Featured REVIEW: ‘Cosmopolis’ by PressPlus1REVIEWS: Featured
This exceptional review is written by Kindah Mardam Bey for Press+1 described as “Canada’s largest independent online all entertainment magazine” on its website.
The last sentence of this review is what compelled us to go ahead and post: “Go into Cosmopolis with high expectations and for once you may leave the theatre with an even better opinion then when you went.” You can’t get much higher praise than that.
Mardam for Press+1:
“Rarely is the symmetry of someone’s prostate being asymmetrical the point that a film’s answers hinge on, but somehow in a film about capitalism, this becomes a poetic metaphor. And rarely does the high expectation of how a film will turn out actually end up surpassing one’s own anticipation. Cosmopolis is stunning cinema that works on a cerebral, visceral and emotional level.
The premise seems so outrageously simple but is deceptively full of complexity. Eric Packer, a young billionaire, wants a haircut and he will only go to a barber across town for it. His security man, and driver, must navigate the unidentified (generic) city during a President’s visit and demonstrations that tumble into rioting. Packer’s pristine limousine holds court to all matter of people, from his employees to his prostitutes to his daily medical check-up. The limo is Packer’s moving King’s court where he sits on his throne and meets his subjects one by one. My first impression of Cosmpolis is that the film would have made a fantastic stage play with few exterior locations, the static energy of the limo interior, paired with a staggering amount of discourse.
As the day progresses into the night, and all manner of events occur to Packer and the world around him. The pristine exterior of Packer, and his car, unfold in such a calculating way you feel as though you were walking in the “good” part of town, turned a corner, and ended up in the “bad” part of town. The look of Cosmopolis has a camp feel to it, a decidedly 80s look but in an updated way – as if we are looking at the Wall Street empire as an echo and the present day’s afflictions harken back to that time. The cinematography of long-time collaborator of Cronenberg films, Peter Suschitzky, has much to do with that specfic feel of Cosmopolis. Also, long-time collaborator Howard Shore’s score builds tension subtly throughout the film. I liked the detail of silence inside the limo as well; you don’t hear other car horns or traffic, once the doors to the limo are closed, the whole world is muted. What you do see outside is a world slowly uncoiling with rioters getting louder and bolder. The Marxist mantra painted everywhere “a spectre is haunting the world” is a brash “up-yours” to capitalism and all it stands for.
It isn’t just Marxist thought that shows up in this film, but Packer’s journey is an Odyssey of Homeric proportions, the film opens with the line “a rat became the currency” – from the poem “Report From The Beseiged City” by Zbigniew Herbert (which I recommend you read before watching the film). Themes of morality, the fear of death, balance and imbalance, power, sexuality, consumption, theories upon theories upon theories are all cascading down on you at once. So much to think about in Cosmopolis and so little time to do in before the next enormous concept is summed up in just a sentence or two. Cosmopolis is a thinking person’s film.If you have been yearning for more than explosions and super-heroes, this is just the antidote the doctor ordered.
The dialogue is highly stylized with lines like “talent is more erotic when it is wasted” said by a prostitute/business associate, or “we die every day” by Packer, or “money is talking to itself” by a financial theorist. No one is off limits in relaying a thought or theory and this unrelenting conversation means you can watch Cosmopolis dozens of times and get something new out of it to think on, long after viewing.
It is really hard not to talk about this film without taking a good hard look at Robert Pattinson’s performance as he is in every scene. Going in not being a Robert Pattinson fan (what is all the fuss about?) he oddly seemed a perfect fit for a Cronenberg film. We know Cronenberg films can be unhinged, creepy and bizarre but in a really likeable way, and to some extent, Pattinson seems to have come off that way if you aren’t a blood-thirsty Twihard. Well, you can wipe the slate clean for Pattinson’s previous career, Cosmopolis is where he best shines. His performance is both vulgar and enticing. Packer is our anti-hero, he is everything we hate about money and power, but he is also our lead character and the one who’s world we are perceiving. Pattinson plays Packer as a cold, detached, lost boy who is searching but doesn’t know where to start. Themes of emptiness, mortality and consumption are what Packer speaks of most and he uses the term “we” a lot (as many of the characters do in the film) which makes the audience slightly bristle every time he says it as you can’t help but feel he does not speak for “us” – or does he? Pattinson was Packer. If this is the only collaboration between the two we can consider it a singular masterpiece, but let’s hope Cronenberg and Pattinson have the same relationship Cronenberg has with Mortensen, and many more films of this pairing are to come.
It wasn’t just Pattinson that made this film though, but all of the cast who made brief appearances with immense impact. Emily Hampshire sweating and laying out some sad sexual tension was hilarious, Jay Baruchel hanging out in the limo like he owned the place, Philip Nozuka (yep, Justin’s brother) has a short scene as a tech-genius inspired by invention, Juliette Binoche took a surprising turn as a character who was sexy and aggressive. Samantha Morton’s role has an exceeding amount of exposition she must relay whilst rioters outside annihilate the vehicle. She was stoic, clear in her discourse and simply shining in her performance. Kevin Durand as the bodyguard seems to have captured the Christopher Walken energy on screen without mimicry and his plot twist is a shocking moment made out of a usually unoriginal moment on screen. Perhaps my favourite cameo is K’naan as this music and political leader, akin to Bob Marley. For his first acting gig, K’naan rocked the cameo! Mathieu Amalric had an intense scene with Pattinson and he seemed so invested in his performance it was a delight to watch.
The most significant relationship Packer has is with his new bride of twenty-two days who he has yet to consummate the marriage with. It seems almost Shakespearean – Eric and Elise (Sarah Gadon) have wed because their fortunes merged would be an enormous power play (not dissimilar to royalty marrying royalty) but the two don’t know each other and for all Elise’s creativity, Eric just wants to establish his territory and is finding the process of getting to know her, over his imposed meal times with her, quite exhausting. Sarah Gadon is my new favourite Canadian actress. She is so stoic and reserved, she is like a silver screen siren akin to Lauren Bacall. Gadon is young, but she is intelligent in her acting choices and is both welcoming and at arms-length at all times.
Then, you have a final conversation between Eric Packer and Benno Levin, played by Paul Giamatti that lasts about twenty minutes or so, it is sublime cinema. This is when you know Pattinson is exceptional, because he can keep up with Giamatti and Giamatti is nailing this conversation to the front door of the institution that he reviles.
Although I have not read the Don DeLillo novel of the same name, I have heard this is a faithful retelling. What I saw was nothing short of brilliant by everyone involved. Although A Dangerous Method was an incredibly beautiful film, it didn’t seem to have the Cronenberg edge to it that his other films do. I enjoyed ADM but was thrilled to see his return to something like this that asks so much from his audience.
To date, this is Cronenberg’s finest feature film. I always figure there is one great “something” in everyone. Usually you can name a “classic” from an author or filmmaker that defines their career, and usually not more then one. Usually that “classic” comes at the start of someone’s career and rarely at any other point. Cronenberg is an established filmmaker, and yet, Cosmopolis could be that film which defines his career.
Yes, this is an insanely long review, but I just can’t help myself at this point, so bear with me for a paragraph or two longer.
I would like to say Cosmopolis is the most important Canadian film of this century to date, but already we have had outstanding and poignant stories like Incendies from Canada, that define and defy how we relate to cinema. By being unable to quickly identify Cosmopolis as the clear front-runner of Canadian cinema makes me delighted at the thought of how good the competition has been in Canada for great cinema since the start of this century. Cosmopolis is a defining film of our time and should do incredibly well in the theatres, if it doesn’t we need not worry as this film’s relevancy will prove itself for decades to come.
The ending is sublime. It was exactly the best way it could have ended. Cosmopolis is a cross between Brazil, wall street and a manifesto. Go into Cosmopolis with high expectations and for once you may leave the theatre with an even better opinion then when you went.”