Crimes Of The Future Review

crimes of the future
crimes of the future
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In May, when presented in Cannes, Crimes Of The Future witnessed a constant stream of walk-outs but also received a six-minute standing ovation. There is no doubt that David Cronenberg’s latest would be divisive even in the capricious hysteria of Cannes. No one should watch this movie while eating a hot dog or – God forbid – a burrito: it contains slurpy autopsies and opulent wound-licking, but what did those who left expect from Cannes? Protesting against Cronenberg for being transgressive is like complaining about too many explodo-booms in Michael Bay films. He is provocative.

This is his first horror film since eXistenZ (1999), and it has been called something of a comeback; however, he never really left the genre behind. His first novel Consumed came out in 2014, which was full of cannibals and flesh-nesting insects. Besides, Crimes Of The Future was originally slated for release in 2006 under the title ‘Painkiller’, starring Ralph Fiennes – so why did he decide to bring it back?

Crimes Of The Future has much on its plate. Now aged 79, Cronenberg’s movie asks questions not only about death but also about humanity’s destiny. Evolution is the lifeblood of all body-horror films by David Cronenberg starting with mutant psychics from Scanners up to metamorphoses depicted in The Fly. In his very latest work though, named Crimes Of The Future, he takes this idea to nihilistic heights never seen before. Chronologically situated within an impoverished and polluted techno-dystopia where individuals have grown into insensitive species that are neither affected by pain nor capable of feeling any emotions whatsoever let alone contracting diseases due to their immunity towards trauma induced disorders caused by environmental factors – except maybe Saul Tenser played by Viggo Mortensen who acts as Performance Artist suffering from multiple non-communicable tumours located in non-functional body organs such as lungs, intestines etc., which get tattooed and removed by his partner (Lea Seydoux) before an audience consisting mainly of sexually aroused onlookers. Only Cronenberg would make something so outrageous look wickedly corrupt: live dissections resemble orgy scene in ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ mashed up with a Toby Carvery, they seem both unfamiliar and strangely recognisable at once – it is rebellious erotica akin Rabid or Dead Ringers as well as Crash.

These moments are just the start when it comes to nostalgic nods back towards earlier horrors made under direction from this Canadian auteur. Videodrome’s analogue TVs cameo; OrchidBed bug-shaped seat for BreakFaster that resembles organic leftover parts from eXistenZ – but there is more still… If you are fan familiar with his work then prepare yourself for some serious Cronenbingo! Here, we have distant surgical stare; graphic trembling gore; cheap monikers (Lang Dotrice, Dani Router, Brent Boss).

And naturally – there are also wooden clinical readings. Those not already converted may find themselves struggling at first with these performances. In early scenes especially where characters speak lines that feel like they were written down not as dialogue but rather instructions for actors reading off scripts (the emotionless drone eventually makes sense within context: how else should one talk if living without pain other than spooky anaesthetised monotone?)

So far, so Cronenbergy. There are even some of his trademark black laughs (when Tenser’s invited to an inner-beauty pageant, it’s suggested he enters ‘Best Original Organ With No Known Function’). Mostly, the mood is one of hypnotic doom: heavy-legged, fatigued and feverish. The director is a genre in himself, but Crimes Of The Future identifies as a noir. It’s in the swelling paranoia of Howard Shore’s score. It’s in the peeled, blistered interiors, as ruined as Chernobyl. And it’s in Mortensen’s stony, muted performance. Cowled like Death in Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, groaning dialogue between furball coughs, Tenser slowly unpeels Crimes’ conspiracy of a new plastic-eating species with the detached curiosity of a private eye.

This is where the film may prove divisive: not in the shock and gore, but its sparse, dramatic drive. Cronenberg is so consumed by the horror of us blindly walking into an eco-apocalypse he abandons plot for brooding. All doom. Little suspense.

Does that make the film any less impactful? Weirdly, no. Cronenberg is the Sandman of horror cinema: his nightmare images find an insidious way of worming into the subconscious. Crimes Of The Future is best approached not only with caution but patience. Slowly silently like leaking gas does this film creep up on you and you wake up to what a tragic devastating vision this has been.Much of that comes down to its haunting closing shot: Is Tenser’s smile one of ecstatic hope or destructive acceptance? The future for mankind appears to be hanging off his ambiguous unspoken lips.If this is Cronenberg’s swansong – and it does feel like it – then his final body horror burrows deep not under flesh but within minds..

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