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

Photo of Ryan Lattanzio By Ryan Lattanzio | TOH! May 28, 2012 at 2:05PM

"Life is too contemporary," Didi Fancher (Juliette Binoche) tells Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) after they've just had sex in the back of his limousine. That seems to be the global concern in "Cosmopolis," a headlong plunge into a dystopian urban milieu of greed, corruption, technology, nihilism, you name it.

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.

This article is related to: David Cronenberg, Cannes Film Festival, Cosmopolis, Festivals, Festivals, Reviews, Reviews, Rob Pattinson

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.