Cronenberg Blogathon- A History of brilliance

(This review is being published as a contribution to Tony Dayoub's David Cronenberg Blog-A-Thon happening over @

One thing that has always made David Cronenberg a unique voice in cinema was that fact that this guy didn't give two shits what you thought of his films. He made personal, visionary movies that were so out of the ordinary that they made the experience of watching them incredibly hypnotic. I actually shouldn't be talking in the past tense, since our man is still making incredibly entertaining, artful films to this very day (History Of Violence, Eastern Promises). In essence, Cronenberg has put his imprint on cinema in ways no other director has before. His stylish & vibrant images are pure Cronenberg and instantly recognizable when looked at for the very first time. Who else can make a movie as ugly but brilliant as The Fly, strange but fascinating as Dead Ringers or erotic & violent as A History Of Violence.

In A History Of Violence -my favourite Cronenberg along with The Fly- he took what should have been another familiar Hollywood story and turned it upside down with his sinister use of eroticism, graphic violence & an ambiguous ending that had mainstream audiences scratching their heads in disapproval. As if he gave a fuck. The Stall family could have been very dull in the hands of another director but the freshness our friend David brought in was unique and completely original. Viggo Mortensen's Tom, a man with violence in his DNA, had to cope with the fact that not only was he violent in nature but so was his entire family & -as Cronenberg boldly states- so was the audience watching the film. It was a movie that had me looking at the mirror and learning things about myself that I couldn't imagine or fathom.

In a way everybody is Tom Stall, a violent rage lingers inside us waiting to come out at the most opportune of times- but we never dare to show it. We have a history of violence that cannot be ignored. Tom's wife -a sexy Maria Bello- likes her sex violent, rough & similar to rape, his son shoots a stalker with his own dad's rifle & his brother Richie -all hail William Hurt- is a highly respected thug that wants to kill his own brother. Talk about family dysfunction. The film's final scene is pure cliche, after much drama, the Stall family sits down at the dinner table completely drained out from the events that have just happened the last few days, after a few seconds of silence the screen goes black & a scene that had nothing going for it, has everything going for it. Cronenberg stuns his audience with an unconventional ending that he knows might infuriate.

Cronenberg sets up his movie like a classic Hollywood thriller. The style is modern, the scenery glowing with high colors & the pace almost frenetically generic. Yet with all these stereotypical styles colliding at once, he invigorates his film with a sense of originality & a bold statement with his use of graphic, strange sex and violence that shakes you up and twists you sideways. I can think of Todd Haynes doing the same kind of stylish statement in Far From Heaven, where he pampered up his decor in 1950's bubble gum melodrama but put risky modern era topics such as homosexuality and racism at the table. Just like Haynes' picture, behind the glitter and glossy colors of A History Of Violence lies a dark room filled with risky thematic substance & a real sense of dread.

Cronenberg means to shock us and he does. This highly addictive film is also his most hypnotic in terms of sheer grip. He's made rawer, dirtier stuff in his career but none of them have come together as a whole or as close to perfection as this one. If there is one movie that might just define his career 15, 20 years from now it's a A History Of Violence. It has the hallmarks of a classic in the making and has only been gathering more and more fans since its release close to 5 years ago. I remember watching it for the first time in an almost empty theatre on a cold, snowy day in Montreal. I had seen disappointment after disappointment that year & I had not much to write about in terms of worthy films- in fact I was even thinking of just letting go of the passion that has consumed me for years and move on to better things. At the movie's end as the Dinner table scene ended & the credits rolled, I had a smile on my face. Here was a great movie that made you believe in cinema again and had everything that brought you there in the first place. There's no better feeling than that.