So once again we have survived.

Scanners

tn_scannersSCANNERS is a story about mutants with psychic powers, a generation of babies messed up by a medicine their mothers took, now grown and finding their brains too powerful, causing them to hear other people’s thoughts, and giving them dangerous powers like they can drop you to the ground with a nose bleed just by thinking about you too hard. If you get a greeting card from a scanner that says “Thinking of you,” take that as a threat.

mp_scannersA member of the Scanner-Canadian community faces many hardships, so they tend to become outcasts, not really knowing how to fit in. We follow one of these scanner misfits, Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack), as he scans some old ladies for talking shit about him in a food court, gets spotted and picked up by a private security firm called ConSec, and gets recruited to stop a militant, supposedly crazy scanner (Michael Ironside) who’s trying to band together all of the scanners for an uprising and kill the ones who won’t join up so there’s nobody to stop them.

That plot is pretty similar to X-MEN, and it’s easy to imagine this made today as a slick PG-13 thriller with lots of show-offy CGI and an ending that sets up a trilogy. But in 1981 young Dave Cronenberg made it as a creepy, seedy, low budget, lo-fi creepfest. It has all his early obsessions: video distortion, weird synthesized sounds, horrible and unnatural bodily mutilation, dangerous clandestine organizations, untrustworthy private companies involved in secret programs. It has a very cool thriller concept and enough groundbreaking gore effects to get in the horror magazines, but it doesn’t feel much like a normal genre type of movie. Cronenberg’s movies feel like they’re actually made by a madman. (Except FAST COMPANY, which is just made by a car enthusiast.)

Of course you know about the famous scene early on where Ironside causes another man’s head to (SPOILER) get full of silly ideas (THAT WAS A FAKE OUT SPOILER, HERE IS THE REAL ONE) explode. It’s a classic scene that says, “Despite my polite Canadian demeanor I assure you that I mean business!” There are plenty of other intense scenes like the car crash a scanner causes in order to escape custody, a bunch of shootouts and further scanner-on-scanner brain fights. I like that the bullet hits mean business too, there’s always a serious splatter and it seems like chunks of meat fly off.

But alot of the “action” is really just people staring and other people being affected by that staring. It’s amazing how much mileage Cronenberg gets out of facial expressions, convulsions and Howard Shore’s weird keyboard sounds. It really seems like you can almost see the beams coming out of their heads. It’s incredibly effective for something so simple.

In fact that could be the one thing that protects SCANNERS from getting recycled by the remake factory is that it’s not a power that would be easy to spend millions of dollars on. They’d have to change it to something that can be seen more. They don’t figure anybody wants a movie based on imagination and pretend and implying stuff. The concept does lend itself to all kinds of other stories (that’s why they made a bunch of sequels [also because what’re they gonna do, make up a new movie?]) but you’d have to change it alot to be expensive. Of course, I’m sure they’d add a bunch more exploding heads. But only on the unrated version you didn’t see in theaters DVD.

What is it about that time between about 1978 and 1982 that just lent itself to this kind of dark, grimy mystery? SCANNERS reminds me of THE HOWLING how this guy is out in the city hiding his weird secret. But the serial killer werewolf doesn’t get cleaned up in a tie and trenchcoat and sent to inflitrate werewolf subversives. And also it’s more cerebral. (Well, no shit.) It’s such a good paranoid concept. How are you supposed to outsmart somebody who can read your mind? That’s a tough one.

Late in the movie there’s a part where Vale scans through a pay phone, sending his thoughts through the wires, causing a fire. In context it seems to make alot of sense. If your thoughts can travel through the air into other heads, why not travel through a wire like other forms of information? It made me think of those hackers who can do crazy shit just using a phone, except this is the Cronenberg version of that so it’s biological.

Another good idea for a SCANNER movie would be if one of them wins a bunch of money on “Jeopardy.” Or it could be more like ZAPPED and they just use their power for pervy reasons. But I guess Cronenberg’s idea of pervy is different from anybody else’s. It wouldn’t just be girls taking their shirts off, it would be erotic fingering of bullet wounds and shit.

scanners_adkinsSCANNERS is a real good example of a crazy artistic mind allowing itself to be just barely constrained by the rules of exploitation. I like that kind of stuff. Definitely check it out if you haven’t seen it. I mean, you can just tell by that little picture above that alot of crazy shit happens in this movie. But don’t tell the Hollywood people about it. I don’t mean to spend too much of the review worried about the remake potential, but it just seems so obvious that it could happen. So I would like to point out that the lead looks alot like Scott Adkins. Instead of remaking it I hope they consider just re-releasing it as a special edition with some new judo scenes.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Thursday, June 3rd, 2010 at 10:28 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

58 Responses to “Scanners”

  1. Great movie. Only real flaw is the lead. The quality of the film and the quality of the lead actor might be the most disparate of any film I’ve seen. He’s that bad.

  2. Wasn’t David Goyer writing a remake a while ago? I remember how he talked about it and the difficulty of coming up with something better than exploding heads, now that this isn’t really new anymore. (May I suggest melting eyeballs?)

  3. I will defend the casting of the lead. Obviously, he is not a good actor, but I think that’s the point. This is a character who has been unable to communicate naturally with other human beings his whole life. Hearing people’s thoughts makes him self-conscious and paranoid, so he’s never been properly socialized. When he tries to talk to people, he sounds like he’s trying to read dialogue the way he heard it on TV without ever really understanding the rules of conversation.

    Obviously, the actor didn’t plan it that way. He is a genuinely awful actor (with really crazy eyes, though). But I believe that this was what Cronenberg was going for by casting him. As Verhoeven and Herzog have proven time and again, sometimes when you want an eerie, unnatural, off-putting performance, you’re better off casting a bad actor who can give you that quality accidentally than trusting a good actor to do it on purpose.

  4. Sorry, I wasn’t that crazy about this one. I liked it sure, but I have to admit that I was disappointed after looking forward to seeing it for so long. I think the biggest problem I have with it is what Lambert said, the lead is insufferable. The world is so cool, and so well thought out and Michael Ironside is an amazing villian and gives a great performance, and Patrick McGoohan is also great, but the main character (and his girl, come to think of it) are both completely bland and have no real personality or soul to make them interesting. They just sort of move around as the script demands, neither of them really acting of their own accord or registering as, you know, people.

    The best example of this is the showdown between the main guy and Ironside. They’re talking about McGoohan, and the main guy calls him a ‘great man.’ Then Ironside gives him one example of somethign dishonest McGoohan did, so then the main guy IMMEDIATELY flips to a ‘he’s a monster and so are you.’

  5. Yeah I must agree with Brendan but the problem if you ask me is the script.

    Its no secret that Cronenberg basically was forced to start shooting the movie without a finished script he was happy with and thats what SCANNERS comes off as, a great idea tacked onto a lazy genre formula. Compare that with say THE BROOD which grew leaps and bounds from such trappings. Notice Cronenberg never bothered with a commentary track for SCANNERS, and apparently isn’t that satisfied with it.

    The ending kicks ass though.

  6. RRA- Yes, yes it does. Can’t really argue with that one.

  7. Jareth Cutestory

    June 3rd, 2010 at 11:49 am

    I’m inclined to think that Cronenberg beat the PG-13 re-makers to this film himself when he made DEAD ZONE all those years ago.

    Actually, the killer psychic element of SCANNERS pops up quite routinely in more middle-brow stuff, like FIRESTARTER and that Dakota Fanning thing from a few years ago. Even UNBREAKABLE has a dash of it.

    CJ Holden: Last I heard, one of the SAW guys was attached to direct the remake.

    Also, in defence of the “alternate reality” concept that was getting bashed in the LOST thread: we all know that Cronenberg was offered the director’s chair for THE TRUMAN SHOW, ALIEN 4, WITNESS, TOP GUN and FLASHDANCE. In a really cool Alternate Reality he made those films. And they kicked our collective ass.

  8. i just re-watched the 3 Scanners movies last week for the first time in 15 years. I thought the second one was not that bad for a B-movie sequel but the 3rd one made by the same people, the same year, etc… was the biggest pile of crap ever. Like if Scanners 2 was the good way to do a sequel and Scanners 3 was the bas way of doing it.

    And i laughed when the tug who died in the corner store in Scanners 2 is the same actor who dies in the alley in Scanners 3.

    Is it just me or Scanners seems like a remake of The Fury by De Palma?

  9. Please please review the sequels. Sure, some consider them terrible, but their are so many great moments (and fun effects). Plus there’s the furthering of their abilities in silly ways, such as through newscasts etc. These things need your insight.

  10. I’ve met Michael Ironside.

    Nice enough guy, but you could see how he would convert to Revok without much of a shove.

  11. “Is it just me or Scanners seems like a remake of The Fury by De Palma?”

    Munch – Pretty much to a degree.

  12. I’ve got this one in my “to see” list. Haven’t had a chance yet. I didn’t know it was Cronenberg though.

  13. Paul – reminds me of when I finally got around to watching that lame DUNE movie adaptation from the 1980s, I was shocked to find of all people, David Lynch’s credit to it.

    No wonder he tries to bury that connection as best he can.

  14. I rented this from Netflix last year and fucking loved it, Cronenberg is one of my all time favorite directors

    if it is ever remade I would want only Cronenberg himself to do it

    I watched The Brood at the same time as well and loved it too

    the only Cronenberg movie I’ve seen so far that I was disappointed in was Shivers, it was just hurt too much by it’s extreme low budget and awful acting to be good, still had a really creepy premise though

    the Dakota Fanning movie Vern mentioned was called Push and it wasn’t a bad movie, but it was no Scanners

  15. whoops, I’m sorry, it was Jareth Cutestory that mentioned the movie Push, not Vern

  16. also, my uncle told me once that when he was in the Air Force in the 1980’s once him and all his Air Force buddies watched Scanners and would rewind the head exploding scene over and over while laughing so hard they almost puked

  17. “erotic fingering of bullet wounds and shit.”
    master of the language over here. hahah. great review.

    this is a fantastic movie.

  18. Griff – I’m afraid that it being Cronenberg rather puts me off, instead of the reverse. Barring “A History of Violence”, I’ve yet to see a film of his that didn’t either frustrate or bore me. Hopefully this is the second one to change my mind. I’ve never “got” Cronenberg. I don’t go for gore for gore’s sake, and he clearly does, at every possible opportunity.

  19. Jareth Cutestory

    June 3rd, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    Paul: Does DEAD RINGERS fall into the “frustrated” or “bored” category?

    Griff: Thanks for doing my research for me. You’ll understand that a guy my age can’t google “Dakota Fanning” too often without arousing suspicion.

  20. Paul — If you think Cronenberg is just interested in gore for its own sake, I don’t think you understand the man at all. Watch DEAD RINGERS, like Jareth says. Virtually no gore at all, and probably his most unsettling film. SPIDER, also. And VIDEODROME does have some gore, but if you’re paying any attention at all that’s not what you’ll remember when the credits roll. Hell, even SCANNERS only has – if memory serves- two major gore scenes, and they’re both extremely quick. Watch DEAD-ALIVE or CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST or a Fucli film if you want to see what gore for its own sake looks like. Cronenberg is a man of ideas. Weird, disturbing ideas, sure, but he’s way above simple gore. I swear, give him a chance. And watch his awesome performance in NIGHTBREED, also.

  21. Jareth Cutestory

    June 3rd, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    Cronenberg also gave a thoughtful, understated and rather moving performance in one of the better end-of-the-world movies, LAST NIGHT. I never pass up an opportunity to recommend LAST NIGHT.

  22. Also the Dead Zone shows Cronenberg creating a persuasive and infectious tone of paranoia and isolation and doing it without a single drop of blood (not even when the serial killer committs seppuku via scissors) and doing it so well that it isn’t until repeat viewings (and there will be many) that the episodic and repetitive nature of the screenplay becomes obvious.

  23. When Cronenberg uses gore it’s always for a purpose, either a visceral/emotional impact (in which case its used as a storytelling tool to engage the audience in a scene to its maximum dramatic potential), or a psychological one (in which case, he doesn’t ‘linger’ on the gore as much as he ‘studies’ it). Always a thoughtful purpose behind it with that guy. Gee, he should be a filmmaker.

  24. Have to agree about Cronenberg in Nightbreed. All those creepy weirdos and monsters and still he is the most disturbing part of the movie. makes you wonder why he never acted more ?

  25. Notes on Scanners:

    –No, the actor named Neil Affleck in the mall at the beginning is neither Ben Affleck’s father or the guy who worked on the Simpsons.

    –The first time I ever saw Scanners was on a local New England television station’s “Saturday Afternoon Movie” type broadcast. It was one of those “T.V. Edits” prepared by the filmmakers themselves (like the alternate versions of THE THING and ROAD WARRIOR previously discussed), and, like them, had some alternate versions of things that were arguably just as effective as what’s in the theatrical cut. In particular, the single most iconic moment in Scanners–the exploding head–is completely gone! I don’t mean edited down–I mean it’s not in the tv cut at all! Instead, the guy has what has got to be the most realistic, grotesque, and disturbing heart attack in the history of cinema. Even Cronenberg concedes that it’s worse then the exploding head–which, let’s face it, is in the end still a special effect, we KNOW it’s a fake head blowing up. But the heart attack is really hard to watch–it just seems to go on and on and the camera kinda lingers on the guy slowly dying. I truly hope that if there’s ever a better SCANNERS DVD, they include this alternate take on it so people can see what I mean.

    –And kudos to Vern for mentioning the “dark, grimy” feel of genre films of this era–it was talked about a bit in he comments section for “House Of The Devil” (well, I posted about it, anyway :); from about the early 70s to the mid 80s there really is this distinct air of ennui and almost despair playing out against an atmosphere of utter authenticity. It’s like American genre films seemed to take over from European “art-house” movies in showing sad people scraping to get by in desperate, everyday lives. (At least in the first half hour or so, until the slasher, ghost, killer robot, psychic, alien or evil car shows up to make things worse.) NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET seems to have been the beginning of the end of this, but that feeling lingered at least until THE TERMINATOR in 1984. And Cronenberg, in CRIMES OF THE FUTURE, RABID, FAST COMPANY, THE BROOD, SCANNERS, and THE DEAD ZONE, was one of the prime exponents of it–those movies, with the exception of FAST COMPANY, are all so damn SAD….

  26. THE DEAD ZONE is definitely one of the best of the Stephen King movies, makes me wish Cronenberg would do another King adaption

    but heck, I’d be happy if he just returned to horror/sci fi again

  27. Jareth Cutestroy

    June 4th, 2010 at 7:22 am

    Griff: I like THE DEAD ZONE too but it isn’t another Cronenberg-King collaboration that I’d want to see but rather another Cronenberg-Walken collaboration. I’d consider it a public service if Cronenberg stripped away all the ironic artiface that has been built up around Walken.

  28. Yeah, remember how like 10 years ago, Christopher Walken was an actor who made you perk up every time he was on screen, because he was just so interesting and oddball, always beinging a weird energy to his performances. Seeing his name on a movie would make me want to see it.

    Now, I see his name on a movie and my first instinct is to stay away, because you know 9 times out of 10 the director only chose him because “OMG, Walken, LOL!” and he’s just being asked to do his Walken schtick and not actually play a character.

  29. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Walken is one wacky ad campaign away from being the new Shatner.

  30. Jareth Cutestory

    June 4th, 2010 at 7:56 am

    Is Nic Cage is one bad movie away from being Christopher Walken?

  31. I disagree. Walken needs at least 15 more years full of sitcom appereances as “himself” to become the new Shatner. Plus: Walken had already his Boston-Legal-ish career revival with the Fatboy Slim video and his SNL appereances.

  32. I think what Dan is talking about is “Samuel L.” syndrome.

  33. Jareth,

    Those his filmography is increasingly spotty, I think Cage might still be in treasured-weirdo-actor-Walken phase, but working his way towards obnoxious-self-parody-Walken phase. Too many BAD LIEUTENANT quality performances to write him off yet. Right now he’s too good about trying to flesh out his characters and make their weirdness seem appropriate to the role; he needs to do a few more generic films where he’s cast SOLELY so that audience goes “Ha, that’s Nic Cage!” before he reaches the second phase.

  34. Haha, yeah, Samuel L. Jackson has befallen as similar fate of only being cast in the “Samuel L. Jackson” role in every film.

    I know there are other actors who have suffered this fate. I don’t just mean actors who have been typecast, or who have a limited range. I mean actors that are only cast in movies so that the audience goes “Look, it’s ______!” and have become something of a self-parody. Shatner was mentioned. Anyone else?

  35. Jareth Cutestory

    June 4th, 2010 at 8:45 am

    Dan: Kevin Spacey.

  36. I can maybe see that, although you’ve made me realize that I’ve seen very few of Spacey’s movie from the last 7 or 8 years, so I don’t have the same sense yet.

    He’s not a household name, but JK Simmons seems to show up in a lot of small “oh, hey, it’s THAT guy” type roles where’s he’s irascible and foul-mouthed comic relief.

  37. Dan: Sadly, I think Ron Perlman probably qualifies by this point. Dennis Hopper spent plenty of time in that phase too. All those guys are always fun to see, but sometimes they seem to get cast on the expectation that merely seeing them will be enough. Rappers, musicians, and other celebrities with acting aspirations also sometimes end up in same position.

  38. Yeah, it’s funny, I like most of the actors we’ve listed, so it’s nothing against them. More the way various filmmakers have used them as a self-referential prop and not so much as a performer.

    Hopper made me think of Peter Fonda, who has been trotted out as default aging hippie, or ironic “woah, Peter Fonda is the bad guy?!” roles a lot in the past 15 years.

    Also Jane Lynch, who I think is hilarious, shows up in a lot of peripheral crap to do her Jane Lynch schtick and go away.

  39. Stephen Lack later gave a good performance in his cameo as the sculptor in Dead Ringers, so he can’t be THAT bad an actor.

  40. Jareth Cutestory

    June 4th, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Excellent call on Jane Lynch, Dan. She really fell into the trap quick. I mean, I think she’s great and deserves the attention, but, for the love of god, someone get her into a Scorsesse film or something to stretch her range.

  41. I’m a big advocate of PUSH. That is an odd movie in an odd location with some really disturbing imagery (the eyes of the bleeders especially). Plus, Cliff Curtis is in it and he’s an automatic movie improver.

    No, it’s not great, but it is definitely different, it is interesting and I’m glad it got made*.

    No Joe Pesci jokes, please.

  42. Robert Englund gets cast in A LOT of horror movies simply so the audience will perk up for 2 seconds and say “Isn’t that Freddy Krueger?” He’s rarely used in any meaningful way. Poor guy, he’s a good Vincent Price-esque hammy actor.

    And come to think of it, Vincent Price suffered a similar fate.

  43. Englund was used top good effect in that MONSTER HUNTER movie. He got to play a sympathetic character for once, and use his physical comedy skills.

  44. Jareth Cutestory

    June 4th, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    Dan: Vincent Price suffered more than most: his voice was so distinct that impersonators are still used to prolong his agony long after his death. Same thing with Ed Sullivan and Howard Cosell.

  45. Funny you mention THE HOWLING. Unless my memory is faulty, those 2 movies were out at the exact same time, and I went to see them 2 or 3 times each. Man, that was a great era for genre films.

    CJ — there aremelting eyeballs, during the prolonged and gruesome duel at the end.

    What makes that head explosion so horrific is the way his face just flops down onto his chest. There was a guy with a shotgun lying on the floor behind the mannequin — not exactly high-tech. Also, if you freeze-frame it (though I don’t know what kind of sick bastard would do such a thing) you can see the skin stretch right before it pops, giving him a pumpkinhead look for a frame or two.

    Ever notice the major continuity error? Ironside is completely unspattered as he leaves the room. Maybe he used his scanner powers to save on dry-cleaning.

    I’d love to see that heart attack scene. I can easily imagine how a Cronenberg-directed coronary would be as disturbing as you describe. Can’t find it on Youtube.

    Speaking of DUNE, there’s a fan edit that takes the footage from the extended TV edition (which so appalled Lynch that his credit reads “Judas Booth”) and re-integrates it based on the screenplay. The eyes are also fixed in these scenes; I guess they couldn’t be bothered to make those scenes match for the broadcast or even the DVD. Some dude did this on his own time, and it’s been called the best possible version of the film, since Lynch refuses to revisit it and do an official director’s cut. Thanks, crazy fan editor dude!

    I’ve got a friend burning it for me. I’ll let you guys know how it is.

  46. “…remember how like 10 years ago, Christopher Walken was an actor who made you perk up every time he was on screen…”

    I’d say more like 20, Dan. When was his last great performance — KING OF NEW YORK? CATCH ME IF YOU CAN was good work, but it was a supporting role.

  47. Mr Subtlety – from way back! – I’ve not seen any of the films you mention. I’ve seen “Existenz” (hated it, thought it was an utter waste of what should’ve been a great concept – it was shallow, obvious, too many twists, no characters to speak of), “Crash” (bored me silly, I couldn’t get “into” either the characters or the central premise), “The Fly” (didn’t hate it, but also didn’t care enough about either Goldblum or the girl to find it interesting) and “A History of Violence” (this one I liked). There’s probably others that I’ve seen but can’t recall. Maybe I’ve just seen a bad selection of his films. As I said, I’m quite willing for my mind to be changed here.

  48. There are already melting eyeballs? Did I mention it must be almost 20 years since I saw the movie last time? And it was on TV, so it was probably cut (although back then German TV wasn’t that strict with what they showed.) I really have to revisit it soon.

  49. Paul — yeah, youve just seen a selection of his second-tier stuff. ExistenZ is probably his slightest work, CRASH is sort of an abberation, THE FLY is fun but pretty tame. You want to see the ones I suggested, plus his horror period (THE BROOD, RABID, SHIVERS) plus maybe NAKED LUNCH and definitely EASTERN PROMISES. It is possible that his weird vision just doesnt jive with your particular sensebilities, but at least watch VIDEODROME and DEAD RINGERS before you give up on him. Right now, you’re sort of like someone who thinks they don’t like Kubrick after having seen BARRY LYNDON and PATHS OF GLORY. Of course, a number of your complaints were about not identifying with the characters, which might be an issue. Cronenberg isn’t really a characters director, or at least not primarily — its more about ambiance and anxiety. So that might be a sticking point.

  50. I’m still trying to wrap my head around somebody not liking PATHS OF GLORY. I mean I could see someone not liking BARRY LYNDON, which is a particular taste for a particular kind of cinemaphile and technerds. Not agree, but understand. But PATHS?

    Sorry but unless the viewer is French, I have to slightly disagree with you there Mr. S. Besides, Kubrick even at his supposed “best” (2001, Orange, whatever) is himself not the most mainstream accessible filmmaker. Which is why the rest of us like him to a degree.

    Anyway yeah I liked EXISTENZ but it is one of Cronenberg’s lesser-tier filmography entries. I like CRASH but in that same company with SPIDER. I wonder if that time is when Cronenberg just got damn tired of making “David Cronenberg” movies and wanted to do some new shit.

  51. Subtlety and Paul–Don’t forget FAST COMPANY and M. BUTTERFLY–two very different, very interesting films that I’ve always thought are the Cronenberg films most likely to be enjoyed by people who don’t like Cronenberg.

    And THE DEAD ZONE, which does have a supernatural element, but, interestingly, can also be interpreted as largely the story of nice, quiet, unnassuming schoolteacher who seems to goes crazy and tries to assassinate someone–almost like PSYCHIC TAXI DRIVER or something.

    Boy, y’know, sidenote, but, rewatching THE DEAD ZONE recently it’s incredible how well Stephen King and Cronenberg predicted Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and the Tea Party. Watching Greg Stillson raving to his followers at their American flag-kitsch bedecked rallies now seems chillingly familiar….

  52. To me Spider is one of his best. Give it another chance RRA. Great acting from everyone and just such a haunting tone.

  53. Andy C – I think SPIDER is terrific, certainly baffled many critics, but I didn’t to say it was worthless as apparently my post’s tone insisted.

    Just is it as good as VIDEODROME or THE BROOD or A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE or DEAD RINGERS or shit, THE FLY? I would say no.

    Then again I am of the opinion that Cronenberg hasn’t made a bad movie* yet.

    *=Never saw FAST COMPANY.

  54. M BUTTERFLY is the one Cronenberg film that really doesn’t work for me. I couldn’t suspend disbelief, and Irons comes across as a fool. ( He can play a lot of things, but he should never essay a naif — it’s like casting Shatner as a shy virgin shut-in.) Lone is a very good actor who deserves a better career, but DC should have either found a butch actress or a convincing drag queen to play his part. Plus, the tone just never gels.

    “Cronenberg isn’t really a characters director…” If you mean “actor’s director,” I disagree. He’s played midwife to some amazing performances: Goldblum, Irons in RINGERS, Weller in LUNCH…it’s just that you have to be of a certain bent to identify with these types of flawed, intense characters. There’s a reason he’s never cast, say, John Cusack.

  55. Fast Company is good RRA. If you get a chance, check out the 2-disc version from Blue Underground. The second disc has his first short films, Stereo and Crimes Of The Future. Fast Company was also, I believe, his first film with Mark Irwin as the DP. It looks great.

  56. Jareth Cutestory

    June 6th, 2010 at 8:27 am

    Damnit, Frank, now I REALLY want to see Shatner play a shy virgin shut-in. You bastard!

    But seriously, any questions about Cronenberg’s ability to direct actors should have been laid to rest with Viggo’s performance in EASTERN PROMISES. With a more pedestrian director, he would have come across like Mickey Rourke in IRON MAN 2, not the transcendent performance we have now.

  57. RRA — No, PATHS is great. I meant it in the same way you meant SPIDER is a lesser work (I disagree, btw — I think its one of his best). All Kubrick’s films are great, its just that if you see only those two you might not quite get what the big deal is. I feel kinda the same way about the selection of Cronenberg’s films Paul saw.

    Frankbooth — no, I don’t mean he’s not an actor’s director. Some of his films have bad performances, but he can also get great ones. Jeremy Irons in DEAD RINGERS should have won an oscar for each of his roles. You can tell which twin he’s portraying by the way he fucking walks into a room. Its fantastic. You raise some other excellent examples, as well — several Cronenberg actors did career best work with him.

    What I mean is that, while the acting can be very effective and nuanced, Cronenberg doesn’t tend to be particularly interested in merely studying the characters in his films. Instead, most of his films are about ideas and imagery, with the characters merely providing a structure for the things he wants to explore. That’s why some of his films also feature some pretty ambivalent acting without suffering too much.

    If you’re someone who has to like or at least feel like they understand the central characters of a film, Cronenberg just may not quite work for you. Several of his films have affectless, opaque characters at their center, and generally speaking his films tend to be about ideas rather than relationships and character developement. I mean, take James Woods in VIDEODROME. It’s a great performance and even a memorable character, but it doesnt seem like Cronenberg is particularly interested in getting in this guy’s head and asking who he is and what makes him tick. He’s just a guy in a position to get plunged into this weird nightmare. Not a bad thing, and don’t get me wrong, character work is certainly not something he completely ignores, either –its just not quite the center of his interests the way it is for other artists. Actually, since we’re talking about Kubrick anyway, I might say that the two of them sometimes have a similar disinterest in human study — although of course, Cronenberg is practically warm and fuzzy compared to Kubrick. If people find his films listless and uninvolving, I think this is sometimes why. You’ve got to be willing to simply enjoy a peek into his weird, scary imagination — there’s not always going to be traditional human and plot elements to keep you there.

  58. Boston Legal is great and i specially like it because i am a law student:.*

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