Lawless; The Possession; V/H/S; Cosmopolis
by Martin R. "Vargo" Schneider
EXPECTATIONS: I'm quite excited for this film, if for no other reason than it means my little sister will finally read one of my reviews, because Robert Pattinson pics. Hello, sis! This is what your big brother does with his Friday nights! Hey, while I've got you, let me explain something. The man who directed this film is named David Cronenberg. His films are complex, hard to grasp, and honestly, just plain weird. So while you may be thinking you're going to see your newly single fantasy boyfriend in all his newt-like glory, I'm warning you now, things are about to get freaky. Actually, you know what, sis? Forget I said anything. Have fun at the movies! That'll teach you to call this a "blog."
REALITY: This is a time in history where a man's financial records are more important than his actions or personality, which is why presidential candidates with neither are reluctant to show either. Cosmopolis is a movie about a man who is literally made of money, and I'm not misusing the word "literally" here. See, the film has a running theme from the very first shot of rats being equal to currency, and toward the end the film makes a point of highlighting its main characters' rat-like features and appearance. Rats equal money, Pattinson equals rats, therefore according to my freshman algebra class, the transitive property states that Pattinson equals money. So he is metaphorically literally made of money. See how that kinda makes sense, but not really at all? Yeah, it's that kind of movie.
Cosmopolis lets you know right from the beginning that everything seems simple enough, but things aren't right. The basic premise is set up in a few sentences: a very rich young man named Eric Packer (Pattinson) wants to go across Manhattan to get a haircut. His bodyguard (undervalued character actor Kevin Durand) doesn't want to, because the president is in town and it will be a pain. But the stilted dialogue, slightly askew framing, and the fact that no one in this film ever looks at each other make the audience feel a sense of unease. Slowly details start coming in, revealing there has been a threat against the President. No, there's an anarchist riot. No, there's a threat against Eric. It doesn't matter. It all matters.
The only thing this film is consistent about is that Eric is going to die. The film goes out of its way to assure us of this. It makes a big deal out of man's quest for immortality, and Eric's regular checkups, and his secret desire to die, and at one point we actually zoom on him while the soundtrack repeats the phrase "Death is gonna get you" over and over again. The only way I'd be more sure he'd die at the end is if this were John Dies At The End. (Spoiler alert: He may or may not die at the end.)
I'm making all this sound way more entertaining than it actually is, by the way. I need to point out that Cosmopolis is an extremely boring film. But it's boring in the most interesting way possible. The film mostly consists of Eric in the back of his sleek, cold limousine having little to no response to the world around him. He survives an anarchist riot, he has sex with older women, and he doesn't seem to be interested in any of it. It's fitting that the cold glowing screens in the cab make Pattinson look like Max Headroom, because he's very clearly an intentional anachronism, 1986 David Cronenberg's gift to present-day Cronenberg.
Eric has conversations with a list of character actors whom he magically summons. These conversations are long and winding, people talking in paragraphs, essays being written off as dialogue. You may not catch every word. You probably won't pay attention. Every once in a while, a beautiful line will catch your ear, and you'll be just interested enough to continue. The disinterest and unease and people leaving the theater are part of the experience, folks.
Many films like to play with time, showing you different events and ending by showing you how they all connect. Cosmopolis does exactly the opposite by showing you how every event in Eric's life is completely disconnected, or connected by the most tenuous of threads. In his world, what happened in the last scene doesn't matter, nor does what happened off camera, nor does what happened before the movie started. The only important moments are what is happening right now and what is going to happen. This makes Cosmopolis very difficult as a reviewer, because you may be able to identify themes, you may catch recurring lines, you may have all the parts to form an equation and still not be able to say "This is what that scene represents." You can have all the points lined up and still the answer will elude you. Which is exactly what is happening to Eric through the whole film.
I remember seeing a behind-the-scenes feature on one of my favorite films of all time, On the Waterfront, which explained how in the famous "Coulda Been A Contender" scene, director Elia Kazan wanted to show the two characters in a cab, but didn't want to have the fake-looking video of the city in the window behind them. As a solution, he put a Venetian blind in the cab, and in doing so, accidentally created the claustrophobic, closed-off atmosphere that makes that scene so good. I mention this for two reasons: 1: Cronenberg does the same thing with Eric's limo, tinting and untinting the windows whenever he wants Eric to be exposed to the world, and 2: If you've seen Breaking Dawn or Water for Elephants, you know that Robert Pattinson, or someone very close to him, is trying to convince us he is Marlon Brando. You can't watch some of his moves and not think he thinks that. Except in the last half-hour of this film, where he sports a Travis Bickle mohawk and sports a gun through a slum like a psychopath.
I like Robert Pattinson, I hold no ridiculous Twilight-related grudge against him, but I wish we would quit trying to paint him as the next one of These Guys. There's no shame in not being the next Brando or DeNiro. Those guys are some of the greatest actors of all time, and you're not, Robert. That's okay. You can be a good football player and still not be Peyton Manning, man.
If we are going to pretend that Robert Pattinson is the next great star, I can play along with it. He is a good actor. This is a good performance, probably his best. But if we're pushing this guy, we have to stop putting him next to guys like Christoph Waltz who act circles around him. Hell, in this movie there's a scene where Pattinson is in the foreground, putting a gun in his mouth and you don't notice for at least ten seconds because Paul Giamatti is more interesting sitting in the corner of the screen talking.
That's my attempt at talking about Cosmopolis as though it is a normal movie that can be broken down without extensive discussion. Cosmopolis is the film equivalent of Clint Eastwood talking to a chair at the Republican National Convention: An old man yelling at an invisible version of The World Today. Boiled down to its core, it's just a man talking, but it's impossible to stop watching. He might have a point, and it might be either insane or brilliant, but it's so strange and indescribable, you don't really understand it. And that may have been the whole point.
|Making A Movie out of a Sociology Essay||8/10
MINORITY REPORT: Robert Pattinson is something of a Cronenbergian horror in himself. One day you find a weird fleshy lump in the basement, it pulsates and even makes strange gargling sounds. One day the bulge is gone with no explanation. Some time later, an actor called Robert Pattinson is building in popularity. You watch him with a vague sense of familiarity as he looks into the camera. It seems as though he is looking directly into your soul. He opens his mouth and a high-pitched screech is emitted from the black, hollow space within. The screen cracks, your eyes bleed, you die alone. Robert Pattinson's career advances further. - Ian "Professor Clumsy" Maddison