Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Viggo Mortensen, Léa Seydoux, Kristen Stewart, Scott Speedman, Don McKellar, Welket Bungué, Lihi Kornowski, Tanaya Beatty, Yorgos Karamihos, Yorgos Pirpassopoulos, Nadia Litz, Sozos Sotiris
Written by: David Cronenberg
Directed by: David Cronenberg
MPAA Rating: R for strong disturbing violent content and grisly images, graphic nudity and some language
Running Time: 107
Date: 06/03/2022
IMDB

Crimes of the Future (2022)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Drastic Surgery

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

While non-fans may be put off by it, those already in the David Cronenberg club will be transported by this return to form. Crimes of the Future, which shares its name (and little else) with Cronenberg's early, 1970 student film, is an exceedingly weird and brilliant meditation on human bodies and passing time.

In the film, humans have begun rapidly evolving in strange new ways, including losing our ability to feel pain. People have even begun performing surgeries on one another. Performance artist Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) regularly grows new, unidentified organs, and his partner, Caprice (Léa Seydoux), surgically removes them in public, for a crowd of onlookers.

Saul and Caprice are approached by Wippet (Don McKellar) and Timlin (Kristen Stewart), of the National Organ Registry, who wish to learn more about Saul's condition. Meanwhile, a small boy who can eat and digest plastic is murdered by his mother, who considers him a monster. The boy's father (Scott Speedman) asks Saul if he and Caprice would perform a public autopsy on the boy's body, in the hope of uncovering another key to the secrets of evolution.

Since his debut in 1969, Cronenberg has focused largely on the strange marriage of human-made technology and nature-made flesh, in masterworks like Videodrome, Dead Ringers, and Crash. After his 1999 eXistenZ, he began making less horror-centric and more mature efforts. Crimes of the Future is a surprising companion piece to those earlier body-horror movies, both complimenting them and moving ahead. Without giving away the story's best twist, this movie contains Cronenberg's sharpest commentary on the human-led destruction of our own natural habitat.

That's not to say that Crimes of the Future is a downer. It constantly shocks and surprises with Cronenbergian inventions like a peculiar hanging bed shaped like a huge bug, designed to shift and adjust to help the sleeper sleep better. (There's also a creepy "eating chair," supposedly designed with a similar intent.) But the movie's main focus is the concept of evolution, fascinating in all its emotional, biological layers. As bodies change, humans find ways of adapting, asserting control. As the Timlin character points out, surgery has become the new sex, and characters mutilate and manipulate their own flesh to express their inner beauties.

Ever the master filmmaker, Cronenberg's cool, clinical filmmaking style perfectly expresses and visualizes his themes, with every frame elegantly composed to feel simultaneously mysterious and analytical. Mortensen leads a batch of brilliant performances, constantly fighting against his own rebelling body, and forever attempting to clear space in the constricting muscles in his throat. Stewart is maybe the movie's key, the one who best expresses fascination with the flesh, and, like the bold performer she is, she gives it her all. Meanwhile, Howard Shore's thrumming score gives an edge of dread.

However, as with Alex Garland's recent Men, there's the question of who this film is for, and whether we film buffs and film critics who will "get" it, should warn away newcomers. I've been seeing a lot of that, on both films, and even I felt the need to begin my review that way. But going to the movies shouldn't always be easy or mindless. Movies can change lives, which is why so many of us are dedicated to them. So I say, if you want to see something that's like nothing you've seen before, and if you really want a cinematic experience, here's Crimes of the Future for you, if you dare.

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