OK, here we go, David Cronenberg returns to the big screen after some years. And with the tag line ‘Surgery is the New Sex’, I suspect things are gonna get icky.
But it isn’t that at first. At first, surgery is the new performance art. Viggo Mortensen and his female companion are performance artists. She’s the surgeon, he’s the patient. She has this technique where she creates and cultivates organs in Viggo’s abdomen, and then surgically removes them, in a public performance. There are other performance artists who perform similar shows, but our duo are rock stars, best and most famous in the whole area.
We get a bunch of subplots. One where people sorta get sexually aroused by these performances. Another about some guy who is in the process of creating an organ registry, to keep track of the organs that people create, most of which go to waste, but some of which do have functions, and this guy just wants to create a map of the evolution of the human body. And a cop who always seems to be one or two steps ahead of everybody else, but never reveals what his end target his, what he’s trying to accomplish. And then another about a boy who eats plastic. And yet another about poisonous purple chocolate bars. Really.
It takes most of the movie for it to finally reveal what it’s all about. Something about a group of people who have surgically modified themselves to be some sort of super human, or future human. The movie doesn’t make clear why this, or just about everything else in the movie, has to be so secretive, so underground, so hush-hush. But apparently it does, but this group of people is ready to announce themselves to the world, and they want this performance art duo to help them make the announcement.
I’m not sure about a lot of stuff in this movie, which is bad news. I mean, we all know Cronenberg is a master, but it seems he’s overlooked one of the basic tenets of moviemaking in this one- it has to make sense. Strip away all of the techno babble, and all the futuristic, sci-fi stuff, boil the script down to its skeleton, and it has to be a good story. And maybe this one is that, but he shrouds it in all this weird stuff on screen so it becomes this giant labyrinth, this maze of circumstances and people and conversations and actions, and all of that buries what the movie is about.
If you can get to the end, yes, there is a big revelation and it does have a point. I’m still not sure why anybody is going around killing anybody else over anything, but they do. Also, too much whispering in this one, and too much people speaking under their breath and too much mumbling. Can’t fucking understand what anybody is saying without subtitles. Fuck, I hate that.
I’m not sure what all of the antiquated technology on display is all about- super 8 film cameras, polaroid instant cameras, old CRT tvs, record turntable. Just basic juxtaposition? I guess.
It’s very stylish, very much characteristically and identifiably Cronenberg. But very much not his best work.