I am a David Cronenberg fan. Even at his worst (I don’t know…maybe Spider) I still like the guy. And I’ve read some pretty good defenses for the talkiness that is his new film, Cosmopolis, but I just can’t buy it. The film has solid source material (Don DeLillo), strong performances from its oddball cast (yes, including Robert Pattinson), but it’s really too verbose for its own good. And fairly wooden at that.
When verbose is done well in a film – some of Rohmer’s better pictures, Whit Stillman, hell even some Woody Allen – it either distracts from any other shortcomings or uses those shortcomings to its advantage. Case-in-point: Rohmer’s 1963 effort Suzanne’s Career, which is flatly shot and lacks the visual wit or flair of other contemporary nouvelle vaguers, stuffs its scenes into such small apartments and cafes that we’re forced to listen. The same thing is true of Cosmopolis, which takes place almost entirely in a soundproof limousine, but in Rohmer’s film, the dialogue crackles with relevance (even today) and the high-brow references are also peppered with little revelations of emotional growth.
Cosmopolis is paranoid in a Philip K. Dick kind of way, but its futuristic-economic-schizophrenic speech patterns provide only background and not enough actual, reasonable plot. Pattinson’s Eric Packer is a billionaire sheltered from the rioting world as he travels through the dangerous city for a haircut. When Cosmpolis is good its because of Cronenberg’s technique – a moment where Packer finally opens the doors to his car, letting the outside sound blare in is relief personified. It’s actually a great moment. The stuffy silence is broken and for that small second we experience the real world just like Eric decides to.
The same is true for a few of the dramatic moments taking place outside of the limo. Packer and his security officer at a park, the actual haircut, the moment before a confrontation with his would-be assassin. All of these are dynamic moments, intentionally staged in ways opposite to the relatively slow, circularly-panning camera sequences within the car.
That’s all well and good, and the technique is clearly planned, formalist, and classically cold Cronenberg. But it doesn’t add up to much that he hasn’t already said in, say, eXistenz.
The Swimming Pool
I caught this really great flick from a recommendation by a friend. It’s got shades of Renen Clements earlier 1960 film, the excellent Tom Ripley adaptation Purple Noon, but The Swimming Pool (not to be confused with Francois Ozon’s 2003 movie) is a work all its own.
The cast is excellent: Alain Delon playing with and against type as the suave but troubled Jean-Paul, his gorgeous girlfriend Marianne (the great Romy Schneider), a young Jane Birkin in an early, post Blow Up, film role as the young temptress Penelope, and Maurice Ronet (a Louis Malle favorite) as the third part of the potential menage-a-trois.
Director Jacques Deray favors a modern mise-en-scene with a floating camera. These two stills are one craning, tilting shot:
The camera certainly loves Schneider, and uses her as an excuse to find Jane Birkin. It’s almost blush-worthy:
This all feels very Chabrol-like, and that sense continues with Deray’s foreshadowing blocking:
And his voyeuristic shots, where even here, we’re spying on the spier. This could be lifted directly from The Unfaithful Wife: