• “If there’s such a thing as an ideal time of day to expose yourself to the deranging, hallucinatory visions of the Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg, midnight might well be it,” writes critic and Criterion contributor Terrence Rafferty in a terrific New York Times tribute to those “mind-body-machine games” the director loves to play, a piece highlighting a Cronenberg midnight-movie series currently playing at Manhattan’s IFC Center. Of Naked Lunch he writes: “You have to be in a fairly savage mood to enjoy the movie’s grisly humor and reality-warping imagery, the kind of mood that can descend on you toward the end of a long, bad night, when everything around you starts to look creepy and alien, and your nerves are too frayed for sleep. That’s the Cronenberg state of mind.” Click here to read the whole piece, in which Rafferty also discusses the Criterion-released Videodrome and such other creepy-crawlies as The Fly, The Dead Zone, and eXistenZ.

2 comments

  • By Kevin L.
    February 24, 2009
    12:07 PM

    Mostly-unrelated: With the closing of New Yorker films, is Criterion going to be buying up a lot of those films? They're being auctioned off, snatch them up!
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  • By Anon E. Mouse
    December 24, 2009
    07:26 PM

    Agreed. Rafferty seemingly speaks for the swinging "midnight audience" (an identity badge he proudly wears - are we to be impressed that his mother allowed him to stay up so late), when in actuality he is only modestly referring to his limitations as a critic. To anyone remotely familiar with the Burroughs and Ballard source materials, it is clear that Cronenberg's adaptations illustrate a strong fidelity to the prima materia, as well as, the dark reflections of the filmmaker's psyche. Is this not what makes an excellent film? From the Article: "Both movies are peculiarly flat; they feel studied, dutiful. And they illustrate an odd property of Mr. Cronenberg’s filmmaking: he’s very good when he’s most himself, riffing on his own obsessions, and good too when he seems least like himself, working on relatively conventional Hollywood projects. He gets into trouble, though, when he tries to merge his idiosyncratic sensibility with that of an apparently like-minded artist, a Burroughs or a Ballard." Rafferty's inability to understand Cronenberg's logic keeps the critic left in the dark. In "Naked Lunch," Cronenberg does much more than simply attempt to adapt an impossible book... he uses Burroughs' relationships to love and prose as a lens for examining the artistic process. This film is a case study, that is true, Mr. Rafferty, but it because we are guests in the great lecture hall of Dr. Cronenberg: a dimly lit, Victorian amphitheater where we watch the slow dissection of our own erotic fantasies. The same can be said of "Crash." These nightmare visions are successful BECAUSE they are cold and removed. There is no need for him to bluff because the corpse is splayed open and the organs lay on the adjacent table, clearly labeled for all to see. Clearly Terry Rafferty has never been to an autopsy. The cards are on the table, yes, but they are Tarot cards full of self-reflection and metaphor, not the parlor game cards used to play Go Fish and Egyptian Ratscrew. "Crash" and "Naked Lunch" are about falling down the pitch-black pit of your own obsessions for the sake of learning only a glimmer of truth. They are are human sexuality in the modern age and the erotic thrill of transgressing the limits of societal norms. They are about finding personal salvation in the most peculiar of all places: the perverse.
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