Proper fucking Cronenberg, mate.
As Lynch’s TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN seemed a summation of Lynch’s career, so too does CRIMES OF THE FUTURE appear to present Cronenberg returning to the scenes of his crimes. There is VIDEODROME in here, and EXISTENZ, CRASH, NAKED LUNCH, SHIVERS and RABID. Its very contained scenes suggest COSMOPOLIS and its capsule narratives. Indeed, Cronenberg has re-used the title of his own second film from 1970, and in this film Viggo Mortensen wears something reminiscent of the black cloak sported by the lead in Cronenberg’s very first film, STEREO. There’s even some head violence recalling SCANNERS, some reflections on “celebrity” that you could connect to MAPS OF THE STARS, considerations of mutation that echo THE FLY, and surgery and instruments that made me think of the very fine DEAD RINGERS.
I am, of course, probably reading a lot into what is in all likelihood just a nice story that Mr. Cronenberg wanted to tell. But, as a lifelong member of his audience, it carried all kinds of extra resonances for me.
Cronenberg had apparently been working on the script for a great many years. For some, the references may seem a little dated – Orlan, Stelarc, that whole old guard of bodymod pioneer artists. Many of the ideas herein have been in play for decades. But I enjoyed the innovation of the hub of the piece: a man who spontaneously grows rogue organs that he has removed in art performances. An art world celebrity and an accidental celebrity in the shadowy demimonde of body modification, couched within a future world where most people no longer experience physical pain and resist the majority of infections. A man being betrayed by his own body who distrusts the way the world is going. A man presented with the possibility that the path of human evolution is about to irrevocably change. He can collaborate, if he wants. All he and his partner have to do is perform the public post-mortem of a dead eight year old boy who ate a plastic bin.
The performances are generally wonderful: a measured Mortensen, Lea Seydoux as good as ever, Don McKellar and Kristen Stewart giving different flavours of secretive and horny. The blocking on McKellar’s scene with Mortensen was fascinating. Cronenberg hangs the whole thing on what is basically a crime story plot to give it attack and pace. It’s beautifully made, doesn’t drag for an instant, has delicate emotion to it, and leaves you with questions to consider. CRIMES OF THE FUTURE is, for me, a welcome return of Cronenberg the artist. He turns 80 this year, and, if this turns out to be his last major painting, it’s a fine piece to leave us with. Thank you for it.
CRIMES OF THE FUTURE on blu-ray and DVD Jan 31 in the US, right now in the UK, on Prime Video and probably elsewhere