About a year ago, I found out my wife had never seen The Fly. Not the version from the ‘50s, but the remake David Cronenberg did. I figured there was hope for her, as she liked his violent movies Eastern Promises and A History of Violence. Yes, I realized that probably had a lot to do with those films having Viggo Mortensen, but he’s in this movie, too. Although the reports out of the Cannes Film Festival, is that people walked out because of how gross it all was. And my wife walked out of the room during The Fly. It was even before the scene where he has to regurgitate on his food before consuming it (a trick he used in this latest movie, too). Cronenberg also borrowed from his film Dead Ringers, and even this movie is a remake of his 1970 film. It has touches of Snowpiercer, Brazil, Prometheus, and Blade Runner. In fact, the score (provided by the great Howard Shore) sounds like Vangelis, who passed away last month. Critic Roger Ebert once speculated that dystopian films always look post-apocalyptic because of Blade Runner. I think it also has to do with sets being easier to make. For example, they filmed a number of scenes for this movie near a rusted out old boat.
My wife never walked out on this movie, but she shut her eyes a few times, and hated every second of it. I found it thought provoking, with some very interesting premises. It’s just a shame they didn’t go anywhere with them. It’s a surprisingly lot of expository dialogue that ends up revealing so little to us. And yes, there’s social commentary, metaphors, and body gore. Cronenberg has given us a new genre combining metaphors and body gore – Metagore.
I still remember being 12-years-old and going with my older brother and some neighborhood kids to watch his film Scanners, which had a scene we talked about for years afterwards – a guy’s head blew up. A few years later on HBO, I was able to watch the R-rated Videodrome when my parents went out to dinner. I remember being excited to see Debbie Harry, but being a bit confused by it all. Having never gone back to watch it again, all I remember is James Woods pulling a VHS tape out of his stomach. I thought of that scene when some things are pulled out of Viggo’s stomach in this. At one point, the sex act is basically a woman sucking on the scar of his stomach (and people make fun of Tarrantino for being obsessed with feet!).
Crimes of the Future follows Saul Tenser (Mortensen), who makes us tenser with each thing he does. He walks the street in a cloak, making him look like a Druid, as street people watch him. He does performance art in which his partner Caprice (Lea Seydoux) cuts him up in front of a live audience, and pulls out his organs. How does he live, you ask? Well, it’s the future, and the human race is evolving. This has them not feeling pain anymore, and some of them growing organs that don’t seem to serve a purpose. He has them removed for adoring crowds (that are on the brink of ecstasy, because for some reason, cutting people up in this universe equates to sexual pleasure). What I can’t figure out, and is never explained, why does Tenser feel pain when nobody else can. Why does he also grow so many new organs, so often? And why doesn’t he like sex “the old way” if they’re still showing him to be like an older human who can still experience pain? But hey, I don’t even think Cronenberg could explain any of this.
Tenser starts paying visits to the National Organ Registry, which is run by the weird Wippet (Don McKellar), and the timid Timlin (Kristen Stewart). Timlin has a cadence in her voice, and often speaks in whispers. Both of which become rather annoying. But Stewart had to be in this. Her Twilight partner Robert Pattenson did Cronenberg’s bizarre Cosmopolis (which ranks as one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen).
Timlin wants to sleep with Tenser. Whippet wants him to register his organs, but also wants him to appear in his underground beauty pageant for “inner beauty.”
Tenser is also apparently working undercover, and meets with a cop. Those scenes add nothing to this story, but one character that does is Lang Dotrice (Scott Speedman). He’s a creepy guy we see on the streets with a lady of the night (they merely cut each others’ legs for pleasure). It turns out, when we saw a woman kill her son in the opening scene, he was the father. He wants Tenser to do an autopsy of the boy for his next show. We already know this boy isn’t normal, and we know some weird sh** is going to be pulled out of him.
Now, Cronenberg gives us themes of inner beauty, and of evolving, being desensitized, eating plastic to possibly curb waste, and a few other things. Yet it’s a bit convoluted and sometimes boring. And the special effects didn’t look any better than Videodrome in 1983. In fact, a few of the devices, like the plastic looking high chair Terser has to sit in to consume food, or the plastic cocoon bed to sleep, both look so utterly ridiculous it brings unintended laughter from the audience. The other device, that’s used for autopsies and surgeries, doesn’t hold a candle to the scene in which we saw a character do surgery on herself in Prometheus.
I did like the chemistry Mortensen and Seydoux had, and there were enough interesting scenes that you never want to leave (unless the gore gets to you). It’s a shame that the story was executed poorly. You end the film wanting to know more about different characters, moral ambiguity with some, and the ideas that weren’t properly fleshed out (no pun intended). There was just no connective tissue with all the various stories thrown at us (okay, maybe that was an intended pun). I think at 79-years-old, Cronenberg should have evolved past doing this type of stuff just to shock us (now that’s ending on a strong pun).
Oh, the last scene in this movie – my wife hated, but I loved. I just wish I would have loved more of the movie.
The studio was smart not to screen this for the critics. At least that afforded me the opportunity to see it at my favorite theater, the Angelika Film Center, where it will probably only be playing for another week. See it at your own peril.
2 stars out of 5.