Saturday, September 01, 2012


Cosmopolis / Cosmopolis. Country of origin according to the end credits: Canada. FR/CA/PT/IT © 2012 Cosmopolis / Alfama Films / France 2 Cinéma. P: Paulo Branco, Martin Katz. D+SC: David Cronenberg - based on the novel (2003) by Don DeLillo, Finnish translation forthcoming: Tammi, 2012. DP: Peter Suschitzky - camera: ARRI Alexa - lenses: Cooke S4 and Angenieux Optimo - source format: ARRIRAW 2,8K - digital intermediate: 2K - Éclair Numérique - Deluxe - print formats: 35 mm, 2K DCP - Panavision - 1,85:1. PD: Arvinder Grewal. Cost: Denise Cronenberg. Makeup: Seth Rossman. SFX: Warren Appleby, etc. VFX: Dennis Berardi, etc. Paintings by Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman. M: Howard Shore. Perf: Metric. S: Michael O'Farrell. ED: Ronald Sanders. Casting: Deirdre Bowen. C: Robert Pattinson (Eric Packer), Juliette Binoche (Didi Fancher), Sarah Gadon (Elise Shifrin), Mathieu Amalric (Andre Petrescu), Jay Baruchel (Shiner), Kevin Durand (Torval), K'NAAN (Brutha Fez), Emily Hampshire (Jane Melman), Samantha Morton (Vija Kinsky), Paul Giamatti (Benno Levin), Philip Nozuka (Michael Chin). 109 min. Released by Cinema Mondo with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Minna Franssila / Joanna Erkkilä. 2K DCP viewed at Tennispalatsi 8, Helsinki, 1 September 2012 (weekend of Finnish premiere).

This seems to be a moment for road movies. Jack Kerouac's On the Road has been ambitiously filmed by Walter Salles. Mika Kaurismäki, the Finnish road movie expert, has made The Road North.

Based on the novel by Don DeLillo, Cosmopolis is the road movie of the multibillionaire Eric Packer's trip, inching in his stretched limousine from his Manhattan penthouse to get a haircut from his old barber on the other side of the town. The barber has known him since childhood. Maybe he is the only one who is in touch with Eric as a human being.

The stretch limo is for Eric a second home and a second office, full of high tech equipment. The floor is built of Carrara marble, and the limo is "Prousted" = cork-lined for soundproofing. In the limo Eric conducts his business, stays au courant of the world, meets his wife Elise Shifrin, negotiates with his art dealer Didi Fancer, makes love to Didi, receives his daily medical examination, and uses the car's own toilet.

The trip is filled with obstacles. The President visits the city, there is a anarchistic "rat riot" ("a spectre is haunting the world"), and a funeral procession of a Sufi rap star. There are threats on Eric. His limo is smutted, stained, and painted with graffiti. He receives a cream cake on his face. Finally he meets the man who has threatened to assassinate him.

The concept of art keeps reappearing. Eric wants to buy the Rothko chapel. The acts of smudging Eric's limo and Eric himself are compared with action painting.

Cosmopolis is a global thriller with topical issues. Sex is commodified and has nothing to do with love (but maybe with friendship). In the world of cyber capital, "money is talking to itself", and if time is money, now nanoseconds count. Eric has bought a private bomber plane which can carry nuclear bombs. "The logical extension of possession is murder". Eric sees how the director of the IMF (the International Monetary Fund) is stabbed in the eye on live television. When Eric finally meets his assassin, Benno Levin, he turns out to be a deranged loser, a nervous wreck, who feels he can only prove his existence by murdering Eric. The yuan may collapse at any moment, Eric's portfolio may be ruined and the world economy may collapse, but Elise, his wife in their Platonic marriage, promises support although she wants a divorce after a marriage of a few weeks.

Many of the issues in Cosmopolis are the same as in The Dark Knight Returns.

Cronenberg proves himself again as an adapter of "unfilmable" novels, like he did with Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs. In Videodrome Cronenberg was a pioneer of cyberpunk, and Cosmopolis is also relevant to cyberworld issues: it is a saga about cybermoney. We can see Eric as cybermoney personified. Whatever we call the age after post-modernity, Cosmopolis is relevant to it.

Vampire actors carry a lifelong curse from their role. Bela Lugosi never overcame it. Christopher Lee is still struggling. In Robert Pattinson's performance it is impossible to forget his role as Edward Cullen in the Twilight series.

Cosmopolis is a sharp, literate, and disturbing movie, Cronenberg at his best. I haven't read Don DeLillo's novel, but Sight & Sound's reviewers find the movie better than the novel.

Cosmopolis has been digitally shot, and there is an intentional look of digital gloss, slightly lifeless and airless, in the movie.

A great David Cronenberg interview in Film Comment, 23 August 2012, by Amy Taubin

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