Cosmopolis

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Re: Cosmopolis

Postby Sonic Youth » Fri May 25, 2012 9:19 pm

Cosmopolis
By Justin Chang
Variety


An eerily precise match of filmmaker and material, "Cosmopolis" probes the soullessness of the 1% with the cinematic equivalent of latex gloves. Applying his icy intelligence to Don DeLillo's prescient 2003 novel, David Cronenberg turns a young Wall Street titan's daylong limo ride into a coolly corrosive allegory for an era of technological dependency, financial failure and pervasive paranoia, though the dialogue-heavy manner in which it engages these concepts remains distancing and somewhat impenetrable by design. While commercial reach will be limited to the more adventurous end of the specialty market, Robert Pattinson's excellent performance reps an indispensable asset.

The first film based on a DeLillo tome, as well as Cronenberg's first feature-length script since 1999's "eXistenZ," "Cosmopolis" is an uncommonly straightforward adaptation by a filmmaker who, in movies like "Naked Lunch" and "Spider," found an inventive visual syntax for the psychological and intellectual conceits at work. Working here with a spare, episodic narrative and dialogue that teems with heady ideas, Cronenberg adopts a direct, scene-by-scene approach that crucially nails the novel's tone of archly stylized pessimism.

Already an unholy pillar of capitalism at 28, handsome, sharply attired Eric Packer (Pattinson) decides he needs a haircut and sets out on the crosstown journey in his white stretch limousine, the interior of which is equipped with screens and gizmos that seem far more futuristic than the cold, gray Manhattan outside its windows. A presidential motorcade has slowed traffic to a crawl, giving this billionaire assets manager plenty of time for in-limo consultations with his chief of technology (Jay Baruchel) and currency analyst (Philip Nozuka), who warns his Eric he's borrowing too aggressively against the Chinese yuan.

Escorted by security head Torval (Kevin Durand), Eric need not leave these leather-seated confines to have vigorous sex with a g.f. (Juliette Binoche), or to receive a lengthy prostate exam while chatting away with his finance chief (Emily Hampshire). Occasionally he'll get out for bewilderingly frequent meetings with his demure, distant wife, Elise (Sarah Gadon). As day darkens into night, the limo moves past a rap star's funeral procession and into a throng of protesters wielding fake rats as their monetary mascot.

Until the guns come out in the final act, each of Eric's one-on-one meetings has essentially been a verbal sparring match. The initial discussions of technological and financial vulnerability give way to discussions of more abstract concepts: the primitive nature of sexual desire; the expendability of the masses for the sake of a visionary idea; the dizzying speed of human progress and the inability of language to keep up with it. Yet language is precisely what "Cosmopolis" has in abundance as it confronts the viewer with reams and reams of bluntly articulated, hyper-intellectual discourse.

Cronenberg lets DeLillo's ideas speak for themselves but accents them visually, particularly in the way the camera plays up Eric's monstrous callousness and arrogance by emphasizing his physical distance from the hovering crowds. Rarely venturing outside its protagonist's ivory-tower-on-wheels, the film generates a mood of unsettling intimacy and isolation despite the chaotic swirl of human activity in the streets; it's mass misery observed through a glass darkly -- quite literally in the case of the limo's tinted windows.

Charges that this study in emptiness and alienation itself feels empty and alienating are at once accurate and a bit beside the point, and perhaps the clearest confirmation that Cronenberg has done justice to his subject. In presenting such a close-up view of Eric's inner sanctum, the film invites the viewer's scorn and fascination simultaneously; to that end, the helmer has an ideal collaborator in Pattinson, whose callow yet charismatic features take on a seductively reptilian quality here. It's the actor's strongest screen performance and certainly his most substantial.

The other thesps make only fleeting impressions, though Samantha Morton gets some mileage out of her one-scene turn as Eric's articulate chief of theory, and Mathieu Amalric gets a brief, hilarious appearance as a "pastry assassin" whose antics bring Rupert Murdoch's 2011 pie-thrower incident to mind. In a role effectively tightened from the book, Paul Giamatti is superb as a sad sack who represents Eric's antithesis in every particular.

Craft contributions are at the director's high standard, from the crisp rhythms of Ronald Sanders' editing and the cold, slightly metallic cast of Peter Suschitzky's lensing to the unostentatious detail of Arv Greywal's production design. Howard Shore supplies one of his subtler scores, at times registering as little more than an ominous background rumble.
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Re: Cosmopolis

Postby mlrg » Fri May 25, 2012 11:39 am

this one is getting trashed all over by critics.

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Re: Cosmopolis

Postby Sonic Youth » Fri May 25, 2012 8:12 am

Sheesh, the North American (I'm assuming Cosmopolis is Canadian) selections at Cannes are really fizzling out.

Cosmopolis: Cannes Review
by Todd McCarthy
Hollywood Reporter


DeLillo’s short, chilly 2003 book adopted a "Ulysses"-like format of a man’s journey across a city in a single day to presciently foresee the anarchic “Occupy” mentality rising up to protest the financial shenanigans of the ultra-rich. The means of conveyance is a white stretch limo which, to those in Cannes who have seen Leos Carax’s controversial, much wilder Holy Motors, in which the central character winds through Paris in a day in the same vehicle, the coincidence begs the question of whether Carax knew about DeLillo’s novel.

By contrast, Cronenberg’s film is remarkably prosaic, confined through long stretches to the dark and narrow interior of the car, only to be concluded by a static half-hour final scene that feels like a two-character Off Off Broadway play.

Pattinson’s Eric Packer, not yet 30, is a brilliant financial visionary who never puts a foot wrong. With billions at his disposal, he practices rarified and enormously profitable business strategies incomprehensible even to his colleagues while cocooning himself in an enormous apartment and his sound-and-bullet-proof car.

This day, his whim is to travel across mid-town Manhattan, East to West, to get a haircut. His bodyguard Torval (Kevin Durand) warns him about the complications presented by a presidential motorcade, resultant protests and what he terms “credible threats” against Eric’s own life. But the cold young man, presiding from what resembles a black leather throne in the middle of the car’s back seat, feels aloof from physical danger.

One by one, figures from his life join him in the car or for brief pit stops at a diner or bookstore: His blond wife (Sarah Gadon), whom he doesn’t seem to know that well or spend much time with; his art dealer (Juliette Binoche) who vigorously screws him and talks to him about a “Rothko chapel” that has become available; a financial guru (Samantha Morton) who warns that, “Something will happen soon;” a mad “pie assassin” (Mathieu Amalric) who achieves his longstanding goal of creaming the elusive Eric in the face, and a man (K’naan) with whom Eric commiserates about the sudden death of a charismatic black musician whose funeral procession is causing further traffic chaos.

On the page and on film, Eric is a controlled and controlling figure, a man impervious to society’s norms who one must feel has a mind operating well beyond the capacities of mere mortals. He’s utterly humorless and without detectable compassion or accessible humanity, which makes him less than companionable as a character. Pattinson doesn’t help matters by revealing nothing behind the eyes and delivering nearly all his lines with the same rhythm and intonations, plus repetitive head nods in the bargain. It’s a tough character that perhaps a young Jeremy Irons could have made riveting, but Pattinson is too bland and monotonous to hold the interest.

The shortcomings are compounded in the long climactic scene in which, after a startling bit of violence, Eric settles in to a dumpy building on the far West Side to be confronted by desperate and armed former employee Benno Levin (Paul Giamatti). A self-confessed nonentity and no-hoper, Benno’s rants about Eric’s riches and his ultimate plot function made DeLillo’s book disappointingly predictable in its resolution and do the same here, making for a tedious, airless final act. Coming from Cronenberg, the pacing and staging of the scene are remarkably conventional.

Disappointingly, the director could not find a way to electrify the energy of the opposition (sometimes seen outside the limo’s windows, which also allow Eric to shut off the rest of the world like a TV set), nor has he found a fluid, quasi-hallucinatory technique for transitioning among the numerous situations and their constantly changing participants. Of the guest cast, Morton probably makes the strongest impression as an adviser closest to Eric’s level of expertise.

Shot in Toronto studios with considerable rear projection and some location shots, the film would have greatly benefitted from the continuous presence of the real New York, but financial considerations clearly prevented extensive work there.
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Cosmopolis

Postby Sonic Youth » Fri May 25, 2012 8:09 am

Cosmopolis
25 May, 2012 | By Lee Marshall
Screendaily


Dir: David Cronenberg. France-Canada. 2012. 108mins


The cerebral postmodern novels of US writer Don DeLillo have so far proved immune to screen adaptation. It’s not difficult to understand why as we watch David Cronenberg’s arid stab at Cosmopolis, DeLillo’s 2003 yarn about a multi-millionaire asset manager crossing New York in a stretch limo to get a haircut as his investments plummet. Cut and pasted almost verbatim into the script, the novelist’s mannered dialogue and shallow characters (many of whom are simply mouthpieces for ideas) make for an anemic, dramatically flat viewing experience.

In one sense, Cosmopolis is a return to the past for Cronenberg: mostly shot within a cyber-pimped limo, it harnesses the dark, dysfunctional, oneiric moods, if not the same body horror themes, of Videodrome or Crash. But his dependence on DeLillo’s source material means that the director is not entirely his own man, and the atmosphere of impending catastrophe that builds in the course of the film (and is its strongest feature) is constantly undermined by its bookish lines and set-ups.

Bankable Twilight saga star Robert Pattison is fine in the main part: if his Eric Packer is a little cold, a touch robotic, then so is Cronenberg’s unapologetically stylised approach to the story; this was never going to be a role that called for big emotions. But it’s difficult to see Pattison’s youth appeal skewing this arthouse product’s audience towards the teen market – it’s just too slow and too talky.

And despite a few changes – for example making the currency that ruins Packer the yuan rather than the yen – the scenario feels dated. This New York of start-up billionaires raddled with existential ennui is like the 1990s channeled by the 1950s; it’s Wall Street scripted by Albert Camus.

Most scenes take place inside Packer’s company limousine, which is designed as a sort of techno-luxe hearse, with discreetly expensive upholstery and detailing and a variety of touchscreen consoles that monitor, among other things, the markets, the media and Eric’s heart rate. Accompanied by Torval (Durand), head of security at his company Packer Capital, Eric inches downtown through traffic gridlocked by a presidential visit. Insulated from the city outside, Eric receives various people in his automotive cocoon.

Three young employees talk about the financial scenario in terms so abstract that it takes us a while to work out that Eric is facing ruin – and his own utterly passive reaction to the news, while true to the book, makes for a tension-free trip. Eric has sweaty sex with an older lover (Binoche) before discussing with her the purchase of a brace of Rothko paintings; a doctor gets on board to give him his daily check-up; Samantha Morton, playing Packer Capital’s ‘chief of theory’, philosophises with her boss while anti-capitalist protestors riot outside and daub the limo with slogans.

Occasionally Eric gets out – mostly to meet Shifrun (Gadon), his rich WASP-ish wife, for breakfast, lunch and dinner; by dinnertime their marriage of a few weeks is dissolved, more in apathy than rancor. Torval warns Eric that he has received information of potential security threats, one of whom turns out to be a custard-pie-toting ‘pastry assassin’ (Almaric). And meanwhile the city glides by outside, with few landmarks in view – just as well, as the film’s supposed New York is in fact Toronto.

As a post-capitalist parable with psychotic overtones, Cosmopolis has a certain purchase. And apart from one embarrassing rap number, Howard Shore’s Moby-like soundtrack is good at mood building. But it’s an idea film whose ideas are not always particularly interesting; and the dialogue too often sounds as though it’s written by a student playwright nurtured on a diet of Pinter and Ionesco (“My prostate’s asymmetrical”, deadpans Eric; “So is mine”, replies the endgame character played by Paul Giamatti).

The main problem with Cosmopolis the film, however, is one which John Updike had already put his finger on in his New Yorker review of the book: “The trouble with a tale where anything can happen”, he wrote, “is that somehow nothing happens”.
"What the hell?"

Win Butler


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