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Category: David Cronenberg

Cannes 2012: With 'Cosmopolis,' Rob Pattinson seeks acting cred

May 25, 2012 | 11:58 am

Pattico
"Twilight" stars Kristen Stewart and Rob Pattinson have sex multiple times in Cannes (separately, and on screen) but it's a very different kind of lovemaking. As Marylou, Dean Moriarty's wife in "On the Road," Stewart's sex is uninhibited and hedonistic. As Eric Packer, the troubled Wall Street Master of the Universe in "Cosmopolis," Pattinson's sex is mechanical and joyless, as if he's trying to exorcise some unhappiness instead of simply indulging in pleasure.

Audiences got a glimpse of that exorcism on Friday when the David Cronenberg-directed "Cosmopolis" premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. The contrast in the "Twilight" stars' bedroom manner proved telling.

"On the Road" is a free-form depiction of an era and has won largely plaudits at Cannes. "Cosmopolis" is a claustrophobic  look at a troubled billionaire who is watching the world implode around him from his limousine, and it landed far more mixed responses from critics and festival-goers. Some thought it a timely, idea-driven gem, while a far larger number saw in it a purposelessness reminiscent of Packer's moments in flagrante.

Based on Don DeLillo's dialogue-heavy novella, "Cosmopolis" tells of Packer, a billionaire financier in New York who undertakes the simple task of having his limo driver escort him to a barber across town, despite vague threats on Packer's life and, possibly, the larger world. For all the intrigue and respect he elicits, this isn't a man who's liked very much; that’s what you get for climbing to the top of the corporate heap, or, maybe, for becoming the world’s biggest teen idol.

The setting is typical Cronenberg, a place that looks much like our world but somehow isn't quite. As the trip unfolds, the billionaire, speaking in that Cronenbergian flat affect, entertains a host of acquaintances who pop in and out of his limo, often to talk about things like technocapitalism and its wonders (per Packer) or dangers (per others, and perhaps the film as a whole).  These guests both in the limo and outside it (Sarah Gadon, Emily Hampshire and Paul Giamatti co-star) engage in elliptical exchanges with Packer about their views of the universe, often in turns of DeLillo-ian eloquence and/or impenetrability.

Continue reading »

Cannes 2012: Brandon Cronenberg takes a (sort of) familiar path

May 22, 2012 |  3:00 am

Brandonc
CANNES, France--Growing up, Brandon Cronenberg got used to things getting a little weird. Like the time he went to a new school and was told by a classmate he'd never met before, "I'd heard you were coming, and I've been excited about it." Or the occasional wacko who would run up to him and say, "Your father's movies are speaking directly to me."

"Like, literally directly," the Toronto native said, smiling incredulously as he leaned back with a glass of water at a Cannes Film Festival hotel on Monday afternoon. “He would tell me exactly what it meant and how it very clearly related to his life, and how my father intended it that way.”

Cronenberg is the son of that Cronenberg, David, the 69-year-old director of classics like "The Fly" and "Scanners" and the master of so-called body horror, which has inspired a nearly religious following. For years Brandon resisted following in his old man's footsteps. He tried video art, poetry, other forms of creative expression. "I loved not being interested when I was younger,” said Brandon Cronenberg, now 32.

It wasn’t that he didn’t appreciate what his father did; he just resented the attention and assumptions that came with it.

The switch flipped, he said, when in his late 20s he realized that he actually liked filmmaking, and that a principled stand for its own sake “was just kind of obnoxious.” He began making narrative shorts. Just a few weeks ago completed his first feature, a horror-movie-cum-social-critique called “Antiviral,” which had its premiere this week in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival.

Though famous directors sometimes spawn other directors, David and Brandon Cronenberg have made film history: They are the first father-and-son tandem to premiere movies in Cannes in the same year.  The elder Cronenberg’s movie, the Robert Pattinson-starring “Cosmopolis,” premieres later this week in the festival’s main competition section, as it reimagines a slim novel from the American critical darling Don DeLillo.

The younger Cronenberg brings his own degree of invention. Set in a science-fictiony near-future, “Antiviral” tells of a world in which people pay to have viruses from ill celebrities implanted in them. “People say it’s a horror movie, and I guess in a way it is, but when you look at the lengths our society goes to with celebrities, it’s not that big a jump,” Brandon Cronenberg said, citing an incident he’d heard in which Sarah Michelle Gellar told a talk-show audience she had a cold--only to find audience members cheering and leaning forward in the hope of catching it.

The “Antiviral” director said that despite some thematic similarities to his father’s work, he doesn’t see himself as being particularly interested in body horror; it just worked out that way for this film. “There’s a cultural fetish of the body that in a way I find grotesque, so it fit nicely with the fetish we have for celebrity,” he said.

Though “Antiviral” has received a mixed response, even the lukewarm reviews note the younger Cronenberg’s directorial chops.

For his part, David Cronenberg said he didn’t steer his son toward his line of work. “I had no dynastic ambitions for Bran particularly,” he told an audience during a panel he sat on with his son and Toronto Film Festival honcho Cameron Bailey. “Whatever he wanted to do was going to happen naturally.” (Brandon Cronenberg also has a sister, Caitlin, and a half-sister, Cassandra, from his father’s previous marriage.)

The veteran director said he did realize his son was taking to certain aspects of the filmmaking process. Even at a young age, David Cronenberg said, “I noticed he was incredibly sensitive to the music of film.” Cronenberg also said he observed that his young son shared his own fascination with nature and “the strangeness of animal life,” which he said informs many of his own films.

As for their shared cinematic experiences, Brandon said one of the first movies they recalled watching together was not a genre title but “Airplane.”  “He didn’t laugh, though, which I thought was interesting,” David Cronenberg deadpanned.

With a nose ring and a slightly nervous but still down-to-earth manner, there is, like his wisecrack-prone father, nothing terribly prepossessing (much less creepy) about Brandon Cronenberg. That made childhood a slightly odd experience; strangers were hardly expecting something so normal. "They brought preconceptions about me based on preconceptions they had about my father," the younger Cronenberg said.

Some of those awkward encounters haven’t abated. After a Cannes screening of “Antiviral,” a man with a foreign accent walked up to Brandon and suggested a very...particular read on the film.

“He was just convinced that, because of how the word was said in his language, that the title was a play on ‘Andy Warhol.’ And nothing I could say could convince him that I wasn’t thinking of that.”  Cronenberg paused. “I guess I’m getting some of those strange interpretations now.”

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-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Brandon Cronenberg. Credit: Cannes Film Festival

Growing up, Brandon Cronenberg got used to things getting a little weird. Like the time he went to a new school and was told by a classmate he'd never met before, "I'd heard you were coming, and I've been excited about it." Or the occasional  wacko who would run up to him and say "Your father's movies are speaking directly to me."

"Like, literally directly," the Toronto native said, smiling incredulously as he leaned back  with a glass of water at a Cannes Film Festival hotel on Monday aftrernoon. “He would tell me exactly what it meant and how it very clearly related to his life.”

Cronenberg is the son of that Cronenberg, David, the 69-year-old director of classics like "The Fly" and "Scanners" and the so-called master of body horror. For years Brandon resisted following in his old man's footsteps. He tried video art, poetry, other forms of creative expression. "I loved not being interested when I was younger,” said Brandon Cronenberg, now 32.

It wasn’t that he didn’t appreciate what his father did, just that he resented the attention and assumptions that came with it.

The switch flipped, he said, when in his late 20’s  andhe realized that a principled stand for its own sake “was just kind of obnoxious.” He began making narrative shorts, and just a few weeks ago completed his first feature, a horror movie-cum-social critique called “Antiviral,” which had its premiere several days ago in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival.

Though famous directors sometimes spawn directors, David and Brandon Cronenberg are the first father-and-son tandem to have movies in Cannes at the same time. The elder Cronenberg’s movie, the Rob Pattinson-starring “Cosmpolis,” premieres later this week in the festival’s main competition section.

Set in a science-fictiony near-future, “Antiviral” tells of a world in which people pay to have viruses from ill celebrities implanted into them. “People say it’s a horror movie, and I guess in a way it is, but when you look at the lengths our society goes to with celebrities, it’s not that big a jump,” Brandon Cronenberg said, citing an incident he’d heard about in which Sarah Michelle Gellar told a talk-show audience she had a cold only to find audience members cheering and leaning forward in the hope of catching it.

The “Antiviral” director said that despite some thematic similarities to his father’s work, he doesn’t see himself as being particularly interested in body horror; it just worked for this film. “There’s a cultural fetish of the body that in a way I find grotesque, so it fit nicely with the fetish we have for celebrity,” he said. Though “Antiviral” has received a mixed response, even the lukewarm reviews note the younger Cronenberg’s directorial chops.

For his part, David Croneberg said he didn’t steer his son toward his line of work. “I had no dynastic ambitions for Bran particularly,” he told an audience from a panel he sat on with his son and Toronto Film Festival honcho Cameron Bailey earlier on Monday. “Whatever hje wanted to do was going to happen naturally.” (Brandon Cronenberg also has a sister, Caitlin, and a half-sister, Cassandra, from his father’s previous marriage.)

The veteran director did say that he noticed his son taking to certain aspects of the filmmaking process. Even at a young age, David Cronenberg said, “I noticed he was incredibly sensitive to the music of film.” Cronenberg also said he noticed that his son from an early age shared his own fascination with nature and “the strangeness of animal life,” which he said informs many of his own films.

Brandon said one of the first movies they recalled watching together was not a genre classic but “Airplane.”  “He didn’t laiugh, though, which I thought was interesting,” David Cronenberg deadpanned.

With a nose ring and a slightly nervous but down-to-earth manner there is, like his wisecrack-prone father, nothing terribly prepossessing, much less creepy, about Brandon Cronenberg. That might have made a childhood spent fending off assumptions from strangers even more difficult. "They brought preconceptions about me based on preconceptions they had about my father," he said.

Some of those awkward encounters haven’t abated, though. After a screeing of “Antiviral,” a man with a foreign accent walked up to Brandon and suggested his own read on “Antiviral.”

“He was just convinced that, because of how the word was said in his language, that the title was  a play on ‘Andy Warhol,’ and nothing I could say could convince him that I wasn’t thinking of that.”  Cronenberg paused. “I guess I’m getting some of those strange interpretations now.”

Cannes 2012: Festival turns 65 with a lineup heavy on U.S. titles

May 16, 2012 |  5:00 am

Cannes Film Festival

If all film festivals are balancing acts, it stands to reason that the annual extravaganza at Cannes, likely the world's most celebrated cinematic event, has more to balance than most. Especially this year.

Opening Wednesday night with Wes Anderson's oddly endearing “Moonrise Kingdom,” Cannes is celebrating its 65th anniversary this year and marking that milestone by embracing all kinds of opposites: old and young, dramatic and documentary, commercial and politically committed, avant-garde and classic, even American and not.

The U.S. presence seems especially strong, starting with the official poster, an Otto Bettmann photo of a luminous Marilyn Monroe blowing out a birthday cake candle. An 80- by 40-foot version looms impossibly large on an outside wall of the Palais des Festivals, while the building's inside walls feature photos of other Hollywood luminaries, including Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth, Clark Gable and Judy Garland, even Marlene Dietrich and Ernst Lubitsch, having a go at birthday cakes of their own.

Cheat Sheet: Cannes Film Festival 2012

On one level, American films are thick in the main competition, with a roster that includes new movies by Lee Daniels, who is following his Oscar-winning drama “Precious” with “The Paperboy,” and Jeff Nichols, whose “Mud” comes after the acclaimed apocalyptic meditation “Take Shelter.”

But some of the most eagerly anticipated American films — Walter Salles' take on Jack Kerouac's legendary “On the Road,” Andrew Dominik's Brad Pitt-starring “Killing Them Softly” (based on George V. Higgins' “Cogan's Trade”) and John Hillcoat's Prohibition era “Lawless” — were all directed by filmmakers who hail from other countries.

Speaking of elsewhere, new films are also on offer from such stalwarts as France's Jacques Audiard (“Rust & Bone”), Italy's Matteo Garrone (“Reality,” following up on “Gomorrah”), Britain's Ken Loach (“The Angels' Share”) and Austria's Michael Haneke (the Isabelle Huppert-starring “Amour”).

The honor of being the oldest director in the competition goes to 89-year-old Alain Resnais, here with the puckishly titled “You Haven't Seen Anything Yet.” Considerably younger, with films in the Un Certain Regard section, are debuting Americans Adam Leon, whose “Gimme the Loot” took the grand jury prize at this year's South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, and Benh Zeitlin, whose “Beasts of the Southern Wild” did the same at Sundance in January.

Straddling the young-old divide in a personal way are Canadian director David Cronenberg, in competition with the Robert Pattinson-starring “Cosmopolis” from the Don DeLillo novel, and his son Brandon, in Un Certain Regard with the thriller “Antiviral.”

Though the world's artier directors are always to be found at the festival, Cannes is also determined to embroil itself in the commercial side of things, which it does by scheduling the animated adventure “Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted” in an out-of-competition slot.

Then there are the numerous billboards for features that dot the city's streets and the fronts of hotels. Most noticeable this year is the way names that were considered edgy once upon a time have now become commercial enough to merit major-league spending.

Billboards could be seen not only for Quentin Tarantino's “Django Unchained” but also for Harmony Korine's “Spring Breakers.” And who should look right at home in the prime real estate of the entrance to the Carlton Hotel but Sacha Baron Cohen in full Admiral General Aladeen regalia for his satirical comedy “The Dictator.” Thus pass the bad boys of the world.

Perhaps even more startling, however, is the recent announcement from Canada's Alliance Films that it would charge Canadian journalists for interview access to the stars of some of the company's films.

If this is starting to sound all too frivolous, Cannes has political antidotes all ready to go. There will be a special screening of “The Oath of Tobruk,” Bernard-Henri Levy's doc about the fall of Moammar Kadafi, with “four key figures of the Libyan revolution” in attendance.

Closer to home is “The Central Park Five,” a quietly devastating documentary co-directed by Ken Burns, his daughter Sarah Burns and her husband, David McMahon, that examines how and why five innocent teenagers ended up being convicted of and imprisoned for the savage rape of a jogger in New York's Central Park in a case that became an international media sensation.

If you view film as a refuge from the cares of the real world, Cannes is ready for you as well. The ever-expanding Cannes Classics section features an impressive variety of restorations, including Alfred Hitchcock's silent “The Ring,” a 4-hour, 13-minute reconstruction of Sergio Leone's “Once Upon a Time in America” and Andrei Konchalovsky's aptly named “Runaway Train.”

Also, there are master class lectures by director Philip Kaufman (here with HBO's “Hemingway & Gellhorn” starring Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen) and 97-year-old Norman Lloyd, who has seen a lot (he co-founded the Mercury Theater with Welles) and remembers it all.

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— Kenneth Turan

Photo: A giant canvas of the official poster of the 65th Cannes Film Festival featuring Marilyn Monroe. Credit: Stephane Reix / EPA.


Golden Globes: Viggo Mortensen discusses his methods

December 15, 2011 | 11:28 am

Viggo Mortensen

To get inside the mind of the famed psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud for "A Dangerous Method," Viggo Mortensen did extensive research and mulled the details with director David Cronenberg. The effort has paid off with a Golden Globe nomination for supporting actor. Mortensen spoke by phone to 24 Frames' Elena Howe about how he found out, how he feels and what else he's up to.

PHOTOS: Golden Globe top nominees

E.H.: How did you find out about your nomination?

V.M.: I’m in Madrid. It’s nine hours later, but they don’t show that here anyway. I was headed to work — I’m doing a play — and a friend called and told me. I’m very grateful, but I would have been even happier if [director] David [Cronenberg] had been included. I owe it to him. He made a risky decision to cast me as Freud, and I’m glad to see his hunch paid off. I’m proud to represent “A Dangerous Method” at the Globes.

E.H.: What is the play you’re doing?

V.M.: Ariel Dorfman, who wrote that play “Death and the Maiden,”  he wrote one called “Purgatorio,” which is what I’m doing. It’s heavy on dialogue, like Freud, so I got that back to back. I haven’t been in a play for over 20 years, and there’s lots of dialogue. At first I regretted [signing on for it]. But it’s going well now.

E.H.: How did you prepare to play Sigmund Freud?

V.M.: I had real concerns that it wasn’t a good fit for me. I did it because it was David. Had another director proposed this, I wouldn’t have. But once I got my mind around how to present him — he had a good sense of humor and a sense of irony, which I could relate to — and I actually enjoyed having a lot of dialogue, and now doing the play, it’s like out of the frying pan and into the fire.

I always do a lot of research. I read everything I could that Freud had written and what his contemporaries had written and just informed myself about the period and Western Europe of the time.

E.H.: You’ve worked with David Cronenberg three times now. How did this production go?

Continue reading »

David Cronenberg on why the new 'Fly' has been swatted

December 8, 2011 |  8:30 am


Thefly

 Fans of “The Fly” were intrigued a couple years back when David Cronenberg began working on a script for Fox that would put a new spin on one of his best-known movies. The script, it was reported at the time, would basically offer a new telling of the 1986 body horror classic -- only with the special-effects of the 21st century.

It turns out that intrigue was for naught. Cronenberg told 24 Frames that although he finished the script a while back -- creating "a different take on some elements of the plot" -- the movie is stillborn.
 
"It seems to be dead, and it's hard to penetrate the mysteries of the studio," Cronenberg said. "I'm not really getting a straight answer."

Any attempt to extricate it from Fox would fall flat, he added, because the studio has owned the project from the beginning and isn’t likely to part with it. A Fox spokesman did not comment on the project’s status.

Cronenberg's first “Fly,” itself a new spin on a 1958 classic,  was of course a breakout hit, starring Jeff Goldblum as an eccentric scientist who accidentally transforms himself into the titular insect. A sequel was made a few years later (Cronenberg was not involved and it was poorly received).

The director did get a chance to steward an opera version of his film that began in Paris and eventually came to Los Angeles. And, of course, it's not as if Cronenberg hasn’t been busy. His Freud-Jung historical drama "A Dangerous Method" is currently in theaters, and he's next out with "Cosmpolis," an adaptation of the Don DeLillo novel starring "Twilight" mainstay Robert Pattinson. Cronenberg recently dished about both films to my colleague Rebecca Keegan.

But if a new version of "The Fly" was ever to be revived, Cronenberg said it had to happen in the relatively foreseeable future. "I think [the script] would survive five years," he said. "I don’t know about 10."

RELATED:

Dangerous Method: Cronenberg on Freud, Jung and hysteria

David Cronenberg; The detail-obsessed Viggo Mortensen

Toronto 2011: Keira Knightley says 'Method' role wigs her out too

-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Jeff Goldblum in "The Fly." Credit: 20th Century Fox


"Beginners," "Tree of Life" tie for Gotham Film Awards

November 28, 2011 |  8:07 pm

CA.0408.beginners.049
Mike Mills' semi-autobiographical drama "Beginners," about a young man whose widower father comes out of the closet, and Terrence Malick's mystical family epic "Tree of LIfe" tied for best film of 2011 at the 21st annual Gotham Independent Film Awards given out Monday evening in New York City.

"Beginners," which stars Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer, also won for ensemble cast. Felicity Jones took home the breakthrough actor award for her role as a lovestruck British woman in 
"Like Crazy." Breakthrough director honors went to Dee Rees for "Pariah." The documentary prize went to "Better This World."

Other awards given out included:

The Best Film Not Playing At a Theater Near You: "Scenes of a Crime"

Festival Genius Award, which is voted on by filmgoers online: "Girlfriend"

Spotlight on Women Filmmakers "Live the Dream" Grant: Lucy Mulloy, "Una Noche"

The awards are presented by the Independent Filmmaker Project, which is the oldest and largest U.S. organization of indie filmmakers. It is one of two key awards given to independent films. Nominations for the other, Film Independent's Spirit Awards, will be announced Tuesday.

PHOTOS: 21st Gotham Film Awards arrivals

Besides the competitive awards, career achievement awards were given out to actors Charlize Theron and Gary Oldman, director David Cronenberg and co-chair and chief executive of Fox Film Entertainment Tom Rothman.

Last year's top winner, "Winter's Bone," went on to receive four Oscar nominations including for best picture and lead actress (Jennifer Lawrence). The Gotham's 2009 selection, "The Hurt Locker," won the Academy Award for best picture, director and original screenplay.

Related:

"Descendants," "Beginners" among Gotham Independent Film nominations

Gotham Awards give top prize to 'Winter's Bone'

— Susan King

Photo: Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor in "Beginners." Photo credit: Andrew Tepper.


'Dangerous Method': David Cronenberg on Freud, Jung and hysteria

November 22, 2011 |  3:08 pm

David Cronenberg

David Cronenberg, director of blood-soaked dramas like “A History of Violence” and cult genre pictures like “The Fly,” detours into the life of the mind with his new film, “A Dangerous Method,” opening Wednesday. Adapted from Christopher Hampton's play “The Talking Cure” and John Kerr's “A Most Dangerous Method,” the film depicts the early years of psychoanalysis on the eve of World War I, as Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and his protégé Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) clash over the treatment of Sabina Spielrein, a beautiful young patient (Keira Knightley). The director recently sat down for an interview with 24 Frames' Rebecca Keegan to discuss his attraction to the subject matter, his theories about analysis and how he set about casting historic figures.

R.K.: Why Freud?

D.C.: Some people have said, “This is a departure for you.” My first film is a seven-minute film called “Transfer” and it was about a psychiatrist and his patient. The relationship between a psychoanalyst and a patient had not existed before Freud. It's uniquely intimate, very clinical and yet emotional. It's interesting that we can invent a new kind of human relationship that needs to be explored artistically as well as clinically.

R.K.: Have you undergone analysis yourself?

D.C.: No. I think psychoanalysis does on a personal level what an artist does in general. You're presented with an official version of reality …. And then you say, “OK, but what's really going on underneath the surface? That's not the total story.” There are hidden things, things that are misunderstood. What drives people? Why do people do what they do? When they go off the rails, it's very intriguing. When something goes wrong it's usually much more revealing than when things are going perfectly right. You don't want to see a movie about people living this great life where everything's nice. That's boring. You might want to live that, but you don't want to see it as a drama. In that sense, it's kind of a perfect subject for an artist.

R.K.: How did you and Keira Knightley discuss how to portray her character in her hysterical state?

Continue reading »

David Cronenberg: The detail-obsessed Viggo Mortensen

November 19, 2011 |  1:30 pm

Whether he's playing a small-town man hiding a secret past in "A History of Violence" or the Viennese psychoanalytic pioneer Sigmund Freud in the upcoming "A Dangerous Method," Viggo Mortensen seems to come alive in David Cronenberg movies. The two have what the Canadian auteur describes as "that strange old thing we call chemistry."

What is it that makes the actor so unique? Cronenberg describes Mortensen's preoccupation with detail before he even arrives on set. On "Method," for instance, Mortensen exchanged dozens of emails with Cronenberg about Freud's personal habits, including questions about the type and quality of cigars he smoked.

Check out Cronenberg describing the actor's meticulous work habits as he sized up the actor at The Times' Envelope screening series.

RELATED:

Keira Knightley says 'Method' role wigs her out too

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Viggo Mortensen looks to team up with Drive writer for Patricia Highsmith adaptation

-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

 


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