Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) suffers from and delights in Accelerated Evolution Syndrome. His body sprouts strange new organs, which his partner, Clarice (Léa Seydoux), tattoos, extracts, and displays in ritualistic performance pieces. Underground art world celebrities, Saul and Caprice have quite a fan base, which includes Timlin (Kristen Stewart) and Wippet (Don McKellar) of the National Organ Registry, a clandestine branch of the government tracking new organs out of fear that “human evolution is going wrong.”
Dispatching back to the New York Times from Cannes, where Crimes of the Future premiered on Monday night, Manohla Dargis calls David Cronenberg’s new film “easily the spookiest, most original, and intellectually provoking selection that I’ve seen here so far. It’s certainly the only movie that solicits both your laughter and disgust, alternately entertaining you with macabre jokes and testing your limits with grotesque imagery.”
Amy Taubin will have a feature on the film and an interview with Cronenberg in the June issue of Artforum. Talking to Nicolas Rapold on the latest episode of The Last Thing I Saw, she calls the “amazing” Crimes “a reliquary of previous Cronenberg films and a movement, I think, into the future.” Taubin is impressed with the way Cronenberg incorporates Athens, where Saul and Caprice perform, as both the historical birthplace of western civilization and the destination of a species beginning to pay—biologically—for wreaking havoc on the environment. Crimes is “exquisitely beautiful,” says Taubin, and it’s “a romantic movie” but also “very funny in a kind of [William S.] Burroughs way.”
The Los Angeles Times’s Justin Chang finds that Mortensen, “such a muscled, brutish pillar of strength in Cronenberg’s A History of Violence and Eastern Promises, is all the more poignant here with his lumbering gait and rasping-and-coughing vulnerability. He and Seydoux have a moving rapport that carries a whisper of high-toned kink: Caprice may be a doctor attending to her patient and a dominant toying with her submissive, but most of all, she sees herself as an artist perfecting her canvas . . . And whatever else it may be—a blood-spattered neo-noir, a parable of environmental decay, an uncommonly bizarre and tender love story—Crimes of the Future also operates as a deadpan satire of the modern art world. Seldom has the natural tendency of artists to mine themselves for creative material been pushed to such exquisitely yucky extremes.”
The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney admires the “invaluable contributions” from Cronenberg’s “longtime production designer, Carol Spier, and first-time DP, Douglas Koch. Even more significant is the enveloping effect of Howard Shore’s turbulent score, a full-bodied, noirish dreamscape that adds substance to a story perhaps slightly undercooked on the page.” Rooney did expect, though, “more exciting sparks” from Cronenberg’s first collaboration with Stewart, whose Timlin “jitters around the edges of the story without ever becoming crucial to its development, despite increasing evidence of her hidden agenda.”
The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin finds that “unlike Cronenberg’s Crash, which shook Cannes to the core in 1996, there’s no shock of the new in Crimes of the Future.” For Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson, it’s “a movie full of ideas that are never quite unified into a thesis.” And at the Daily Beast, Caspar Salmon suggests that Crimes is “rather on the talky side for a film that had been advertised as being a return to shocks for the master of body horror.”
But IndieWire’s David Ehrlich sees Crimes, Cronenberg’s first feature since 2014’s Maps to the Stars, as a film that “shifts the director’s lifelong focus on the mutability of flesh into a more philosophical gear, exchanging the semi-cautionary nature of his earlier work for a less aggressive study of transmutation. Its threadbare story might follow an arc similar to the likes of Crash and Videodrome, but the older Cronenberg now arrives at the end with a wiser sense of acceptance. Where those earlier movies staged hostile takeovers on the human body, the hypnotic Crimes of the Future finds the invasion coming from within—even in death, it hears the faint sounds of a harmony.”
Crimes opens in theaters on June 3, and Cronenberg, who turned seventy-nine in March, has been eagerly beating the drum, talking to Variety’s Elsa Keslassy, IndieWire’s Eric Kohn, and Deadline’s Damon Wise. The Guardian’s Stuart Heritage and Nick Newman at the Film Stage chat with Cronenberg about kidney stones and NFTs, and Deadline’s Andreas Wiseman reports that the Canadian director has already lined up his next project. In The Shrouds, Vincent Cassel will play an entrepreneur who invents a device for communicating with the dead.