Re: Cronenberg's Spider
Thanks for your comments on Spider.
I saw some of what you mentioned while I was watching the film. I
personally feel that your comments still confirm that Cronenberg
really knows how to tell a story visually. The fact that Spider is
alone on the streets or the fact that he is out of focus on some of
the flashbacks are observations more about "the content" of the
What I usually look for in films is a formal expression that has some
kind of relation to the content of the image. An example in North by
Northwest can tell more about what I mean than hundreds of pages of
The film starts in the city with strong verticals all over the place
(skyscrapers, humans, etc.), Cary Grant character being one of them,
so you feel he is a vertical line just like any other (as opposed to
being an individual). Of course the other verticals also serve to
protect him (the scene in the terminal is a good example) because
thanks to the crowd he is "lost" both for the cops and the
This goes on for the first half of the film. When he is left alone
defenseless in the fields, it's the first time in the film there are
no verticals. There is a very dominant horizontal line and only one
vertical line, that is Cary Grant. This change in the visual rhythm
makes you "feel" the loneliness of the character.
Obviously, I'm not saying this is the only way you can express
loneliness. But it is just a great example of what I look for in
films. The compositions in Spider make me "understand" that
alone. Something like North by Northwest makes me feel it.
I saw his Crash three times and in all of them I found new things
about it. In the last viewing, I realized that the green grass he
uses at the last shot is the first time in the film that he uses a
non-metallic, "non-distancing" color, which was some kind of
redemption for my eyes. The story reflected that too, in the sense
that the characters were being true to themselves and each other for
the first time.
What do you think about his other films, about Existenz (that I
hated) for example?
Your example of the sort of formal expression Hitchcock utilizes in "North by
Northwest" is a great one. What's going on in "Spider" is surely less
subtle, though I still think quite sophisticated in that Cronenberg actually
utilizes space to tell his story; he doesn't set the camera down and let the
screenplay do it for him. The shots and editing are engaged in an interplay with the
writing which creates a very particular context in which the story is told.
Admittedly, it's not Hitchcock, but I did love it.
I like the early Cronenberg's very much, especially "Shivers" and
"Videodrome." "Dead Ringers" is perhaps his best film, pace "Spider." I think Zach
makes a case for some of the more recent stuff, including "eXistenZ," so perhaps I
should give the floor to him.
> I think Zachincluding "eXistenZ," so perhaps I
> makes a case for some of the more recent stuff,
> should give the floor to him.EXISTENZ is actually the only post-DEAD RINGERS Cronenberg I've seen,
unless parts of CRASH on cable (before I became interested in the
director) count. And I'd be happy to defend EXISTENZ if I could see
it again, but my memory of it is just shaky enough to discourage me
from trying (I saw it twice about three and a half years ago). I've
found an old review I wrote for my own pleasure on my hard drive, but
it's awful enough for me to roll my eyes and not even finish reading
it. So there's no way I'd post or rephrase it here. Suffice it to
say that I think EXISTENZ is a very strong film and have no reason to
think I wouldn't be positive toward it on another viewing.
> I like the early Cronenberg's very much, especially "Shivers" andI actually prefer early Cronenberg (SCANNERS and before) to later. I
> "Videodrome." "Dead Ringers" is perhaps his best film, pace "Spider." I think Zach
> makes a case for some of the more recent stuff, including "eXistenZ," so perhaps I
> should give the floor to him.
must confess that I do not understand what everyone else in the world
sees in DEAD RINGERS, which I recently revisited - it seems to me very
flawed indeed. I do love NAKED LUNCH, though, which followed.
My take on Cronenberg is that he is not particularly inspired either
with visuals or with actors, but that he has a gift for telling stories
that fuse theme and plot in the most interesting ways, and an
intelligence about when to deploy naturalism to counterpoint fantasy.
SHIVERS, which is still something like the ultimate Cronenberg film, is
quite clumsy in almost every way but is nonetheless completely in
command of its bizarre narrative and where the audience is positioned
relative to it. THE BROOD was a high-water mark for me; after SCANNERS,
his craft improved (probably due to money), but he starts to lose me.
VIDEODROME is a very smart film in some ways (Cronenberg is his own best
dialogue writer), but the connect between plotting and subject matter
starts to slacken here.