Sunday, October 9, 2005

Crash (1996)

David Cronenberg is one of the last of the Great Subversive Fimmakers who came of age in the 1970s, and his vivid re-imagining of The Fly (1986) is a pinnacle of body horror. His early career running gags often involve technology mingling with human flesh, and thereby human consciousness. In Videodrome (1983) it was television (tagline: Long Live the New Flesh). Here, automobile crashes facilitate the mergers; James Spader and Holly Hunter become fevered lovers in the afterglow of a head-on collision. Their trysts eventually reveal an underground network of folks who find automobile accidents (and their resulting bruises and scars) an incredible turn-on. What unfolds is more of a neo-porn situation than a conventional plot, orgies unfolding in and around busted-up cars.

Cronenberg is a master of cinematic unease. I had to watch Dead Ringers twice, just to make sure I'd experienced what I thought I'd experienced (and I had). Unfortunately with Crash, the chief element of disturbance is not so much that people find car crashes kinky (the internet has revealed that people will find anything kinky, from paper cuts to fire ants) but that despite the plethora of sex, the film still ends up dull. This is due to: 1.) Cronenberg employing a harshly detached, scientific style rarely seen this side of Kubrick; 2.) in a major stumble, little-to-nothing erotic about a car crash is believably posited -- Cronenberg replaces typical fetish triggers with alien reference points, with the result brilliantly stated by Roger Ebert: "It's like a porno movie made by a computer: it downloads gigabytes of information about sex, it discovers our love affair with cars, and it combines them in a mistaken algorithm." Yep: programmers call that GIGO.

1 comment:

  1. In an ecocriticism class (yeah, you heard right) I had a few years back, the idiot professor was obsessed with Ballard, the guy who wrote "Crash" and several other novels. Apparently, the film--as with the book--is some kind of implicit reference to the hyper-modernization of our culture. Sex can no longer be erotic without the aid of modernity (here, automobiles) because machines are an extension of ourselves. Whatever. The class was miserable and so were Ballard's books. As for the film, I still can't erase the image of James Spader making out with another man, and for that alone I may never forgive Cronenberg.