Review: ‘Crimes of the Future’ is Cronenberg at his body-horror best
A man sleeps in his bed, tossing and turning. Well, “bed” doesn’t quite describe it: more like an organic cocoon split in two, suspended from the ceiling by stringy, sinewy tentacles. The gentleman squirming inside this pod resembling a pituitary gland is haggard but handsome, with a silver mane, no eyebrows; if it weren’t for the matinee idol jawbone, you almost wouldn’t recognize it’s Viggo Mortensen. “I think the bed needs some new software,” he croaks to the companion as he adjusts the rubbery extensions feeding into his hands. “It’s no longer anticipating my pain.”
You may have no idea what’s going on, but trust us – you know exactly where you are. It’s less than five minutes in a film “written and directed by David Cronenberg”. The fact that they even had to put that credit on screen feels like a mere formality.
Future Crimes isn’t just the first film from Canada’s favorite cinematic son (and a contender for the title of Greatest Living Contemporary Horror Filmmaker) in eight years; it’s a throwback to the kind of gooey, macabre genre-blending that made Cronenberg both a midnight movie icon and an international sensation. Judging by how this waking sci-fi nightmare doubles the difficulty factor, it also tries to make up a lot of lost time in one fell swoop. Borrowing the title from his second feature – an experimental 1970 film that offered a glimpse into the shape of things to come – it’s neither a remake nor a sequel to that earlier work. But it definitely suggests a full notion of Cronenberg digging back into his roots and seeing what kind of psychosexual pal he can extract from the fertile mud.
Mortensen’s Saul Tenzer is a big deal in what is now a hugely popular hobby: performance art mutilation. He is renowned for growing his own bizarre internal organs, which he and his partner, a former trauma surgeon named Caprice (Léa Seydoux), extract live for an adoring audience. Pain evolved, or possibly stemmed, from human experience, except in dreams. People are now having fun seeing the mondo mutation, steel meets tissue, meaty destruction rebranded as a genetically superior high-level geek show. “Surgery is the new sex!” exclaims Timlin – played by Kristen Stewart, channeling extreme fandom into a symphony of one woman’s lust – a National Organ Registry employee who wants to join in on the act. (When she tries to seduce this postmodern primal superstar, he hesitates: “I’m not that good at the old sex.”)
There’s also a nervous guy named Lang (Scott Speedman) lurking around their shows, who’s armed with a proposal for Saul and Caprice. He wants them to perform a live autopsy on his dead son. If they do this, they run the risk of angering the “New Vice Unit” cops, who are holding the murderer – the boy’s mother – and becoming outlaws. But they could also help advance an agenda set by Lang’s mysterious underground movement and make them one small step for man, one giant evolutionary leap forward for humanity.
It’s the blackish engine humming below felonies smooth, slimy surface, and if you listen hard enough – or, as one supporting actor does in the film, literally cover your body with ears – you can detect faint eco-thriller rumbles and a satirical sweep at the Today’s Celebrity Industrial Complex. Still, give up hope, you who are looking for a plot to cling to here. The conversion of new members of the sect is not on the menu.
No, this is one for the hardcore Cronen-heads, a dense treatise aimed at those who already treat his more outrageous, boundary-erasing works like gospel. It’s an opportunity to make Seydoux purr with replies like: “An organization needs organization… otherwise, it’s just a designer’s cancer. It’s an excuse to feed Mortensen like a baby in a “chair” made of wobbly, swaying bones, a concoction that’s exactly half HR Giger and half Pee-Wee Playhouse. (Production design by Carol Spier and art direction by Dimitris Katsikis and Kimberly Zaharko, is exactly what you want in a Cronenberg movie – du high sarcophagi Mortensen plays in the spidery, skeletal scalpels that Seydoux uses to penetrate her lover, via a visibly vaginal remote control. We weren’t kidding with that “surgery is the new sex” quote.) It’s the kind of dive into the cerebral, carnal, open society of “civilized” society that Cronenberg hasn’t done since 1999. exist, in which he exploited the Bronze Age of online gaming for musings on techno-paranoia and .
Future Crimes is, in fact, more of a spiritual brother film to that work than the one it shares its name with, right down to the specific mix of sex, violence, and gambling, and a climax that doesn’t end the film as much as it brings it to a screeching halt, teetering on the precipice of epiphany or basic understanding. And while it’s not quite the 21st-century schizoid equivalent of what that 1999 mind-thriller did for premillennial tension, it’s proof that some artists can still find meat. fresh in decades-old concerns. At one point, a detective looking for illegal happenings in the slice and splat circuit asks Tenzer what’s wrong with all his “body art” stuff. “What I mean with this body art stuff is that I don’t particularly like what’s going on with the body,” he replies. Under in the word horror for art, and you have a director’s statement in a nutshell.
The words “get back in shape” will likely be used a lot, but the veteran filmmaker has never lost his chops or his way; he just started poking around in different corners, shoving his way into psychological rather than biological spaces. It’s a return to the “a” form. Still, it’s hard not to gawk at the future shock, awe, and wonder at how he’s so deftly returned to a sticky, sickly subgenre everyone thought he was. “issued”. This this is what the work of a visionary filmmaker looks like. Forget the new flesh. Long live old Cronenberg.