It quickly became apparent that this mysterious project shared only its title with David Cronenberg’s second medium-length film. Made in 1970, Crimes of the future first of the name completed the diptych begun with Stereo (1969). Both experimental and incomprehensible sci-fi stories relied entirely on a voice-over. None of that in the master’s latest production, which cultivates its opacity thanks to the strangeness of its aesthetics and the future it describes. In this painless universe, organs can grow spontaneously, and some take the opportunity to make works of art. This is the case of Saul Tenser, about to deliver his masterpiece.
Yet it is not so surprising that these Future Crimes echo one of his early works. The feature film indeed seems to metaphorically retrace his filmography from start to finish, and explain his status as an artist. The comparison seems a little easy, but impossible not to see in the character of Saul a warped alter ego of Cronenbergdemiurge tormented by his creation.
Viggo without vigor
Like him, he draws on his own resources to unveil organic shows that shock a small worldly world asking for nothing more. Like him, he has acquired a certain fame under the nose and beard of institutional committees (represented by Wippet, played by Don McKellar, and his colleague Timlin, played by a fairly discreet Kristen Stewart), who are struggling to properly understand the phenomenon. Like him, he attracts, despite his fame, far fewer people than his more popular counterparts. Like him, he clears a future made of flesh and organs.
Parallels of the genre, the film is full of. Especially since it is full of more or less obvious references to entire portions of his career. The general atmosphere is sometimes reminiscent of the Interzone of the Feast No.the technology surrounding the world ofexistencewhen scenes do not explicitly cite Videodrome.
The Crimes of the Futurevia its concept, is a radical return to body-horrora genre that Cronenerg seemed to have since abandoned Spider in 2002. And he took the opportunity to compile, then hybridize all his obsessions, not without philosophizing in passing on the relevance of this cinema in a transformed world. Nothing surprising from the one who staged his own death (or almost) in the short film The Death of David Cronenberg.
Autopsy of a career
The author denies making fun of the Hollywood industry, which we would be tempted to see parodied during one of the most disturbing scenes of the film, glimpsed in the trailer. Yet – no offense to the detractors of his recent essays – the whole is paradoxically as much reminiscent of existence that at Maps to the stars. It is less a question of the contemporary blockbuster than of a world of cinema in a vacuum, already copiously exhausted in its penultimate feature film.
The protagonists model their attitude on their relationship to this stifling environment. The character of Viggo Mortensen frowns, curled up in his devices, while his partner played by Léa Seydoux is much more sociable, to the point of acting as a link between Saul and the small world he satisfies. The duo is in fact torn between complacency with this artistic comfort, which diverts the use of autopsy machines to satisfy aesthetes, and a more dangerous exploration of the future of humanity, which implies a real transgression… be the heart of the director’s work.
A postulate on paper that is a tad too theoretical. Except we’re at Cronenberg’s, and it is the surgical interconnection between all the components of the film that gives it its uniqueness. The photography and the particularly pictorial sets (the opening, magnificently strange, sets the tone), the frames with their sometimes deliberately intuitive composition (the overframing of the female characters when they first meet) and the sibylline dialogues reinforce its artificiality.
During the promotion, the filmmaker had sold an image of his kidney stones as an NFT, drawing the wrath of the web. However absurd the approach, it fits very well into the microcosm described here. Everything becomes artfrom the post-apocalyptic backgrounds of certain discussions to the various mutilations, which for lack of pain, are described as clandestine drugs as well as celebrated performances.
The awards ceremonies, which moreover gain in irony in the context of Cannes, are only instruments of unhealthy self-exaltation, participating in the elaboration of a universe where sex, technology and culture mingle in a formless bodily magma, a universe that feeds on itself. And the challenge will be to transcend it by revealing a sliver of the future.
Not on the same plane
New new flesh
The screenplay, cryptic as it is, therefore quickly reveals a rather fascinating problem: to remain provocative and relevant after so many years of career, is it not better to tell your own end, anticipate a future than we can’t even really know? To escape once again from the onanism of the artistic milieu, does one have to commit a crime of the future?
Still, this enigmatic future that invites itself into the story by keys is quite extraordinary inventiveness, not only on the narrative level (rest assured, we will not spoil), but also on the philosophical level. By linking its stakes through the flesh and its transformations, the feature film recounts both an interpersonal relationship and a paradigm shift.
We look at big organs
Since everything emanates from the body, it ends up shaping its own reality, even if it means flouting gradually, then methodically, the most elementary rules of science. Hence the maxim which is an integral part of the works of our heroes and which haunts the film: “body is reality” (“the body is reality”). An idea that once again refers to previous milestones in Cronenberg’s filmography, such as Flywhere bodily mutations went hand in hand with psychological and sentimental degeneration, or even probably his aborted version of Total Recall.
Transgressing is also reintroduce a political dimension into art. While the world in which Saul and Caprice operate seems at first glance closed in on itself, so that even the supposedly independent committees (through Timlin’s character) end up succumbing to the fascination of organ culture, their creative enterprise comes up against a real social upheaval, with ultra-complex implications, a reflection on the future of humanity in which the lambda organic conjurers are completely uninterested. It will therefore be a question of embracing this metamorphosis or not.
This exploration of the avant-garde logically becomes very clinical, and those who are alienated by it (there will be many of them) will even say disembodied. Its conclusion will also leave some on the floor. We expected no less from the great return of the singer of the new flesh and of the exegesis of one’s own creativity.