Canadian director David Cronenberg’s last film was 2014’s “Maps to the Stars” and I was hoping, for his sake, that it would be his last. Set in the Hollywood Hills and the LA film community – as opposed to his native Toronto – its was a tragic mess. The tone was all wrong. I suspected, at the time, that he did not even set foot in LA. The scenes on Rodeo Drive were filmed in such a perfunctory fashion that they had to be the work of an assistant. Despite a heroic central performance by Julianne Moore, the movie died a fast death.
Cronenberg, always an uneven director, reached his peak in the late 80s and early 90s with his “The Fly” (1986), “Dead Ringers” (1988), and “Naked Lunch” (1991). He hit another good period in the aughts with “A History of Violence” (2005) and “Eastern Promises” (2007) both starring Viggo Mortensen. Surrounding these peaks are a lot of mediocre movies from “M. Butterfly” (1993) to “Crash” (1996) to “eXistenz” (1999), to “Spider” (2002) to “A Dangerous Method” (2011) to “Cosmopolis” (2014). “Maps to the Stars” was different though. Different in that you could feel that it was not just a bad movie. It was a movie made by a director who had lost his way. Who had basically forgotten how to direct a movie.
Mortensen, Seydoux and Stewart.
Unfortunately, things have just gotten worse with his latest offering “Crimes of the Future” for which he also wrote the original screenplay. Hell, they are so bad, that he has reused the title of his second movie from 1970 even though the plots – if you can call them that – are not the same. It’s the near future and we are introduced to a couple named Saul Tenser (Mortensen, again) and Caprice (Lea Seydoux) who have an artistic practice involving the growth and removal of new organs inside Saul’s body. They perform the procedure on stage before a live audience. Saul has “Accelerated Evolution Syndrome” and no longer feels pain. Two people from the National Organ Registry Timlin (Kristen Stewart, a long way from her stunning work in “Spencer”) and Wippet (Don McKellar) have come to investigate. Timlin becomes fascinated with Saul.
That’s the initial setup and nothing much happens with respect to plot after that. It’s excruciatingly boring. The advertising is pushing the squeamish factor but even that side of things is a letdown. In fact, all of the body stuff begins to look pretty silly after a while and we are drawn back to the director’s previous movies like the talking asshole bug in “Naked Lunch”. To a time when David Cronenberg adapting William Burroughs made sense. Unfortunately, that time is long gone.