Pattinsons legion of Twilight fans will be befuddled by this coldly fascinating movie, but Cronenberg has built a sufficient following to ensure an audience for the strange brew.
Not everyone will like it, of course. There isnt a Cronenberg fan on the planet who could honestly say he loves all of the directors movies. And thats a testament to the risks hes taken from the beginning of his 37-year career.
The Toronto native started in the 1970s with a series of gory, low-budget shockers sprinkled with subtle social and political commentary. The Brood, for example, may be the most disturbing (and gruesome) movie ever made about divorce. And in Shivers (retitled They Came From Within for its U.S. release), the zombies want to rape rather than devour you.
Those cheap, artful movies were profitable enough to earn Cronenberg bigger budgets, and two early 80s sci-fi pictures heightened his profile: Scanners, with its infamous exploding head, and Videodrome, a surreal exploration of voyeurism and technology that featured Deborah Harry as a soft-spoken sadomasochist.
But Cronenberg didnt really enter the mainstream until the one-two punch of The Dead Zone, a well-received adaptation of the Stephen King novel starring Christopher Walken, and The Fly, an Oscar-nominated study in body-horror that doubled as a metaphor for AIDS. Their critical and commercial success seemed to earn him a perch in the Hollywood echelons, proving he could make technically polished pictures and draw strong performances from actors.
And then he walked away from big pictures and returned to personal ones: Dead Ringers, his disquieting study of twins (played by Jeremy Irons); Naked Lunch, a hallucinatory fantasy inspired by William S. Burroughs novel; M. Butterfly, his disastrous adaptation of the acclaimed play, and eXistenZ, a sci-fi fantasy about virtual-reality games that, like Videodrome, seems uncannily prescient today.
The same can be said of DeLillos 2003 vision of anti-capitalist riots, terrorist attacks and fortunes lost to sudden economic shifts.
Its amusing to go back and read some of the reviews of that novel, because a lot of the critics said Oh, these demonstrations on Wall Street are so unconvincing! Cronenberg says. That stuff seemed like fantasy and made it difficult to relate to. And now, of course, things have changed.
The prophetic nature of Cosmopolis was the least of what fascinated him about DeLillos book, he says.
I think artists just have highly sensitive antennae, maybe a bit more sensitive than other people. So you are sensitive to things in the air that are going to manifest and evolve naturally in the future. You become an accidental prophet. Its not something you aspire to do.
There are certain sci-fi writers who pride themselves on debating the future. Arthur C. Clarke was very proud he predicted there would be information satellites orbiting the Earth before they existed. But my interest in Cosmopolis had nothing to do with its prescient nature.
Cronenberg says that when he spoke to DeLillo about the novel, the author revealed the book was born out of mundane questions. He was interested by the idea of limos. Why would someone have such a long, clumsy vehicle on the tight streets of New York? Where do all those limos go at night? Stuff like that. He wasnt anticipating an economic meltdown when he sat down to write.