A Dangerous Method (2011) Review

2 04 2012

Copyright 2011 Recorded Pictures Company

★ ★ ★

David Cronenberg’s films are, for most people at least, a love it or hate it situation.  Surprisingly, my girlfriend really enjoyed this film despite the fact that she generally abhors anything by Cronenberg; I, on the other hand, am either genuinely engaged or somewhat intrigued by his work.  This film, for me, I found somewhat interesting, and in a first, Maddie enjoyed a Cronenberg film more than I.

Based on a true story, this film analyzes the relationship that develops between famed psychiatrist Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and his patient-turned-mistress Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley).  Furthermore, the film depicts the initial respect and collaboration between Jung and other famed early 20th century psychiatrist Sigmund Freud (an almost unrecognizable Viggo Mortensen), as well as their eventual falling out.  Throughout the film, many elements of psycho analysis and sexual psychology are interpreted and pondered through the dialog between the primary characters.

This is a smart film, and has a smart script.  The psychological analysis throughout the narrative is interesting, but on the whole, leaves something to be desired in regards to entertainment value.  Fassbender and Mortensen give good performances playing their respective iconic figures, and Knightley, who I am rarely impressed with, let history take precedent and didn’t impress me.  She did well throughout the film holding her Russian accent, but overall, I found her performance wooden and lifeless.  As for being a Cronenberg film, this felt possibly one of the more “normal” of the lot.  The narrative was relatively straight forward and the direction was fairly standard, a sharp contrast to the usual bizarreness of a large body of his work.

If you like psychology and like a “based on a true story” movie, then I could see one finding this film quite enjoyable.  For me, though I am interested in psychology to a degree, the entertainment value was only slightly better than average, which outweighed the intriguing subject matter.


Videodrome (1983) Review

9 08 2011

Copyright 1983 CFDC

★ ★ ★ ★

In looking over Netflix’s streaming selection, Maddie and I rather haphazardly happened upon this film.  The synopsis looked very intriguing and, knowing it was a David Cronenberg film, I had an idea as to the tone and mood the film would have.

A young James Woods plays a sleazy television programmer named Max Renn.  His television station, Channel 83, televises mod content, softcore pornography and the likes over the cable airwaves.  With the enlistment of “satellite pirate” Harlan (Peter Dvorsky), Renn scours the airwaves for edgy content to show on his station.  One day, Harlan shows him a fuzzy broadcast he receives that takes place in a small room and includes very realistic sadomasochism and even murder.  Intrigued, Renn wants to find out more and see about broadcasting this risky program entitled “Videodrome.”  Around this time, during an interview on a talk show, he strikes up a relationship with a fellow interviewee, radio personality Nicki Brand (Deborah Harry).  Being a sadomasochist herself, Nicki is excited about the idea of “Videodrome” airing on Channel 83.  However, Renn has problems locating the source content makers and is warned by his agent to not look any further into the matter.  With curiosity growing, Renn continues to search for the makers of “Videodrome” and winds up having some bizarre encounters with an odd personality known as Brian O’Blivion (Jack Creley).  From this point on, the film becomes a very psychological and bizarre look at the strange effects that the “Videodrome” signal has upon an individual.

Woods does a great job in this role, and I was pleasantly surprised by Harry whom I had never seen act before.  For those of you who don’t know, her real claim to fame is as the lead singer of Blondie, who had hits with “One Way or Another” and “Heart of Glass,” among others during the punk/new wave revolution of the late 1970s.  Cronenberg’s shot selections were very inspired and dreamlike, which worked perfectly for the subject matter.  The contrasts between gritty, natural lighting and highly stylized mood lighting throughout by cinematographer Mark Irwin also fit the story very well.  Most impressively, however, were the incredible make-up effects by makeup effects designer Rick Baker.  Unfortunately, in today’s world, these amazingly well done makeup effects would probably have gone to a CGI department.

I will admit that I haven’t seen a large amount of Cronenberg’s work; however, this film has been the most bizarre entry of his repertoire that I have yet seen.  Maddie was at first interested, but then totally put off by the path the film took midway through.  I, on the other hand, was happily amused throughout.  So, in short, this film is not for everyone.  It is weird, hallucinatory and bizarre, but if that’s your cup of tea, then you will not be disappointed.

Dead Ringers (1988) Review

28 04 2011

Copyright 1988 Morgan Creek Productions

★ ★ ★

Let me start off by saying that his is one hauntingly strange film.  The mood and atmosphere of the entire piece have an almost dream-like quality.  The story follows the lives of two twin gynecologists, Elliot and Beverly Mantle (both played by Jeremy Irons), who are identical in every way outside of personality.  They share a physician’s practice, an apartment and even lovers.

Elliot is outspoken, charismatic and debonaire, whereas Beverly is soft spoken and mild mannered.  When actress Claire Niveau (Genevieve Bujold) visits their practice for an examination, Elliot sets up a date with her and eventually sleeps with her under the assumption that he is Beverly.  As is custom in the brother’s relationship, Beverly shows up in future meetings and sleeps with her as well.  They switch off many times without Claire knowing, but over time, Beverly begins to actually love her.  Claire, thinking Beverly doesn’t have a brother, finds out about Elliot and breaks the relationship off harshly; however, they eventually rekindle the romance.  Over time, Claire, a drug addict, hooks Beverly on barbiturates.  The remainder of the film is a bizarre, psychological examination of the bond between the two brothers, drug use and psychosis.

Like I said earlier, this a bizarre film.  David Cronenberg directs with a script by himself and Norman Snider, based upon the book “Twins” by Bari Wood and Jack Geasland.  The source book, in turn, is loosely based on the true life story of brothers Stewart and Cyril Marcus, gynecologists who shared an apartment in Manhattan, who were found dead together in 1975 from barbiturate withdrawal.

Jeremy Irons plays both the characters of Elliot and Beverly with the help of some meticulous camerawork and very early computer generated traveling mattes.  Let me just say this – Irons is brilliant, brilliant, brilliant in this role.  Each of the twins has their own nuances and personalities that he plays with precision.  At first, you are thrown off by knowing it is Irons playing both parts, but after about 10 minutes you start to forget this.  By the end, you don’t even realize that these brilliant performances in the same scene interacting with each other are the same guy!  Very, very impressive work on his part; many say his Oscar for Reversal of Fortune was a makeup for not being nominated for this role(s).  Bujold is really the only other primary actor in the film, of which, I was not very impressed.  She wasn’t bad, but it was nothing worth making special note of.

The film, overall, is bizarre, strange and a little tedious in parts.  Iron’s performance is the real crux of the picture here and, in my opinion, it is the sole reason to take the time to watch this film.

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