Body horror: Talking the best of David Cronenberg
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Have you ever wondered what a Mugwump looks like up close? How about the telepod that transformed Jeff Goldblum from man to insect? If you are a fan of Naked Lunch, The Fly or of David Cronenberg in general, you’ll want to make like the Reel Guys and head to the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto to check out an elaborate and comprehensive exhibit detailing the director’s storied career. The show runs until Jan. 19, 2014, and presents an unprecedented look in to the mind and career of one of our greatest filmmakers. To prime the pump, the Reel Guys suggest some must-see Cronenberg films if you can’t make it to the exhibit.
Richard: I am an unabashed fan of David Cronenberg. I felt like a kid in a candy store — or should that be an entomologist at a larvae convention? — at the exhibition and I regularly revisit his movies on DVD. One that always gets overlooked is Spider, a trip into the mind of a severely mentally disturbed man starring Ralph Fiennes. Fiennes is great in a virtually dialogue free performance but it is Miranda Richardson as several characters — all the women in Spider’s life — who really steals the show. It’s a spooky and cerebral thriller.
Mark: Spider was never one of my favourites although it does have a great twist ending. My thoughts on the Cronenberg oeuvre — and they’re almost all great — is how ahead of his time he’s been on our relationship to technology. When Videodrome came out, it was dismissed by a lot of critics. Now we live its reality every day. Same with Existenz. Both visionary films that prove how far ahead of the curve the director can be. But I think the quintessential Cronenberg film is Dead Ringers — a creepy Hitchcockian thriller that has Third Reich overtones of medical experiments and twins — and also because Cronenberg himself looks like a gynecologist harboring a terrible secret.
RC: I also have a soft spot for The Brood. It’s probably Cronenberg’s most traditional horror film, and I take delight in loving a movie Leonard Maltin rated a “Bomb.” Featuring Oliver Reed as an experimental psychotherapist, Samantha Eggar as a fetus-licking mother and murderous psychoplasmic offspring, it is the very stuff that nightmares are made of. It’s lesser seen than The Fly or Dead Zone and way more down-and-dirty, but for sheer scares it’s hard to beat.
MB: I like the brood but I prefer the Dead Zone even though legend has it that Cronenberg regretted doing a movie with all the incumbent studio interference. Know what? It still works. But Cronenberg will forever be one of my favourite directors if for no other reason than breathing life into Naked Lunch. A book I should have loved but could never get through — until I saw the film.
RC: He’s audacious. He made an unfilmable book filmable and opened a lot of people’s minds to reading author William S. Burroughs.
MB: He did the same thing with Cosmopolis, although I must say I didn’t need to see Rabid to appreciate Marilyn Chambers.