David Cronenberg’s work is analytical, eccentric, violent, and humane, all at once. It also has the power, when encountered at the right time, to make the viewer feel changed, transported, taken from one "place" in the mind to the other. Many years ago, I reviewed Naked Lunch and Steven Soderbergh’s Kafka back-to-back; I was startled to find, when I got home, a large cockroach in my bathtub. Had the film continued? Had I passed out? This piece by the prolific "Hello Wizard" flips us through 45-plus years of Cronenberg’s work at a fast clip. Throughout, you can feel the mixture of tones here, the blend of empathy, and horror, and panic, and mystification, and euphoria. When we see Jeff Goldblum late in his transformation stage into a fly, sure, we’re terrified–but we’re also sad. When a man’s face begins to rupture in Scanners, it’s difficult not to think of the special effects involved–but it’s also difficult not to think about what the face once looked like, and to try to read the emotions in the victim’s tortured features. Even in as sleek a film as Cosmopolis, the seeming coldness of the actors, their stylized slowness and blankness, read as mini-critiques, implied complaints, ultimately reminders of the humanity that could lie elsewhere. Cronenberg is a director to whom it is always exciting to return; he continues turning ideas over and over, always finding some new facet through which to view them.
Watch: A Video Homage to David Cronenberg’s Unsettling and Rich Body of Work