Holes Are Interesting, There Are Books About Holes: Cosmopolis (2012)

I am astounded by the amount of negative feedback mounted agains this, David Cronenberg's most recent filmic offering.  Well...actually I am not entirely astounded, but more so begrudgingly understanding in the derisive attitudes directed towards the piece.  Existing in an ethereal space that is both within the confines of the alienating cinematic stylings made famous by the Canadian auteur, while also managing to deconstruct the very relationship technology and space has to film output, Cosmopolis is far from Cronenberg's most viscerally engaging work.  Beginning and ending with some decidedly upbeat music from composer Howard Shore, one would almost immediately dismiss it as a work by the director whose use of the body as a space of cinematic violence has become a trope of sorts within his career, causing one to immediately compare other works that incorporate such themes and imagery as being always in contention with his, usually superior, offerings.  Suffice it to say, Videodrome, Existenz and many other Cronenberg works proved to be well ahead of their times, the two former pieces proving as, if not more, enigmatic as was the case during their original release.  While I would not go so far as to suggest that this is on par with those two films, I do think people are under-appreciating the winding, if decidedly monotonous styles of this film, which for all intents and purposes is focused on one young man's limo ride through a city.  Yet, Cronenberg who is ever prescient in his cinematic endeavors seems to use this car as a larger metaphor for the individual attachment to society by way of technological detachment.  Existing in a space of the heightened simulacra on a level of starkness compared only to Cronenberg's own work, or perhaps the more jarring work of Lars Von Trier, Cosmopolis constantly demands that the viewer move beyond what is portrayed in the foreground of a scene, to scrape away at the layers of depth within a moving image, at times even needed to dig deeper to find something in the very skin of the film itself.  Cosmopolis is about penetration, both in a literal and metaphorical sense and while it may seem as though Cronenberg is a filmmaker whose movies are primarily for his own enjoyment, it is rather obvious that he expects viewers to engage with the films on a tangible and textual level wherein simple observation bears few results if not absolute indifference, but a focused eye and mind can see something both poignantly disturbing and decidedly prophetic.

Cosmopolis centers on the day of Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) a son of a wealthy mogul, who has had his own success in the stock trade, thus spending much of his time simply cruising about the city and trying to get laid, either by his former fiancee or by many of the various women he encounters.  When told by his security guard that he ought to consider limiting his travels in lieu of an upcoming visit by the president, Eric stubbornly refuses and demands that he be taken across town to receive a haircut.  Along the ride, Eric meets with various acquaintances, whether it be tech gurus like Michael Chin (Philip Nozuka) and Shiner (Jay Baruchel) or people with whom Eric has had past sexual relationships, often re-consummating the relationships as occurs with Didi Fancher (Juliette Binoche) and Kendra Hayes (Patricia McKenzie).  Ultimately, however, Eric seems most intent on recreating a relationship, purely one of sexual means with his ex-fiance Elise Shifrin (Sarah Gadon) who is decidedly uninterested in his advances.  When a local religious leader and spirited social activist dies, a moment of civil unrest arises, all while Eric idly passes the time in his car, drinking, pontificating and at one point even receiving a prostate exam.  Eventually, the constant burden of having to worry about his security guard Torval (Kevin Durand) being extremely cautious with his whereabouts leads to Eric tricking him into deactivating the lock on his gun and killing the guard.  This shift allows Eric to move more freely about the city even enabling to finally get his haircut although it requires the opening of a barber well past business hours, a moment wherein the barber and Eric's driver share in stories of their past days as taxi drivers.  This moment proves to be the last of Eric's encounters, before he finally meets up with Benno Levin (Paul Giamatti) a hermit and hypochondriac that has purportedly spent the entirety of the day trying to kill Eric.  When in his sights, Benno fails to kill Eric, but instead of fleeing Eric climbs the stairs to his apartment and enters into his house, only to be confronted by Benno, the two sharing in a perplexing and winding confrontation before Eric assumedly succumbs to his fate, sitting facing the camera as Benno utters a few words, the screen fading to black before any shot is fired.

I want to reemphasize the way in which this film is seemingly working on a layer below the tangible, wherein, the to use a term in corporeal cinema, the skin of the cinema has been penetrated.  There are moments in Eric's limo where it would seem like the CGI is being executed in a very poor manner, making it quite clear that the outside is different from the interior, I would argue that this is not poor filmmaking, but a directorial choice on the part of Cronenberg to show Eric's movement from complete technology based detachment to the real which moves towards complete attachment to it in the closing moments of the film when the now less certain Eric enters the space of Benno's gross and filthy apartment, complete, no less with a mound of broken computer monitors.  It would seem to be in this bookended nature of the film that Cronenberg is tackling the issues of how a social understanding of the world fueled almost entirely by that which is attainable through social outlets.  The movement in and out of individuals within the space of Eric's vehicle represent the transitory and desultory nature of communication in this age, right down to what appears to be a cinematic recreation of a booty call.  Eric cannot seem to understand the physical barriers confronting his ability to travel the town during the presence of the president, because his world does not exist outside of the car and, therefore, he cannot physically understand such a thing as a barrier, a metaphor that perfectly extends to the seemingly unlimited amount of access he is afforded purely as a result of wealth.  Indeed, he is shown rather early in the film attempting to buy the Rothko Chapel, a space purportedly made for the community, which Eric hopes to possess for himself through financial means.  This acquisition without physically viewing an item takes on yet another layer of online identity as Eric can now consume the world from the comfort of his car computer, never being forced to deal with a grounded understanding of things.  Even events of heightened intensity are dealt with in a detached manner, watching a riot occur from the safety of his walled in car/computer, much as was the case with watching the Occupy Movement or in more violent examples the uprisings in the Middle East.  It is fitting that when he does finally leave his car and computer space it is to get a hair cut an act of physical destruction that leads to the further, assumed physical destruction of his body in the closing moments of the film.  The computer has allowed a person access to pretty much anything they could desire on Maslow's hierarchy of needs, yet the feeling of destruction and, ultimately, death must be felt in the flesh and in the real.

Key Scene:  It should be no surprise that the best scene in this film involves Eric receiving a prostate exam while talking to another woman.  Aside from Robert Pattinson knocking this scene out of the park in acting terms, it also takes on a wonderful layer of metaphor and psychosexual politics.

This is watch instantly on Netflix, however, it is worth obtaining on bluray, the lack of popularity has led to it dropping in price considerably, which both a shame and a benefit to those looking to obtain a copy of the film.

No comments:

Post a Comment