that is deliberate of course—the film is about repetition ("Next time," Ballard claims at the end), but it never adds to the insight of the film, especially when the characters begin to feel like ciphers for the concept, their motivations mostly singular. Lack of a clear narrative structure doesn't help either—Holly Hunter all but disappears till the penultimate sequence, which also reminds me that maybe I'm reading it wrong but Croenenberg links homosexuality in this film to perversity, and I'm not gonna lie that it made me feel uncomfortable. A lot of this sounds like the criticisms thrown at Cosmopolis, but the Pattinson film has a very clear arc for me, and I'm not sure how to piece together this film's meandering material. Links to great writing on the film appreciated.