August 30, 2012

I have never read Dom Delillo’s Cosmopolis (or, indeed, any of his novels), so approaching David Cronenberg’s film version is something of a tricky prospect.  It’s the first screenplay Cronenberg has written himself since eXistenZ, and I imagine an awful lot of it was lifted wholesale from the source.  There’s certainly no attempt to translate what seems to me to be a stilted, idiosyncratic voice into anything approaching naturalistic, and I can’t help but assume that is intentional.  That is not to say it isn’t cinematic, because quite the opposite is true – a lot of work has gone into the crafting, and for a very ‘talky’ film, it never suffers from the visually drab, stagey qualities that similarly wordy (usually play) adaptations so often do.  Still, many have written that this film is dull or asleep or, at the very least, “not for everyone”, and I can see why they came to those conclusions (I even agree with the last of those).  However, the dreamy, talky nature is part of the point, and it’s expression is cinematic despite its heavily reliance on the words. Read the rest of this entry »


Perhaps the most significant and heated discussion in the film blogosphere this year was spawned by Dan Kois’ article in the New York Times Magazine about ‘cultural vegetables’ – i.e. the deliberately paced (read: slow) art films so venerated by critical culture that one who runs in that circle might feel nervous about expressing dissent toward the prevailing consensus.  Inspired by Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff, Kois saw fit to take swings at the narrative-forgoing Treme, Derek Jarman’s deathbed work Blue, and the contemplative (or dull, depending on your viewpoint) films of Tarkovsky and Antonioni.  Blogs and selected twitter feeds lit up in anger from both sides, and several months later, the dust still hasn’t entirely settled.  Even I contemplated entering the fray, though with the certain knowledge that nobody of influence would actually read it, but I abandoned it to the recesses of my hard drive for no particular reason.  I didn’t like Kois’ article – his broadsides against film critic snobbery were just another form of snobbery after all – but it does bring up an interesting quandary in a roundabout way: how do you judge a film that isn’t meant to be straightforwardly entertaining?  Meek’s Cutoff is, no matter if you liked it or not, intended to be slow and even boring and repetitive at times.  One of the features of the trek across the Oregon Trail it wants to highlight is the mind numbing tediousness of it all.  It isn’t fun, but it isn’t supposed to be.  There are lot more facets to that film, and I’m not here to talk about it at length, but if you’ve seen it, you hopefully understand my point.  It took less than ten minutes of Ronald Bronstein’s 2007 debut Frownland for me to start reaching for the remote, anxious to turn it off.  It wasn’t just that it was remarkably unpleasant, though it certainly was, but also I could tell it was never going to get any better.  This was the film Bronstein wanted to make, and I’m reasonably sure it was never intended to be enjoyable in the slightest for the viewer. Read the rest of this entry »