So once again we have survived.

Dead Ringers

tn_deadringersOne type of humor I’m a sucker for is the ol’ pathetic lie joke. For example in that movie KINGPIN Woody Harrelson and Randy Quaid are trying to hustle some guys at a bowling alley and Quaid says he’s gonna lose all his money because he’s “so bombed.” But the bartender knows he hasn’t been drinking and says, “You get that way from ginger ale?”

They’re caught, they’re dead, there’s nowhere to go from there, they should hang up the towel, but they don’t. Woody goes for the pathetic lie.

“Nah, he was sniffing glue in the parking lot.”

mp_deadringersDEAD RINGERS has the same thing. See, one of these two twin gynecologists has kind of gone off the deep end and is convinced all the patients he’s seeing have mutant insides, and he needs to create special tools to work on them, but he knows the surgical tool companies will refuse to make these for him because they’re too radical so he goes to a local metal artist and gets them made, but when he tries to use them in surgery he gets busted and they’re taken as evidence, but then he’s stumbling through the city high one night and he sees that the artist he hired has put duplicates of the tools on display in a gallery so he steals them, and then when he goes over to his lady’s house and passes out she finds the mutant gynecological tools in his bag, so when he wakes up she asks what they are.

“They’re for separating siamese twins,” he says.

‘Cause, you know, you carry tools for that around with you. It could come up. Funny shit.

Well, maybe you had to be there. And it turns out to be kind of true, in a way. Well, I thought it was funny anyway.

In the tradition of THE PARENT TRAP and DOUBLE IMPACT comes Cronenberg’s twin movie. Elliot Mantle (Jeremy Irons) and Bevery Mantle (also Jeremy Irons – whoah, how did they do that?!) are two odd Canadian gynecological geniuses, both with some good traits and some real fuckin perverted terrible ones. We first meet them as socially awkward youths asking a neighborhood girl to have sex in a bath tub because they’re interested in the differences between human and fish mating. Then we see them as college students getting chewed out for using a surgical tool of their own design on a cadaver. Next scene they’re being honored by the school for inventing this important new tool. As grown men they have their own practice working together closely, living together and switching off with each other in various unethical ways.

Now, I have never been to a gynecologist before myself, but in my opinion this is probly not the one I would want to go to. Yes, they are very good at what they do. But also they wear crimson robes like it’s a satanic ritual. And when one of them is examining a famous movie star he starts complimenting her insides and telling her that there should be beauty contests for that. She’s very gracious and cool about it but in my opinion it’s a little over the line. Alot of movie stars don’t even like to be asked for an autograph, let alone have somebody tell them their idea for an inside-the-vagina beauty contest. You gotta know your place, man. At least he didn’t hand her his screenplay, I guess.

At first it seems like Elliot is gonna be “the bad twin,” because he’s a real asshole. He makes the moves on the movie star, gets her in bed, but pretending to be his shy brother. Then he hands her over. But Elliot is also the more responsible one. Beverly is just so damn fragile. He falls in love with this girl and then gets paranoid that she’s cheating on him, and he just turns into a total mess, starts shooting up and shit.

And when he shows up for surgery high out of his mind and expecting the nurses to have no qualms about handing him those mutant tools he made up, that’s some pretty uncomfortable humor there. Luckily he passes out before it gets too Larry David uncomfortable.

In a classic Cronenberg move he purposely deals with aspects of female sexuality that men are intimidated by, and then makes them way weirder with all this mutant business. One thing I noticed, if this helps anybody out, DEAD RINGERS is not the best movie to put on while you eat breakfast, in my opinion. Not that it has any gore or anything. It’s just unpleasant in its ideas.

Jeremy Irons is outstanding and the twin effects are flawless. It’s a wonder he didn’t go on to do a bunch more multiple-role movies like Eddie Murphy or Mike Myers. I guess just because you can play these two characters so well, and somehow make them interact in such a dramatically and psychologically complex way, doesn’t necessarily mean you work good in a fat suit. That might be a totally different skill set, I’m not sure.

This is a great achievement for Cronenberg because it’s a drama, not any kind of a horror movie or a thriller, but it might be his creepiest movie ever. These guys are just so unsettling. They have a seemingly unhealthy attachment with each other that seems to cause total detachment from anybody else. The type of guys you could look them in the eye and they look back at you but you feel like they’re examining your cell structure or something. Or they’re like Neo staring at a bunch of 1s and 0s, they don’t see you as a person to relate to.

And because they don’t care about other people they don’t see anything wrong with tricking them by switching places with each other. It’s cute in THE PARENT TRAP when they fake each other’s accents to meet each other’s parents, it’s a little less cute when a woman is having sex with or sitting in the stirrups for the brother of the guy she thinks she’s with. There are a few times in the movie when at least I was unsure which twin was in the scene, and it made it even more effective. You got a hard enough time dealing with one twin on his own, then you find out they’re playing with you. You don’t even have the comfort of knowing which one you’re uncomfortably dealing with.

But as creepy as the twins are I kind of feel sorry for them too. It’s a tragedy. Spoiler. A real sad movie. It was Cronenberg’s next one after THE FLY. He made a real tragic mainstream sci-fi type of movie and then thought you know what, let’s explore that tone but instead of monsters it’s gynecology. For some reason they didn’t make a sequel to this one like they did THE FLY. But this franchise and licensed property has a big following. I think there’s alot of potential for the rebootening. I hear Sam Worthington looks good in 3-D, maybe they should get him as one or more of the twins.

It’s such a unique movie it’s hard to even know what to compare it to other than MULTIPLICITY, TWINS, and a couple of the Barbarian Brothers pictures. I would not recommend it for rookies. This is a weird fucking movie that I enjoyed much more now than I did when I saw it in the 1980s. Either it was ahead of its time or I was behind mine, or somewhere in between.

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 Monday, June 21st, 2010 at 11:08 am and is filed under Drama, Reviews. 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.

95 Responses to “Dead Ringers”

  1. Best opening titles ever. The music and imagery are perfect together.

  2. I have to say, when I read one of the twins was called Beverly, I thought it meant one of them was a girl, and Iron was in drag for one of the roles. Even though the opening paragraph makes it clear otherwise, I forgot, so was disappointed.

  3. Double Impact, Dead Ringers, Twin Dragons, Twins, Dark Mirror, etc. — the Hollywood machine for clever yet on the nose titles is astoundingly prolific.

    I don’t have much to add to the review. It’s the kind of approach to Cronenberg I appreciate, especially when everyone else I read is trying to take an uberintellectual stance about identity and man’s search for meaning and whatever. Dead Ringers reminds me of Brian de Palma’s “Sisters” (You should check it out streaming on NetFlix.) on a good day, but most of the time, though I love Cronenberg and respect this film, I’d rather let this one sit in that corner of my memory that doesn’t get many visitors.

  4. This movie actually does have a spiritual twin: Peter Greenaway’s A ZED AND TWO NOUGHTS, which actually came a few years earlier. It’s little seen but excellent. The premise is somewhat similar: the wives of these creepy twin zoologists are killed in the same car crash, which leaves the female driver alive sans a leg. The brothers gradually get creepier, becoming obsessed with decomposition, the legless woman, and each other. They’re also obsessed with symmetry, if I recall correctly they end up amputating the woman’s other leg for the sake of uniformity. Anyway I won’t spoil the ending but their obsession with decay leads to a conclusion similar to DEAD RINGERS. So the story draws a few comparisons to DEAD RINGERS, but what makes the movie a definite spiritual twin in my mind is the cold, clinical tone of everything. As a bonus the movie features one of my favorite Michael Nyman scores, which sounds like an embryonic version of the REQUIEM FOR A DREAM score, only a bit subtler. Check it out if you can track it down.

    On an unrelated note I remember reading somewhere that DEAD RINGERS was gonna be called TWINS until the Schwarzenegger/Devito vehicle came out. Since it was the same year I think Cronenberg shoulda kept the original title, how delightfully subversive would it have been to have people go see the disturbing gynecology movie by mistake?

  5. Well, Cronenberg learned from the “Twins” debacle and made a movie called “Crash”, in which accident victims fuck each others leg wounds, 10 years before the Oscar winning racism drama by the same title came out. I can imagine how it caused some confusion among those people who probably wanted to check it out on DVD. ;)

  6. Jareth Cutestory

    June 21st, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Gwai Lo: Interestingly, if Irons’ characters undergo a necessary rupture in DEAD RINGERS, the twins in A ZED & TWO NAUGHTS go in the opposite direction.

    Also, Greenaway’s film involves a woman who fucks a zebra.

  7. I forgot all about the zebra fucking and now I’m wondering how.

  8. Jareth Cutestory

    June 21st, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Probably because it’s off-camera.

    Sorry to disappoint anyone who contributed to the YES side of the debate in the talkback for that ZOO film (aka HORSEFUCKER).

    But seriously, Gwai Lo, if you’re a fan of Greenaway you’ve probably already seen DROWNING BY NUMBERS. If not, I can’t recommend it enough.

  9. That talkback haunts my nightmares.

    (Get it?)

  10. I actually haven’t, I’ve only seen this (which was shown to be in film studies class several years ago) and REMBRANDT’S J’ACCUSE, in which Greenaway lectures us all for being visually illiterate and then proceeds through a brilliant deconstruction of Rembrandt’s “Nightwatching” under the premise of the painting itself being a real life murder mystery. I haven’t seen the narrative version he made with the same concept, also called NIGHTWATCHING. I should watch more of Greenaway’s stuff because he’s one smart cookie, and I like his philosophy of his films being more like paintings than traditional narrative cinema. A ZED AND TWO NOUGHTS, for instance, is apparently loaded with visual references to Vermeer, or at least that’s what my ecstatic film studies prof had me believe back in the day.

  11. shown to *me

  12. Val Kilmer's Elbow

    June 21st, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Fun fact: The dude who makes the Mutant Instruments is Steven Lack, the boring protagonist from SCANNERS. Perhaps he read Beverly’s mind and knew he was going to do a great service for his Mutant Woman clientele.

    On the subject of Greenaway, I’m waiting for the day Vern views THE BABY OF MACON and has his mind blown through the back of the theater (or his living room).

  13. Talking about Greenaway, I never saw one of his movies (I seriously have to, one day.), but I read some of his interviews and holy shit, this guy must be the most arrogant prick this side of von Trier and Haneke!

  14. Holy shit, I just found that ZOO talkback to see what you guys were talking about and even at a quick glance I can tell that some genuine horsefuckers showed up.

    “the difference between animals and children is simply this: It is legal in our society to kill animals – not children – for food (obviously). I believe animals can consent (if the horse doesn’t like it they simply kick you into orbit, for example)” – Equinas

    Ye gods, man!

  15. Jareth Cutestory

    June 21st, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    CJ Holden: Greenaway can be come across as a royal prick in interviews. Even when I agree with him, like when he said that Scorsese has done nothing but endlessly re-make the narrative structure of BIRTH OF A NATION, I always wonder why he has to express himself like a snob. But he’s redeemed a bit by being merciless in his critique of the corporate corruption of art, and by having great optimism about the potential of the visual arts.

    His best films have a wicked sense of humor. They’re rigorously intellectual, but they can also be quite bawdy and crude.

    Gwai Lo: Heed Majestyk’s warning: the ZOO talkback will unbridle your deepest fears.

  16. It will run roughshod over your inhibitions and saddle you with anxieties for years.

  17. Heh, unbridle. They’ve already been thoroughly unbridled I think. I now know that horse semen tastes like hay. JACKASS NUMBER TWO’s clip of Party Boy is drinking horse jizz is now playing in my mental theater on loop. After I had already worked so hard to get that image outta there.

  18. Jareth Cutestory

    June 21st, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Majestyk, you’re a rare breed who can be saddled with no markings of mediocrity.

  19. First time I saw this movie was in college, when a friend of mine (who was already a Cronenberg nut) actually got about 12 or 15 people together to watch this movie on the big screen in one of the community center areas. He was the only one who had seen it, and I have no idea how he got so many people to check it out.

    And when it was over, the credits rolled and everyone was just like “woooah” and we all went outside and smoked cigarettes. I’ll never forget that awesomely uncomfortable silence when it ended, a roomful of people trying to wrap their brains around what they just saw.

  20. Some thoughts on DEAD RINGERS:

    -One of the saddest movies ever made. A story about somebody who spends their entire life in a horrendously dysfunctional family, always in someone else’s shadow, who is literally never allowed to be themselves or have their own identity. Even in death, Beverley can’t escape his brother’s shadow–literally.

    -Howard Shore’s amazing score actually, if you listen carefully, contains some themes that he used again in LORD OF THE RINGS. The opening and closing music is sort’ve an early version of the “Grey Havens” music that concludes “Return Of The King”.

    -The film credits a novel called “Twins” but it actually seems to be mostly adapted from an article by Susan Edmiston and Ron Rosenbaum, “Dead Ringers”, that’s in Rosenbaum’s book “The Secret Parts Of Fortune”. For fans of the film it’s worth reading, not only to see how much was taken from the real story of Cyril and Stewart Marcus but for what they left out (for instance, one of the brothers had actually moved to a different city and briefly gotten married, then got divorced and came back to live with his brother again).

    -It’s a mercilessly accurate portrait of a certain kind of Ivy Leaguer: the nerdy child genius who accquires some degree of respect and authority through their academic and professional acheivements but who never really stops being that insecure geeky kid deep inside. And who occasionally come to a very bad end, who flame out in some kind of lurid, horrific scandal (usually involving drugs, mental illness and / or murder-suicides) when, after forty or fifty years of repressing everything and trying to please everybody, they finally lose it.

    -How sick is Jill Hennessey and her real-life sister as the identical-twin call girls? Why would he want that? What is that implying about Elliot? That always upset me maybe more then almost anything else in the film.

    -Did I mention it’s really sad?

  21. It is sad. It’s almost unbearable at times. That one shot of Beverly shaving – excuse me, *desperately trying* to shave – gets me every time. That’s the human condition, right there. We’re all complete trainwrecks, struggling so hard to maintain even the tiniest shred of illusion that we have our shit together. We’re all just trying to scrape that safety razor over our stubble once, just fucking ONCE, without slicing our face to ribbons, so other people will think our normal. Please, god, don’t let this chick know how fucked I am. Just let me shave myself properly, that’s all I ask.

    No? Just me?

  22. Jareth Cutestory

    June 21st, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    Daniel Strange: And the more you hear about Cronenberg’s intentions, the sadder it gets. For example, he muses aloud on the commentary track for the Criterion version that he has done extensive research on twins who are separated at birth but lead frighteningly similar lives despite having no knowledge of one another, even down to marrying women with the same name, appearance, et cetera. Cronenberg says that it is difficult to not ask yourself after such research if perhaps we use the idea of free will as a necessary illusion when in fact every decision in our lives has been pre-determined by our biology.

    And when the funniest scene in the movie involves a deranged Beverly blaming a patient for having organs that are too imperfect for him to use his grotesque surgical tool on, you know you’re watching some scary stuff.

  23. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this , but I remember the incredible performance by Mr. Irons , the crushing sadness of the movie and the fact that maybe , like Vern pointed out , the movie was a little ahead of its time for me. But it’s one of those movies that I find myself talking about from time to time , especially when the argument that “Cronenberg is a better director now without all that Horror crap!” pops up. This is not an Horror movie , it’s a well made and incredibly acted Drama , and the only horror/fantasy element I can think of are the tools . Same thing with Crash , it’s been a while , but I don’t remember any Horror elements in that one . Both movies are disturbing , but not for the shock value , instead it’s the ideas , the mood that makes you feel uncomfortable . I need to re-watch these movies.

  24. The thing that I remember from that horse-movie review was Vern welcoming the animal-lovers with something like “Welcome horse-fuckers , wash your hands before touching anything “!

  25. Jareth Cutestory

    June 21st, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    Kermit: There’s a dream sequence in DEAD RINGERS that is a bit gory. Not the kind of thing you’d find in your average Merchant Ivory production.

    It took years for Cronenberg to get the film made, and he claimed that the inability to classify the film was a major obstacle for investors.

    If I remember correctly, at some point in the Horsefucker talkback some poor soul says, “God, how can I UNREAD this?”

  26. caruso_stalker217

    June 21st, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Hmm. I forgot how interesting that ZOO talkback was.

  27. “BUT I WANTED ICE CREAM!”

    Yep, a brilliantly-acted film with a magnetic story to it that I most likely will never see again as long as I live. I caught this one on VHS back in the ’90s (part of a long weekend with TETSUO and THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE AND HER LOVER….I was deep in the midst of my “I want to watch something artsy that will make my skin crawl” phase) and long before the botched surgery part came up, which may have been the first movie scene to ever make me shiver in revulsion, I said aloud to the screen when Beverly was doing something or another, “keep this man away from my vagina!” Cronenberg is the last filmmaker I would ever have predicted would make me happy to have a cock, but, there you go.

  28. Oh god, “BUT I WANTED ICE CREAM” is another heartbreaking moment. Christ, Irons slays me in this movie.

  29. I’m surprised nobody has mentioned yet how Irons some years after RINGERS thanked Cronenberg when he won his Oscar, which got only scattering applause because those Hollywood bigwigs probably either didn’t know (or care) who that guy was, or wondered why Irons cited that crazy guy who made VIDEODROME.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsXFl6IKpyI

    Which really shows what an awesome guy Irons is. Instead of thanking his agent or lawyer like everybody else does, he gives a shout out to a guy who wasn’t exactly respected at the time. Irons really is proud of RINGERS, and I think he even did a commentary track for it once didn’t he?

  30. Jareth Cutestory

    June 21st, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    The Criterion commentary track splices together interview tracks from a few participants, one of which is Irons. He’s really easygoing about what he accomplished in the film, saying that playing two roles isn’t all that unusual for someone in the Royal Shakespeare Company, who often played more than one character in any given production, as well as shifting from one play to another on a daily basis. But yeah, I think he’s proud of it, despite his modesty.

    He also seems to find the film much more humorous than Daniel (above).

    When he won his Oscar, I think it was pretty obvious to everyone that it was a catch-up award for DEAD RINGERS. Considering that Irons refers to his performances (plural) in the film, in a better world he would have been nominated for both actor (Beverly) and supporting actor (Elliot). And he would have won both.

  31. Jareth Cutestory

    June 21st, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    Also in the commentary, Cronenberg mentions that he sent his script to numerous big name Hollywood actors to play the twin leads, all of whom rejected it outright. He is too polite to mention any names. For the life of me, I can’t think of another actor who could play the parts.

    Also, not surprisingly, he mentions that there was a lot of pressure to change the profession of the twins to lawyers or dentists.

  32. What , they wanted to change the profession to lawyers !? That’s tipical , sad and ridiculous . Don’t we have enough TV or Movies lawyers ? What’s wrong with these guys?

    MattmanBegins : Oh yes , I can see some parallels and similarities between Dead Ringers and Tetsuo ( You’re talking about the firts one , right?).

    Gwai Lo : Thanks for mentioning A ZED AND TWO NOUGHTS , that seems interesting !

  33. Great film, but I haven’t seen it in ages. Must rectify that.

  34. “One thing I noticed, if this helps anybody out, DEAD RINGERS is not the best movie to put on while you eat breakfast, in my opinion.”

    This reminded me of a friend of a friend who took a girl to see IRREVERSIBLE on their first date. She walked out after 20minutes and he never saw her again.

  35. Yeah, there are two DVDs out there–the Criterion one, which has the group commentary, and another one which has a Jeremy Irons solo commentary. (I’m not some Dead Ringers fanatic–my local library just has both editions! : )

    And I think they do mention some of the actors who turned it down somewhere. I know somewhere Cronenberg admitted they gave it too Robert De Niro, and I think William Hurt was another actor who passed on it. And yeah, people said they should change them to lawyers. Lawyers….Unbelievable….

    Oh, and Howard Shore’s great score is actually available on DVD now along with the complete score for Scanners and part of The Brood–it’s on an album called “Music From The Films Of David Cronenberg”, from Silva Screen.

  36. Jareth Cutestory

    June 22nd, 2010 at 6:30 am

    I guess it makes sense that William Hurt would be a candidate; he was really big at the time. But he’s so pedestrian a choice. And Willem Dafoe would be too obviously weird looking. Both actors could technically perform the roles, but I think only Irons could inhabit them completely.

    Of course, there’s always Cage.

  37. Yeah, too bad that Cage and Cronenberg have never worked together. (Damn you, who- or whatever prevented “Painkillers” from being made!)

  38. Don’t worry. At the rate Cage is going, he’ll have worked with every living filmmaker by 2018.

  39. I have read the script for “Painkillers”…it is fucked up beyond belief. You thought Crash was weird? This makes “Crash” look like, well, the other “Crash”.

  40. It’s funny that Scorsese is so artistically unimpeachable that the worst thing you can say about him is “Well, he still makes movies like DW Griffith.”

    Yeah, that’s probably true…and, if that’s a negative, I guess it’s one way in which Scorsese is inferior to Peter Greenaway…and also Max Hardcore and the guys who make bukkake videos…and, pretty much any idiot you hand a camera to.

  41. This movie scares the shit out of me. The Jeremy Iron Boys did an amazing job in this one.

  42. Jareth Cutestory

    June 22nd, 2010 at 9:01 am

    Majestyk:

    To my mind, the most obviously suitable directors to work with Cage are:

    – Todd Haynes
    – Michael Haneke
    – Alexander Payne
    – Takashi Miike

    Probably completely unsuitable directors:

    – Wes Anderson
    – Soderbergh
    – Malick
    – Wong Kar-wai
    – Pedro Almodovar

    Possible greatness, possible disaster:

    – Verhoeven
    – von Trier
    – Jodorowsky
    – Tarantino (I’m not counting that GRINDHOUSE trailer)
    – Gilliam
    – Cronenberg
    – Wachowskis
    – Fincher

  43. I think Cage would be good for Anderson. Loosen him up. It would be like when Gene Hackman gave the best performance in TENENBAUMS simply by refusing to act in the same dead-eyed manner in which everyone else in the movie had been instructed to act.

  44. Jareth Cutestory

    June 22nd, 2010 at 10:41 am

    At the very least, we’d probably get to see Cage act with Bill Murray.

    And you’re right about Hackman; he was great in that film.

  45. Speaking of Anderson, I think he ought to direct a BL: POCNO style sequel to DEAD RINGERS. Same setup, different actors (maybe even Cage, although he’s already played twins). Except this time, its an adorable oh-so-precious quirkfest with a touch of melancholy set to folk rock. Isn’t it cute that you’re powerless to stop your life from sliding into madness, addiction, and death?

    You kids get off my lawn.

  46. It might work. As we all know, all of Anderson’s films are about coming to terms with the limits of precociousness, so this will fit right in. Cage & Cage could be OBGYNs who have lost the magic that once made them the rock stars of the gynecological world (oh, the fun the production designer will have with the magazine covers!). They wile away their days in their immaculate diorama dollhouse, exchanging non-sequiturs with conjoined triplets played by the Wilson brothers. Only Gwyneth Paltrow’s perfect, Nico-soundtracked vagina can inspire them to reclaim some of their past glory, even if it drives them apart somewhere around the end of the second act. A slow-mo group shot set to Lou Reed’s “Beautiful Day” will provide some sense of closure that the screenplay cannot.

  47. I obviously meant “Perfect Day.” Because it’s ironic.

  48. Jareth Cutestory

    June 22nd, 2010 at 11:18 am

    I may be wrong, but I’m just not feeling much love for Wes Anderson coming
    from you, Majestyk.

    Also, in my other life, where I have a job and bills to pay, I now routinely mis-spell the word “majestic,” “site” and “probably,” thanks entirely to this web sight.

    On the plus side, I never have to look up the spelling of “subtlety,” a word I always used to get wrong.

  49. Eh, I got no major beef with Anderson. He just has a bag of tricks that is easily recognizable and thus mockable. I like most of his movies (a few of them a lot) but his schtick gets a little bit more empty and disposable every time out, to the point where I actively disliked THE DARJEELING LIMITED. I haven’t seen the fox movie though, so maybe he’s cleaned up his act.

  50. Jareth Cutestory

    June 22nd, 2010 at 11:57 am

    I don’t mind a lot of the visual quirks that identify a film as Anderson’s, but I can’t disagree with you that they constitute a bag of tricks as opposed to a mature style.

    I’m pretty lukewarm on all of them. Your point upthread about the musical cues filling in for real script resolution is probably what bothers me the most about him. Too many shortcuts.

    I actually like THE DARJEELING LIMITED more than the other two of his I’ve seen, RUSHMORE and the TENNEBAUMS. But I was left wondering: was the Schwartzman character supposed to be a collasal douche at the beginning of the film, or is this Anderson’s idea of cool? (By “beginning” I guess I mean that short film that was played as a “prologue.” The one where Natalie Portman was naked for no reason I could fathom).

  51. Majestyk, you should check out THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX, because you seem to share the exact same feelings for Anderson that I do (especially THE DARJEELING LIMITED), but I liked that fox and his fantasticness. I think the animation style was actually a really good fit for Anderson’s tendency to art direct the life out of his performers, almost like he’s been looking for humans to be as malleable as clay this whole time that he eventually just gave up and used actual clay. Apparently the animators were at wit’s end with him, but that’s OK, we don’t see that on screen.

  52. ” I slave over the hot snatches and Elliot makes the speeches!”

  53. Personally, I thought FANTASTIC MR. FOX was probably his most enjoyable movie. A sophisticated, well-crafted

    Besides, what good filmmaker can’t be easily recognized and mockable? DePalma the thief, Tarantino the pop culture reference whore/too talky, Spielberg the sentimentalist pussy, Greengrass the shakeycamolic, Scott the last Russell Crowe fan on Earth, Burton the guy who jerks off on his own production design (poor assistants have to clean out the cum stains), and so forth.

    I mean remember HIGH ANXIETY? OK a forgettable Mel Brooks comedy, but the jokes come from movie nerds getting the references to Hitchcock’s movies, not for those who hated his movies or something. Or SNL in the 1980s when they had a mock trailer ala THE BIRDS, except its Brian DePalma’s THE CLAMS.

    Or is Wes’s madness too calculated for you?

  54. Opps, my first paragraph was supposed to end: “A sophisticated, well-crafted movie aimed at kids, but which adults maybe will enjoy much more. Like the lightweight, not-melancholic alternative to WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. I guess.”

    Gwai Lo – I wonder if the stop-motion animation gave Wes a new output, but because lets admit something even several Wes fans were musing at the time: His two previous movies felt like he was spinning his wheels, not growing or branching out just jerking off to the same porno video. Movies I liked mind you, but not as inferesting (or relevant) as RUSHMORE or BOTTLE ROCKET or whatever. So I suppose FOX gave him an outlet to which to try new shit out which you can do with animation but not live-action, and have fun.

    And it shows. The cast chemistry is as good in an American animated movie as you can get outside of Pixar. That whole GREAT ESCAPE/Spagetti western action climax, that whole sequence in Bill Murray the Badger Lawyer’s Office, that rat’s last scene….it deserved its Oscar nod.

  55. RRA – exactly. I was a great appreciator of RUSHMORE and THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS (I’m actually not crazy about BOTTLE ROCKET, but I won’t get into it), but I was tiring of the schtick a little bit when STEVE ZISSOU came out. By the time THE DARJEELING LIMITED rolled around, Anderson’s whole style felt as rote as Majestyk makes it sound in that post of his. Just add water to what Majestyk typed, there’s your Wes Anderson movie. I think I actually scoffed in the theater when those mopey brothers started literally shedding their baggage. But THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX, I think, forced Anderson to at least shake things up a bit. The style is still unmistakably his, but there’s a sense of fun to the story that can’t solely be from the children’s lit source material.

  56. RRA: Oh, definitely. There’s nothing wrong with having an identifiable style and themes that you return to again and again. I could write you a De Palma pastiche within two minutes that would lay waste to his entire oeuvre, but that wouldn’t mean that I don’t love him. I think Anderson’s bag of tricks just irks me a little because it’s predicated on a sense of whimsy, yet it’s so utterly (wait for it) calculated. By the fourth time you’ve seen him use an upbeat but melancholy song in place of character development, you start to feel had. Maybe it’s an inevitable dwindling of returns. Maybe there’s no way to keep the freshness of RUSHMORE going after everyone has seen the puppetmaster pulling the strings, except going out and getting some actual puppets.

  57. Jareth Cutestory

    June 22nd, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    I’d like to acknowledge Stuntcock Mike’s extraordinary effort to get the thread back on topic.

  58. I found FOX to be the most annoying of all his films. It just wants to be cute and quirky so damn bad, and in doing so completey defangs Dahl’s rather cutting, witty, and fun book. The animation in particular seemed so saccharine to me, emulating an old style which Anderson finds cute rather than using the animation to do things you couldnt do with live action (and, to my mind, making any “exciting” sequence feel very safe and cute). I’ll decide what’s cute you bastard, quit ramming it down my throat.

    Actually, the moments of FOX that did work for me are the dramatic ones, where no one’s trying to much around with all that fake cloying crap. Specifically, the scene where Fox apologizes to his wife in front of the waterfall actually had some emotional impact.

  59. Screw staying on topic. Let’s get back to horsefuckery. I read that whole ZOO talkback and I can’t believe everyone kept going back to the pedophilia argument instead of drawing comparisons to necrophilia (the “victim” doesn’t mind, but boy is it still wrong!)

  60. I personally thought the whole argument should have ended with Vern’s declaration that “You don’t fuck what you eat.” Words to live by.

  61. I dunno. I eat pussy.

  62. Damn you, Gwai Lo, and your filthy, filthy logic!

  63. I never thought that I would ever laugh so hard at “I eat pussy”.

  64. If you were a Mantle you could probably put together an argument against that logic. “Pussies aren’t for eating, they’re for experiments with exotic and bizarre instruments”

  65. Who eats horses, by the way? I mean I know some people do, but blecch. This is coming from a guy who’s eaten alligator, frog, snake, and has a hankering to try kangaroo.

  66. Jareth, in the words of Equinas, “I tried”**stomps foot twice**

  67. I wonder if Flounder had his way with that poor horse in Animal House.

  68. Horse meatballs (Pferdeklopse) are not unpopular here in Germany.

  69. That’s interesting, CJ… I always thought that in most cases horse was the type of meat that one resorts to when separated from civilization by a blizzard or something. But if they’re serving it at the local schnitzel house that’s another thing altogether.

  70. Jareth Cutestory

    June 22nd, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    That’s how I feel about watching Tony Scott movies: I’ll only watch them when separated from civilization by a blizzard or something. And I still feel guilty afterward.

  71. Hey now, I hope you’re not saying anything bad about True Romance or The Last Boy Scout. I am by nature a peaceful man, but…

  72. Jareth Cutestory

    June 22nd, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    I know, I know, I’m that one humorless bastard who doesn’t like TRUE ROMANCE. Consider it a birth defect.

  73. Actually I consider TRUE ROMANCE to be a pretty amatuerish effort, too. A few fun ideas and good conversations, but the plot is patchy and the tone wanders all over the place. Scott’s spastic testosterone isn’t a great match for Tarantino’s cutesy talky side, IMHO. But its been awhile since i saw it, maybe I’d like it better now.

  74. caruso_stalker217

    June 22nd, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    That Walken/Hopper scene is tops, though.

  75. Gwai Lo: If you try some kangaroo make sure it’s stewed, marinated or prepared in such a way that will compensate for the fact that it has barely any fat on it. When we Australians cook meat our first impulse is to slap it on a BBQ, and that’s not something you can do with many native animals (kangaroos, wombats, emus) which are generally super, super lean. Kangaroo is pretty tasty though.

  76. Oh, also films films bullshit Wes Anderson etc

  77. hey CC is there anywhere one can read the Painkillers script online? if not then where did you read it?

    anyway I watched Dead Ringers in 2008, it creeped me out pretty damn good

    excellent score also (the main theme is now playing in my head)

  78. Anyone ever try dog or chimp? How about dolphin?

    “When he won his Oscar, I think it was pretty obvious to everyone that it was a catch-up award for DEAD RINGERS. ”

    That would be a good discussion topic. Awards/nominations that were really make-ups for neglected previous roles. Like when Hopper got nominated for hoosiers instead of you-know-what.

    Back on topic: I haven’t seen DR in years. Was going through all of DC’s films chronologically, and took a break around THE FLY. (He can wear you out.) Gotta get back to that.

    Got a good CRASH story, but it can wait.

  79. Dark, tangy meat, bit like rabbit (but in fairness, was heavily spiced, and the guy who sold it was vague as to it’s origins). Dunno’ about chimp.

  80. speaking of Crash, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen that one, I need to watch it again

    any word of a blu ray release? (leg wound fucking in HD!)

  81. Blue whale? Centipede? Irish infant?

  82. Jareth Cutestory

    June 23rd, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    frankbooth: Vern’s reviews are peppered with speculation about actors who are rewarded after-the-fact, like Forest Whitaker for GHOST DOG.

    Even more cool, from time to time Vern will cite examples where an award is given to an actor in anticipation of future greatness.

    Also, it is my personal belief that every award Sean Penn receives is actually for Spicoli.

  83. I was devastated by Dead Ringers the first time I saw it. I had to go to the theatre bathroom for a little cry and to gather myself after it was over. I smoked a little something before the movie, expecting wacky splatter along the lines of Videodrome or The Fly and instead got a big dose of despair. Actually Cronenberg has been a source of dread and angst my whole life. When I was a kid, there was a story on the controversy surrounding his release of The Brood, accompanied by a picture of a frozen girl in a fridge, that was burned in my brain. Didn’t help that the cover of the mag had the scene of all the dead bodies from the Jonestown Massacre. My parents talked about how much The Brood scared my Mom and I was totally intrigued by Cronenberg. Not long after, I found a movie tie-in book of The Brood in the basement of my church after Sunday School and stole it. I didn’t get to see any Cronenberg until I was about 13 and Shivers played one late night on CBC, the national broadcast station.

  84. That image was actually from Rabid, not The Brood. It’s such a good cover, yet that image is barely part of the movie at all. You’re expecting all these creepy frozen corpses but instead you get vampiric armpit beaks.

    Good movie, though. I’m a sucker for those funky Canadian malls Cronenberg always had in his early flicks.

  85. Frankbooth: Dog. I’ll reserve my culinary review of delicious baby for another post! Mmmm…

  86. Apparently Cronenberg is attached to direct an adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s AS SHE CLIMBED ACROSS THE TABLE. Haven’t read it, but reading the plot summary it seems Cronenbergy enough, though severely lacking in flying penis monsters etc.

  87. Jareth Cutestory

    June 23rd, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Majestyk: Cronenberg seems to eschew establishing shots, but finds the coolest interiors that even Torontonians don’t know about, which isn’t easy considering how many films get shot up here. Sadly, all of his weird malls have been refurbished numerous times since those films were made.

    For five years I lived one block away from the street where the scene in DEAD RINGERS that shows the twins as young boys was shot. The street looks the same now as it did then, which is no different from the 1950s, when the scene was set.

    The DEAD RINGERS street is two blocks away from where the riot scenes in the first POLICE ACADEMY movie were shot, which is also where scenes from THINGS TO DO IN DENVER WHEN YOU’RE DEAD were shot.

    Toronto is kind of a hilarious city if you walk through it in a genre film state of mind. The parking lot where the KICK ASS kid got his ass kicked is just behind the street where the car chase in UNDERCOVER BROTHER took place, which is a few blocks away from our city hall, which was blown up in one of the RESIDENT EVIL movies. Across the street from that, an action sequence in THE TUXEDO was shot.

    At the public forum session of a city hall meeting years ago, some joker requested that the city fund a plaque to be placed where much of DEATH TO SMOOCHY was filmed. A city councilor replied, “You mean like those plaques that commemorate tragedies?”

  88. Great story, Stefaneechi. There’s a fair amount of despair in THE FLY as well, though I suppose the genre tropes and rubber puppets make it a little easier to blow off.

  89. frankbooth — you know, I hadn’t thought much about it but there’s a real theme of inevitability that runs through Cronenberg’s films of this period. VIDEODROME, DEAD ZONE, THE FLY, DEAD RINGERS, and NAKED LUNCH all feature protagonists who fail to resist, or even understand, the forces which are inevitably pulling them into oblivion. They have some dim view that circumstances are lining up to crush them, but ultimately can’t fight the slide into darkness. Seen in that light, DEAD ZONE is the only film which really suggests that free will has any part to play in what our fate ends up being. Weirdly, after NAKED LUNCH that theme seems to disappear from his work more or less.

  90. Jareth Cutestory

    June 24th, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    Mr. Subtlety: In the Criterion commentary, Cronenberg uses the phrase “doomed” repeatedly to describe the twins. It seems clear that he never envisioned a moment where they could “save” themselves.

    Also, I’d argue that the protagonist in SPIDER is just as “doomed” as the twins.

  91. Jareth — Point A: yeah, that’s pretty much my assumption too (sorry if that wasn’t clear). With the exception of DEAD ZONE, it seems to me like all the protagonists in those films I mentioned were basically doomed; they may look like they put up a fight (or not) but they never really had a chance either way. The twins are almost the most accepting of the fact that they have no control over their fate — I mean, people keep telling them they don’t have to do this, but they just assert that they do. Which is perhaps the most explicit statement along these lines in Cronenberg’s canon.

    Point B: I made a distinction for SPIDER because if I recall correctly, the film is mostly about the past. But I guess you could argue that his inability to correctly disinter past from present makes his actions inevitable… OK you got me there. SPIDER probably counts. The thing is that there’s also an element to most of those films about the slippery nature of reality. If your reality is out of your control, then so is your destiny. SPIDER seems to be heavier on the former than the latter, although I suppose NAKED LUNCH is about the same.

  92. Jareth Cutestory

    June 24th, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    I think it is entirely possible that the twins are the characters who are most accepting of their fate because they are the most informed about biology. I don’t know how strictly Cronenberg adheres to the idea of biological determinism, but I think it’s safe to say that biology is a huge if not entirely insurmountable factor in the lives of his characters, as you demonstrated.

    Poor Ralph Feinnes wasn’t so well informed, and his struggle seems to stem from this failure of comprehension. I always figured that the timelessness that Cronenberg employs so rigorously in SPIDER was meant to communicate the kind of biological coffin that Feinnes’ character inhabits: his childhood trauma has almost completely arrested his psychological development. This, of course, assumes that Cronenberg makes no distinction between the mind and the body (probably a safe bet).

    I wonder to what extent Cronenberg would place “reality” and one’s ability to control it under the domain of the biological.

  93. Thanks bud, I was just checking out websights looking for some commenting and I ran into your comment. I was really blown away by the content and data included in the sentences you wrote. You really know your shit when it comes to the particular type of shit that you were writing about in that comment. I would say what the topic was specifically but of course you and I both know what it was and it would be silly to speak of it in anything but general terms. Also there might be somebody watching. I will read your comment again!!! Thanks my friend! I won’t even say what your screen name is on account of our familiarity with each other, it is a sign of mutual respect! this is not spam!

  94. The weirst thing about this movie? It’s based on a true story. Though there’s many dramatic license and fictional stuff in the movie, it’s based on an unsetting case of two canadian gynecologists who were twins, who had been disbarred from the medical profession, got addicted to drugs and were found dead in their apartment. That stuff sparked Cronenberg’s imagination, and the rest is movie history.

    He did had a lot of trouble putting the movie together, studios in hollywood really were uncorfortable with the idea of the twins being gynecologist,s they wanted them to be lawyers or such “relatable” profession. Because lawyers are such loved professionals, like astronauts.

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