"Cosmopolis" Review by The Province
CANNES, France - The annual film festival in the south of France ends on Sunday with the awarding of the Palme d'Or and the other, lesser prizes. Usually by 10 or 11 days into the festival, attendance is starting to wane and critics have more or less decided which films they think will win.
But on Thursday night all anyone seemed able to talk about was the debut of Cosmopolis, a new film by David Cronenberg. The 69-year-old Canadian is something of a fixture at Cannes, having presided over the jury in 1999 and shown his films Crash (1996), Spider (2002) and A History of Violence (2005) at the festival.
None took home the Palme d'Or - in fact, no Canadian film ever has - but Crash was given a special jury prize for daring and audacity, something only a French film festival could pull off. Cronenberg also won a kind of lifetime achievement prize in 2006.
Cosmopolis did not receive universal acclaim from critics after the screening Friday, although the love-it-or-hate-it reactions actually bode well at a festival which often rewards divisive films. (Last year's Palme d'Or went to Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life.)
At the press conference after the screening, Cronenberg shied away from analyzing the place Cosmopolis has in his oeuvre, which includes such early horrors as The Fly, Scanners and Videodrome, as well as the more recent A History of Violence, Eastern Promises and A Dangerous Method.
``I don't think of my other movies when I'm making this movie,'' he said. ``It's as though I never made them; they're completely irrelevant. Of course I can play the role of the analyst and the critic of my own movies . . . (but) that gives me nothing to work with on the set.''
He was even more determined to ``ignore the baggage'' brought by star Robert Pattinson, whose legions of Twilight fans may give Cosmopolis an unexpected attendance bump when it opens in Canada on June 8.
``We just didn't deal with it,'' Cronenberg said. ``It's very easy to say that this character . . . is a vampire or a werewolf of Wall Street, but really that's fairly superficial. This is a real person with a history and a past, and the history and the past is not Twilight, it is Cosmopolis.''
Pattinson plays Eric Packer, a Manhattan billionaire who decides to take a trip across town to get a haircut. Along the way he meets several colleagues (the film features Samantha Morton, Mathieu Almaric, Juliette Binoche and others) and runs into his wife (Toronto actress Sarah Gadon) several times before a kind of final showdown with a disgruntled former employee played by Paul Giamatti.
Cronenberg wrote the script for Cosmopolis in just six days, adapted from Don DeLillo's 2003 novel of the same name. Much of the dialogue comes directly from the book, and the director was adamant that his actors deliver the words to the letter.
``It's like you're doing a version of a Bob Dylan song,'' he explained. ``You're not going to change the words, but it still gives you a lot of creative scope with the rhythm, with the orchestration, with the vocalization, what register you're playing in, and that's the way I was approaching Don's dialogue. It was like Shakespeare or maybe Harold Pinter. I didn't want anybody to mess with that.''
DeLillo, who is in Cannes to help promote the movie, deferred to the director. ``I had absolutely nothing to do with the script, and that's why it turned out so well,'' he said.
He too resisted the lure of over-analyzing the work, especially the notion (espoused by the trailer) that this is ``the first film about our new millennium.'' ``People who write novels don't think in those terms,'' he said.
Rather, what drove him to write Cosmopolis was the realization more than 10 years ago that there were more and more stretch limos in New York. ``Manhattan is the last place on Earth where such automobiles would move comfortably,'' he said. ``I decided to place a character in such a car and simply go from there. There was no thought in my mind of millennia or apocalypse; just one man in one car. And that's how I began the novel.''
Regardless of whether or not Cronenberg finally wins a Palme d'Or, this will have been a banner year for Canadians on the Croisette. Brandon Cronenberg, son of David, presented his first film, Antiviral, out of competition, alongside Laurence Anyways, the latest from Quebec filmmaker Xavier Dolan. Fellow Quebecer Chloe Robichaud has a film, Le chef de meute (Herd Leader) in the short-film competition, the jury for which includes Arsinee Khanjian. And Canadian writer Craig Davidson's short-story collection was adapted into Jacques Audiard's Rust and Bone.
Credit => The Province / Via => Thinking of Rob