With opinion divided over the merits of Cronenberg’s “Cosmopolis” allow me to weigh in: Cosmopolis is the only film so far this year that I would pay money to re-watch. Which is kind of ironic given that the whole film was about how Capitalism cannot survive.
Too many people are sitting back saying they didn’t get it, there were no guys in costumes blasting energy bolts at each other, no explosions, Pattinson was too passive, the themes were too obscure. There are moanings about the incomprehensible dialogue, the slow pace, the weird climax. Yeah, look: you totally, completely, utterly missed the point. All the things about Cosmopolis that you didn’t understand and are complaining about were exactly the point of the film. Cronenberg roped you in with Pattinson (and what a brilliant call that was, and a great performance by Pattinson, kudos all round), and now you are all “where was the vampire?”
Seriously? Have you ever watched a Cronenberg movie? He doesn’t do mainstream. On a couple of occasions his films blow up and everyone loves them (A History of Violence, Eastern Promises) but generally Cronenberg does his own thing. And he does it very, very well. Forgive him for occasionally marrying a popular art form with intelligent ideas and a twisted sense of humor. That really shouldn’t be allowed. I see that.
Look, go see Expendables 2. Really, go see it. Bunch of aging testosterone fuelled guys blowing stuff up cos that is the American Way- go see it. It wasn’t new in the eighties, it isn’t new now. Go see Batman too. Guy in a daft suit beating up criminals based on a comic book – a movie that has been running on a hype engine for six years. Go see ‘em both. That’s the popcorn entertainment you want, fine, and all power to the respective directors and actors. They’ve done a good job. But please – for the love of god – do not complain that Cosmopolis was incomprehensible whilst munching the popcorn and saying “what a great movie that was” to Expendables 2. Just…don’t. Much as I love comics and much as I enjoy a bit of all out action with Stallone and Arnie, see it for what it is.
Cronenberg, on the other hand is offering you something different.
The incomprehensibility of Cosmopolis was half the point, and eighty percent of the humour. Packer (Pattinson) lives in a world that IS incomprehensible to the majority of us. The humour that most people seem to have missed is that this world is so detached from reality that it has all become meaningless. The characters are completely incapable of having a conversation that doesn’t drift off into obscurity and an inability to communicate with each other. Cronenberg spells this out for you in capital letters in scenes between Packer and his wife. “I find it hard to be detached” says Packer’s wife on discovering he has cheated on her (in a completely sham marriage) – and the line is delivered in the most totally detached voice possible. A protestor sets fire to himself and is dismissed as being unoriginal. Packer, as his whole world is collapsing, obsesses over buying Rothko – Rothko being the ultimate anti-capitalist artist. These people live in a world so far removed from reality it can only be viewed as a black comedy. Even Pattinson’s character has realized this, leading to his epic swan dive that forms the core of the narrative.
It wasn’t violent enough, wasn’t sexy enough are the other complaints. Actually the film was pretty violent – but Cronenberg chose to have the violence mostly off-screen and on the sidelines, which shows a director at the height of his ability. He respects you as an audience enough to fill in the blanks. Scenes like the security guard outside the limo beating up protesters whilst inside it was business as usual were hilarious, if you were sharp enough to catch it. The underlying black comedy was strung along throughout.
The fact is, Cronenberg made a movie for YOU. The 99%. A movie that reflects, comments on satirizes and parodies our time. A movie to provoke thought, encourage debate, mystify – and to enjoy along the way. And thank God he did because right now the alternative looks like X-men 12 and the Expendables 7. Is that really, honestly all you want from your movies?
But if you are too lazy to get the fact that the fact you didn’t get it was actually the point -I can’t help you. I didn’t get half of it. That was partly what made it such a breathtaking viewing experience. It challenged me, made me think and made me want to rewatch it. And it looked beautiful along the way, as Packer’s environment gradually degrades, reflecting his own collapse.
So anyway, there’s my take on Cosmopolis, for what it is worth.
Hi, I’m Dave. I’ll be serving lessons on how to tick everyone off by appearing to be intellectually superior on the way out.
In the meantime, take a cookie. They’ve been cut.
Review by David Ollerton
Director: David Cronenberg
Genre: Drama/ Sci-fi
Writers: David Cronenberg (screenplay), Don DeLillo (novel)
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche and Sarah Gadon
Dave is the Editor of TLFR and a freelance writer. As well as a guest on BBC radio and regular appearances on the television show Reel Review, he has written for The Guardian, We Got This Covered, the International Political Forum and more.