Featured REVIEW: Film4 (Catherine Bray): “Thoughts from Cannes on David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis”REVIEWS: Featured
This review is thoughtful, thorough, and insightful about many aspects of the film, source material, and relevance to our media culture. It is one of the reviews that stand out in the hundreds I’ve read as I’ve blogged on this film. It’s worth a read.
In our post on 6/15/12, “AUDIO: BBS Radio 5 Interview with David Cronenberg & Robert Pattinson” POST LINK we included our live blogging tweets and here’s what the highly regarded Mark Kermode had to say about Catherine Bray’s review.
A partial post (per Bray’s request) of Catherine’s Bray’s article; please visit the link below for the full text.
“Cosmopolis has been assessed as a ‘cold’ film, which it is. Warmth would derail it. An immersion in the process of 28 year old billionaire Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) committing financial suicide over one day as he travels by limo to get his hair cut, David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis isn’t the critique of a social realist or egalitarian, peering in at the villain of the piece. Nor is it asking us to spare a thought for the mega-wealthy because sometimes it’s hard to be a billionaire. What it recognises is the disproportionate and urgent need to comprehend this mindset, given its disproportionate power.And so Cronenberg’s eerily pitch-perfect realisation of Don DeLillo’s brilliant novel plugs us deep into Eric Packer’s shallow existence, allowing us to feel what he feels – or rather, and here comes that word ‘cold’ again – to not feel what he fails to feel, cold as his lifestyle renders him to the world. And how could it not? That’s the dark question at the heart of Cosmopolis – we can see that such wealth is damaging, we can see the fathomless isolation, the safety, the boredom, the affectless distance, and yet, as Packer tells Paul Giamatti’s vagrant savant, we fail to really hate the rich because in our minds, we’re all ten seconds away from becoming rich.
The film does not ask how the world came to be this way; it’s enough to know that it has, with Packer’s chief of theory Vija Kinsky, played with delicious callousness by Samantha Morton, boiling it down to money having “lost its narrative quality, the way painting did once upon a time. Money is talking to itself.” We’re into money’s surreal, post-modern, dangerous, self-referential period.
The film does ask, repeatedly, how this situation is sustained, how it ebbs and flows. Media are inevitably culpable, and lurking in the corner of the frame throughout. Packer’s quest for a haircut reflects a world where fortunes are made and lost on reputation, on appearance. “I keep hearing about our legend,” he says, “We’re all young and smart and were raised by wolves.” Emily Hampshire’s Jane Melman, Packer’s chief of finance, contests the myth, not on content, but on appearance, dismissing Packer’s 22 year old adviser on a technicality of hair and dress: “He has the streak in his hair. He has the earring.” Packer protests: “He does not have the earring.” Both know exactly what hypothetical earring – definite article – the earring, they are talking about, both hypersensitive to almost imperceptible codes of surface and appearance.
[go to source for text omitted here]
The humour in Cosmopolis is inevitably not of the most obvious sort, but is present throughout, often locating a gallows hysteria in the world’s absurdities. Humour is a very human coping response to statistics like that unearthed in a 2006 study which revealed that the three richest people in the world, including Bill Gates, have more money than the poorest 48 nations combined. Sure, Cosmopolis is shot and scored like dystopian fiction, but actually, the most terrifying thing about it is that it has absolutely no need to exaggerate; this is effectively dystopian fact. A bald reworking of the first line from the Communist Manifesto swaps Europe for the world and Communism for Capitalism: “A spectre is haunting the world, the spectre of Capitalism”; this is shown as part of an in-movie anti-establishment protest that is as extreme as it needs to be, underling the point that insanity may be the only sane response to an insane system.
This is also why casting Robert Pattinson in this role is a stroke of mad genius. Apart from delivering a very fine performance, he is arguably the star currently inspiring some of the least sane responses in our culture. When, at the film’s climax, he is confronted with a maniac insisting “I know everything that’s ever been said or written about you. I know what I see in your face, after years of study,” it’s not hard to appreciate how brilliant – and perhaps cathartic – a role this is for him, one that figuratively interrogates the fame-capital he has accrued so far, Pattinson apparently as interested as Packer in the possibility of re-setting as something else. Casting him could have been a Warhol moment, using the image of an icon to make a point about fame, but Pattinson’s participation is too active to merit this back-handed compliment.
I can only imagine how this film will be looked back on in twenty years; for me, it’s the coming together of source, director and star with a relevance that rarely occurs in cinema.”
Source Author on twitter: @catherinebray