Crimes of the Future Cannes Film Review

★★★

Directed by: #DavidCronenberg
Written by: #DavidCronenberg
Starring: #ViggoMortensen, #LéaSeydoux
Film Review by: Alex Matraxia


Viggo Mortensen and Léa Seydoux

David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future seems to be the talk-about film at Cannes; while Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis may have generated the most hype, Cronenberg’s latest sci-fi has us talking in the queues, asking peers and strangers ‘What did you think?’ There’s a general consensus: it’s vintage Cronenberg, with comparisons being made to his body-horror classics like eXistenZ, Videodrome, and Crash. And yet Crimes of the Future was less a film than a series of Deleuzian soundbites – ‘Body is Reality’ and ‘Surgery is the New Sex’ – and while these postmodern aphorisms are supported by engorged visuals, they fail to deliver the drama which remained dormant by the end of the movie. In fact, what we have here isn’t a movie, but a point-to-be-made.

Viggo Mortensen plays Saul Tenser, a performance artist suffering from the pulpish disorder of ‘Accelerated Evolution Syndrome’. Inside his body, tumours are manifesting into new organs. He works with fellow artist Caprice (Léa Seydoux) who removes Tenser’s organs in a public display of surgery. They stage these surgeries like experimental theatre – in brutalist auditoriums where art-lovers gawk and applaud and record the artwork on their super-8 cameras (like Warhol’s factory had a cyberpunk makeover). To the film’s credit, this vision of the future is by no means unrealistic.

Crimes of the Future is sharp as a satire, often relatable, and the leads fulfil their roles with substance; Mortensen’s Tenser is especially captivating on screen, his intensity is slow, visceral, and nuanced. And Léa Seydoux manages to bring warmth to an unlikely role. Their relationship is often undercut by dialogue that’s either too artful to seem real or not artful enough to be intriguing (a la Crash). Kristen Stewart gives a taut and nervous performance as Timlin, a National organ Registry investigator who takes obsessive interest in the collaborative duo. Unlike her co-stars, Stewart never feels present in the world of the film; her self-consciousness, worn on her sleeve, offers nothing to discover in her performance. Perhaps because she’s performing. Although the drama’s subordinate to slogan-making, the film’s climax rescued it from total indifference.

While some critics may have been put off by scenes of dissected bodies, this has never been a personal issue with watching Cronenberg, because his films are never gratuitous; Crimes of the Future is still delicately-performed gore; its gaping wounds are never repulsive, always inviting and charged with desire. In the past, Cronenberg could tell a story well and still maintain ideas. But by platforming theory in his Swiftian satire, the emotional landscape seems as artificial as the plastics that wash upon the polluted shores.


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