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Cannes Review Capsule: 'Cosmopolis'

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by Matt Singer
May 25, 2012 2:30 PM
1 Comment
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"Cosmopolis."
"Cosmopolis."

Out of all the films in the Cannes competition this year, none faced higher expectations than "Cosmopolis." You take a beloved auteur (David Cronenberg) returning to the genre that made him a star (science-fiction), pair him somewhat incongruously with one of the hottest young movie stars on the planet ("Twilight"'s Robert Pattinson) and you have a recipe for intense cinephile excitement. That's not always a good thing; it can be mighty hard to live up to such feverish anticipation and, in this particular case, critics looking for a deliciously odd weirdfest may have already gotten their fill of insanity earlier in the week at the premiere of Leos Carax's "Holy Motors."

Whether expectations or festival fatigue had anything to do with it, "Cosmopolis"'s reception at Cannes was definitely mixed; some critics hailed it as one of the best of the festival while an equal number declared it a major disappointment. As you'll see in the Twitter reviews below, we've got one film and two wildly different reactions; one tweet calls it "a film of cool, diamond brilliance" and the next says it's "elegantly lifeless." I'd call this the movie version of "Rashomon" if "Rashomon" wasn't already was the movie version of "Rashomon."

On the more positive side of things, Hammer to Nail's Michal Oleszczyk says "Cosmopolis" is "a mesmerizing, utterly cerebral inquiry into the current economic crisis" (a theme that popped up in several films at the festival this year, including "Killing Me Softly").  Comparing the film to "eXistenZ" and "A Dangerous Method," Oleszczyk praises Cronenberg's direction as "subdued and incisive" and likens Pattinson's performance to Jon Hamm's as Don Draper on "Mad Men" and Christian Bale's as Patrick Bateman in "American Psycho."  "Cosmopolis," he says, is a "odyssey into the capitalist heart of darkness," with Pattinson's Eric Packer traveling through a decaying city in the protective cocoon of his stretch limo, ignoring the imminent collapse of society while searching for a barber shop where he can get a haircut.

Several critics had a tough time pinning the film down after just one viewing. At Ain't It Cool, Eric "Quint" Vespe says he walked out of the theater still grappling with "Cosmopolis." "It took me a little while to get into sync with the film," he writes. "But when I did, I was captivated." He pays special attention to the work of actor Paul Giamatti, saying he gives an Oscar-worthy performance. "I was onboard by the time he comes around," Vespe adds, "but if I wasn’t I guarantee his performance in the movie would have pushed me over into 'okay, you got me' territory."

At In Contention, Guy Lodge finds himself similarly unsure how to take the film. Though he concedes that the Don DeLillo novel upon which the film is based represents "the richest, wittiest, most stimulating material Cronenberg has had to work with in a decade," he says it will take additional viewings "to decide if the finished film, briskly paced and unapologetically talky as it is, quite makes good on the opportunity." "As it stands," he continues, "the permanently on-message postulating of 'Cosmopolis' proves a little wearing." Raffi Asdourian at The Huffington Post shares an almost identical view of the film, calling it "ambitious" but "undeniably stale and static." And Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter was even less enthused, saying that "Cosmopolis" is "remarkably prosaic," with a static half-hour final scene that feels like a two-character Off Off Broadway play."

Yikes. Regardless, these are just a couple reviews from the tail end of a very long festival, and there are plenty of positive ones (like David Fear's in Time Out New York). Still, if a movie about characters pontificating on the impending collapse of Western civilization (but with a little sex in it) doesn't sound like your idea of a fun Saturday night, you may want to look elsewhere for your weekend's entertainment.

Instant Twitterverse Reaction:

Xan Brooks, The Guardian:

"Blown away by 'Cosmopolis' at Cannes. A film of cool, diamond brilliance. Perfectly fitted, a tale for the times. Note to jurors: this one."

Simon Abrams, Press Play:

"'Cosmopolis': An exceptional adaptation, slightly but saliently different and very well-paced. Give 'em the Palme! A."

Mike D'AngeloThe A.V. Club:

"'Cosmopolis' (Cronenberg): 59. Demands an incredibly precise tone that Cronenberg nails about half the time. Thrilling when he does."

Aaron Hillis, MovieMaker Magazine:

"I don't envy anyone who has to review 'Cosmopolis' after one sitting. Ego, history, nature, tech, the value of value... so much to unpack."

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune:

"Just saw Cronenberg's elegantly lifeless DeLillo adaptation of 'Cosmopolis.' I've begun to dread ANY #Cannes2012 competition film in English."

1 Comment

  • Georgie | May 26, 2012 4:59 PMReply

    Sounds about like the critical reception of most of Cronenberg's works. If that is the case, I am definitely in!

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