Videodrome: The Slithery Sense of Unreality
By Gary Indiana
Naked Lunch: So Deep in My Heart That You’re Really a Part of Me
By Chris Rodley
The Criterion Collection
The brochure for the 1961 Lincoln Continental line makes the six-seater luxury sedans look almost dainty. They come in pretty pastels: a cream called Sultana White, a fizzy yellow known as Sunburst, an ice-cream-parlor blue-green dubbed Turquoise Mist. A gloved female finger toggles the power-window switch—almost every picture has an immaculately accessorized woman in it, usually as part of a couple, sometimes posing with an equally well-groomed dog. It is hard to believe that this make and model, modified and in Presidential Black, will soon accrue a somber notoriety for the bit part it will play in the Kennedy assassination. Or that, a decade later and because of that grim pedigree, British writer J. G. Ballard will assign a ’61 Continental to be the automotive alter ego of Vaughan, the Conradian madman and car-wreck fetishist at the heart, or the place where the heart should be, of his 1973 neurasthenic nightmare of a novel, Crash.
Described as a “crazed, morbid roundelay of dismemberment and sexual perversion” in its New York Times review—and, to be clear, the reviewer regarded that as a bad thing—the novel’s reception prefigured that of David Cronenberg’s film adaptation twenty-three years later. Ballard apparently had his manuscript returned to him with a note from a publisher’s reader still attached, advising against the book’s publication and asserting—much to the author’s wry delight—that he was “beyond psychiatric help.” Later, the Daily Mail would launch a crusade to get Cronenberg’s film banned in the United Kingdom, succeeding only in one London borough—Westminster—whose denizens had to make the arduous trek to neighboring Camden to see it in a cinema. And this mixed-message moral panic came after the competition judges of the Cannes Film Festival had already awarded the film a Special Jury Prize—from which disapproving jury president Francis Ford Coppola pointedly distanced himself.
“No one has a life story, a past, or a single recognizable emotional response. No one has much of anything, really, except for an insatiable, mechanical libido and a car.”
“What Cronenberg did with Ballard’s novel was to strip out the upholstery, the walnut finish, the chrome detailing.”
Described by director Joan Micklin Silver as “a kind of weird romantic comedy,” this defiantly ambiguous exploration of amour fou presents its obsessive antihero in all his contradictions.
A pivotal early film from legendary Hong Kong director John Woo, this martial-arts classic explores the heroic ethos of youxia, Chinese warriors willing to sacrifice their lives to fight for justice and fulfill their promises.
One of the towering figures of postwar French literature, Marguerite Duras was also an innovative filmmaker whose rarefied cinematic style dared audiences to see less and listen more.
In his directorial debut, Robert Townsend channeled his frustrations with the typecasting of Black actors, resulting in a satire whose hilarious critique of Hollywood still resonates today.