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Cannes Review: Cronenberg's Dystopian "Cosmopolis" Stars Pattinson as Dissolute Master of the Universe

by Ryan Lattanzio
May 28, 2012 2:05 PM
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While Cronenberg has elicited nuanced, naturalistic performances from the likes of Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello and Naomi Watts ("A History of Violence," "Eastern Promises"), he often teases out intentionally stilted performances from his leads ("Crash," 1996). As Eric, the brooding Pattinson eroticizes every move, glance and revolver-spin. Travis Bickle is gliding beneath his dead stare. Although the profligate Eric professes ideas and obsessions, he is ultimately a wannabe nihilist. He asks one of his many girlfriends (Patricia McKenzie) to tase him, because he's ready for something new, because he wants to feel something besides empty sex and asymptotic human connection. A person who has everything, in effect, has nothing. That doesn't make Eric a deep person but, in the film's final stretches as he confronts his fate, something is roiling beneath that dark, handsome shell.

However much "Cosmopolis" taps into the economic zeitgeist, the film is removed from reality; Cronenberg has dreamed up another world where logic and ideology are nil. With his latest effort, the auteur surveys all of his fetishes and packs them into one slick, streamlined movie. But like good sci-fi, every element rings prescient, drawing upon our fears and anxieties as a species and a civilization. Zizek said that the cinema doesn't show us what to desire, but tells us how we desire. Cronenberg knows that  a specter haunts "Cosmopolis": our own imagination.

Canada's Entertainment One acquired the film before Cannes; stateside release plans are not set.


  • didi | May 28, 2012 4:06 PMReply

    Thank you for your exellent review. I've seen the movie and can only agree with your POV. Though the movie stands on its own, I think it could help for a better understanding if you go a bit prepared to the screening. I myself have read the book several times and enjoyed the dialogues, brought on screen so well, a lot.
    I don't know what it is but a few seconds during Cosmopolis move me everytime. They were in the trailer and I caught myself rewinding again and again. When Eric has had sex with Didi (Juliet Binoche), she climbs off him. You see Eric, his hands behind his head, and he looks a bit aside. That vulnerable expression in his eyes tells more about his loneliness and lack of happiness than 1000 words could've done. After 2 seconds he looks at Didi and there you have him again: Eric, the Master of the Universe.
    IMO that was brilliant acting of Pattinson. People need to appreciate subtlty again.

  • George | May 28, 2012 5:15 PM

    Interesting. Thanks for 'both' reviews. I have read the book so I know what to expect with regard to the pacing and dialogue. Looking forward to it.

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