Videodrome


Viewed – 22 August 2015  Blu-ray

Collector’s Edition

David Cronenberg has easily cemented himself as one of the most challenging and daring directors to have ever gained mainstream popularity.  Perhaps still most famous for the Jeff Goldblum remake of The Fly, this Canadian born visionary film maker has for me, made some of the most powerfully bold and disturbing interpretations of horror I have seen.  This 1982 effort saw him break out from obscure fair like The Brood and Shivers and finally deliver his own distinct voice.

Videodrome cassette

Starring James Woods and Deborah Harry (of Blondie) this follows the story of Max Ren, a sleazy cable TV executive on the look out for new material for his network.  One day he stumbles upon Videodrome, a broadcast that appears to be purely torture and violence – the exact kind of material he thinks his viewers will want.  Only thing is, Videodrome comes with a deadly signal that causes horrific and freakish hallucinations in anyone who watches it.

videodrome nikkiDespite a meagre budget and fairly basic production values, Cronenberg lavishes the whole movie in a visual style that presents television as a strange new villain in a way that the internet could be perceived the same today.  This movie was ahead of it’s time in it’s themes of living through another medium, and even one character refers to us all having different names that we’ll one day take on, sort of like avatars in a chat room.  It’s very cleverly observed.  Cronenberg tried to lesser extent to bring such ideas into the modern age in his sort-of sequel Existenz which explored videogames instead of television, but it’s here that his concept is at it’s boldest.  Deborah Harry is provocative, sexy and daring, not afraid to shed some clothing and portray herself as a self-harming adrenalin junkie, and Woods is perfect as the guy who takes a bite out of the forbidden fruit.  Acting isn’t exactly stellar though and supporting cast are amateurish at best.  It also get’s a little lost in it’s own hallucinatory world towards the end.  But with still impressive make-up work from An American Werewolf In London’s Rick Baker (bar the dodgy gun-hand-thing) and some creative gore along with a few ingenious effects (the breathing TV) – this still had the power to shock and creep this viewer out, even all these year’s later.

videodrome

This Arrow Video release comes in a limited edition collector’s packaging that has a detailed hardback book exploring the film and Cronenberg’s career with fresh interviews and archival text.  The movie has always been in great shape and the same can be said here in a very vivid and clear image with equally crisp sound even if it’s only in mono.  Arrow, swiftly becoming my go-to company for great treatment of genre classics, has once again pulled no punches with this release and the extras are simply exhaustive.  A commentary by critic Tim Lucas, a number of detailed featurettes and documentaries, behind the scenes footage, a deleted scene and in this limited edition set a few of the director’s early short films.  In a word: impressive.

Verdict:

(the movie)  4 /5

(the Blu-ray)  5 /5

Cosmopolis


Viewed – 29 November 2012. Blu-ray

David Cronenberg is one of my favourite directors, responsible for such masterpieces as Videodrome and Dead Ringers.  So naturally I will seek out anything by him … even this curious oddity starring Twilight actor Robert Pattinson.

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Pattinson plays a young billionaire living in Manhattan on-route to getting his hair cut whilst travelling in a stretched limo. However for a man who has it all, the beautiful wife, the sexy mistress (Juliette Binoche) and more money than he knows what to do with … he craves something more, something that might make him feel alive again.

Interesting concept, based on the novel by Don Dellilo, this has more in common with Cronenberg’s baffling Naked Lunch than any of his other work.  Filled with impenetrable dialogue that is more a series of phylosophical statements than people actually talking one another – I found this both beautiful to look at, and cold and alienating … meaning gleaming much enjoyment was near-impossible.  Cameos by Samantha Morton & Paul Giamatti were welcome, but even smatterings of sex & violence couldn’t pull this out of the doldrums, and I almost nodded off at times. Pattinson also continues to be one of the most navel-gazing actors I have ever witnessed, and I remain firmly on the fence as to his appeal.

One to avoid then, even for seasoned Cronenberg fans.

Verdict:  1 /5

Paprika


Viewed – 25 January 2012  Blu-ray

I had previously only been aware of Japanese animation guru Satoshi Kon after seeing the brilliant Perfect Blue some years ago, and on hearing of his  passing in 2010 from pancreatic cancer, I always promised myself I would seek out anything else he had made.  Paprika, adapted from the novel by Yasutaka Tsutsui, follows the story of an experimental device that enables therapists to enter the dreams of their patients in order to help them.  When the device is stolen, chaos erupts as reality and the world of the dream collide.

This is a startlingly visual experience, awash with colour and imagination.  Kon’s movie assaults the senses and really blew my mind.  It plays with your perception of what is real and what isn’t, much like he did in Perfect Blue, but this time its much more avant garde and limitless, showing a director at the top of his game.  Sad it was to be his last feature.  Yet Satoshi Kon has left the world on a glorious high note, delivering one of the most beautiful and imaginative animated movies I have ever seen.  The detail and wonder on display here, along with utterly freaky music and sound, is often quite breath-taking (the reoccurring image of the parade, the gloriously weird theme tune etc).

Ok, it’s quite hard to follow with the kaleidoscopic style and imagery at times overwhelming, but conventional story structure is not the big selling point here, more the look and ideas, with many visual references including classic Japanese TV show ‘Monkey’, and Disney’s Pinocchio.  Christopher Nolan has cited it as his inspiration for the similar Inception, and also in my opinion it has much in common with David Cronenberg’s Videodrome.

A unique, brain-melting event of a movie that I urge you to seek out immediately.

Verdict:  4 /5