August 01, 2012

NSW Law Society Journal: Cosmopolis Review



On the eve of Cosmopolis’ release in Australia, I had a funny conversation with my sister tonight – somehow Rob came up – go figure.  Anyway I tell her I’m seeing Cosmopolis tomorrow night and she says, there’s a really good review of Cosmopolis in this month’s Law Society Journal.  Really I say … hmm I’ll go check it out.   Never thought I’d see Rob in the LawSoc Journal but there ya go.  I’ll try and get a scan of the article, but in the meantime, here is Michèle Asprey’s review.  I have a feeling you are going to like it:

“Is it coincidence, or something in the zeitgeist? There’s a curiosity in cinema whereby two films release on the same topic at around the same time (for example, in 2005, Capote(Miller) and Infamous(McGrath)). There are many examples. And it’s happened again.
This month two films appeared featuring a protagonist who rides around a big city in a stretch limo over the course of one day, for the full length of the film, interacting with other characters in a series of vignettes. One was Leos Carax’s very strange Holy Motors(with Kylie Minogue), which divided audiences recently at the Cannes Film Festival. The other was David Cronenberg’s latest, Cosmopolis.
Cronenberg not only directed but wrote the screenplay for Cosmopolis, adapting Don DeLillo’s 2003 book of the same name. Cronenberg has been busy lately. A Dangerous Method, about the relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, has only just left our cinemas.
DeLillo’s book also divided readers and critics. One critic found it “eerily brilliant”, others considered it a victory of style over substance. The same argument is likely over the film, but I’m on the side of eerie brilliance.
Cronenberg took only six days to adapt the screenplay from the novel, because he found the novel’s dialogue so marvelous. He said he “started typing down all the dialogue from the book on my computer without changing or adding anything. It took me three days. When I was done, I wondered, ‘Is there enough material for a film? I think so’.”
As a result, the dialogue is very literary, not naturalistic. But it is entrancing: more akin to poetry than prose.
It helps that Cronenberg has assembled a fascinating cast to speak this poetic dialogue. First, he recruited teen heartthrob Robert Pattinson, famous for playing a vampire in theTwilight series of films (one every year since 2008, with one more due in 2012). Pattinson plays the lead, 28-year-old billionaire asset manager Eric Packer, who rides across New York in a limo over the course of one day in order to get his hair cut. Pattinson acquits himself very well, handling the arch dialogue with wit and precision.
A passing parade of actors encounters Packer one by one, mostly in the limo but occasionally outside. Among others, there’s his head of security (Kevin Durand), chief of technology (a twitchy Jay Baruchel), a former lover and current art adviser (Juliet Binoche), chief of theory (Samantha Morton, who has the most abstract dialogue to spout), and his obscenely wealthy wife (Sarah Gadon). Packer’s doctor even conducts daily health checks in the limo, examining his prostate while Packer simultaneously discusses the economy of China and flirts with his chief of finance (Emily Hampshire).
As Packer moves slowly across a gridlocked city (the US President is in town), his currency analyst warns him he’s over-exposed to the Chinese yuan. In the book, nine years old now, it was the yen (how global finance has changed since 2003). His chief of security warns him of a credible threat of assassination (of Packer, not the President), and protestors crowd the streets, daubing the limo with paint. Will Packer’s impassive facade crack under such pressure?
The answer comes in the lead-up to his tense confrontation with Paul Giamatti, playing a disgruntled former employee. It’s another brilliant performance from Giamatti, whose search for life’s meaning is the antithesis of Packer’s ruthless detachment.
There are no answers to the global financial crisis here. That’s not so surprising given the book predated the GFC by some years. But that’s also what’s so astonishing. The book has anticipated so much of what transpired in those intervening years – even down to Rupert Murdoch’s pie in the face! And Cronenberg has managed to transform this difficult, wordy, prescient book into a vehicle as sleek and polished as a limousine.”

This time tomorrow night Vertigo and I will be grinning – no doubt about it.

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