TIFF’s David Cronenberg: Evolution – Cronenberg’s Films Over the Years [Cosmopolis: “his embrace of the virtual”]

J. Hoberman has an excellent piece in The New York Review of Books- “David Cronenberg’s Visual Shock”- about the Cronenberg retrospective at TIFF this fall. He walks the reader through “David Cronenberg: Evolution,” which is devoted to his film work. I encourage you to read the full story at the source link below. It’s not very long and it is especially good for readers who know a little bit about his films, but not how his themes and filmmaking have evolved. His films over time are quite different, but at the same time, have recurring themes. The presentation has evolved considerably over time. A good companion post is now just above at the blog or here, the writer also sees how all Cronenberg’s films link, and tells Cronenberg fans should view Cosmopolis: “Featured Review: ‘Cosmopolis’ by blogger at HellBrokeLuce – Says essential film for the Cronenberg faithful”.

Hoberman walks you through what is in the exhibit, and in that, you get a nice overview of the filmmaker’s themes. While Cronenberg’s films have always given food for thought, they’ve moved from literal representations of ideas (e.g., of the idea of humans merging with technology) as the writer comments- to films without artifacts and “viscerably cerebral”. That is where 2012’s Cosmopolis fits, and I’ve brought that paragraph in. First, though, some information background from the article.

The reader may like to also view this: “Toronto Life: Slideshow Preview of What’s Inside David Cronenberg: Evolution Exhibit at TIFF” (will jump you to my lookingformorefilm.com blog where I have much more material on David Cronenberg.)

From TIFF “David Cronenberg: Evolution” Exhibit Info. online.

[Introductory paragraph:]

“While movie directors are regularly given retrospectives, few have been the subject of museum exhibitions. Hitchcock had one at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art in 2000; Godard was accorded an exposition at the Centre Pompidou six years later; and, moving down the ladder of greatness a few rungs, the Museum of Modern Art’s 2010 Tim Burton show proved to be one of the most popular in its history. But David Cronenberg had been there first, getting his first show at the Royal Ontario Museum, organized by Tokyo’s Seibu department store, in 1993. This fall, Cronenberg, who turned seventy this year, is the subject of three new exhibitions in his native Toronto—the main one, “David Cronenberg: Evolution,” devoted to his film work, another curated by him, the third consisting of artworks commissioned in his honor.”

[A filmmaker of ideas:]

“Cronenberg is a filmmaker of ideas, one being the notion that human beings have merged with technology. His protagonists are often cyborgs as, in some sense, he is as well—not a commercial director with artistic aspirations so much as an avant-garde filmmaker who has contrived a commercial career, in part by remaining in Canada.”

[In this new century, his films become more “viscerally cerebral”:]

“Cronenberg is here revealed as a literalist whose initial response to the rise of computer-generated imagery was to fabricate a virtual world that was wholly real. But, after eXistenZ, the artifacts disappear. Cronenberg’s twenty-first century films accept themselves as traces; they are now viscerally cerebral. There are no props from Spider (2002), a movie adapted from Patrick McGrath’s novel that takes place mainly inside the mind of its deranged protagonist (released from a hospital for the criminally insane, he revisits and “relives” his childhood); the deceptively “normal” thriller A History of Violence (2006), in which the protagonist’s submerged personality shatters the bland façade he’s hidden behind, contributes only a coffee cup to the exhibition. Eastern Promises (2007), a relatively lavish evocation of Russian gangsters in London, has a few set designs and maquettes of the faux-opulent restaurant that functions as the epicenter of conspiracy. Period costumes are the lone physical manifestation from A Dangerous Method (2011), a movie devoted to Jung’s lover and Freud’s disciple, Sabina Speilrein.”

[Here are his comments that follow on Cosmopolis which I’ve highlighted in quote format:]

“There are only a few images from the artist’s most recent film, the ultra-formalist Cosmopolis (2012), which, even more than most late-period Cronenberg, has been misunderstood and underappreciated.”


From source story: photo credit noted eOne Films Robert Pattinson in David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis (2012)

“With its synthesized backgrounds, Cosmopolis was Cronenberg’s first movie to make extensive use of digital photography and CGI. It not only illustrates DeLillo’s metaphor for global capital but is a sustained riff on the idea of a virtual world. Indeed, Cosmopolis marks Cronenberg’s embrace of the virtual; fittingly, there’s no place for it in “Cronenberg: Evolution.” The movie’s central prop—the enormous limousine that creeps through midtown Manhattan—was destroyed in the course of making the movie. Its only existence is as a memory on screen.”

Source:  New York Review of Books  (see more from this at my other blog:


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