by Dan Greene
Shit….. I’ve started to write this piece about twenty times, only to delete the whole thing partway through. I’d stop at two sentences, 1000 words, whatever. I can’t seem to get those words just right when I’m talking about David Cronenberg, but today I’ll try again.
We’re walking on holy ground here. Well, maybe that’s a stretch.
And it’s okay if you don’t know who he is. We’re not cinematic snobs around here; we’re here to share the fun. But I’ll tell you right fucking now that every one of this guy’s movies is singular to say the least; even the ones you don’t like leave an impression. He takes horror movies to a level that is unparalleled as far as I’m concerned. I can’t come up with any useful list of horror movies that make me think the way his do. They’re always smart and the topics always address something larger than themselves. At the same time, they’re very graphic, visceral and… man, they’re just fuckin gory. You can think about the artistic, literary and cinematic elements of his work, or you can just crack a beer and watch the heads explode. Someone that can appeal to an audience as diverse as that is going to give us a lot to talk about. He’s done movies like Scanners, The Dead Zone, Naked Lunch (he’s the only person brave enough to attempt taking on anything by William S. Burroughs. I mean, holy shit. You ever read that book? Cronenberg and Burroughs as a topic deserves its own piece anyway, so I’ll leave it at that for now), The Fly, Crash (the one from 1996, based on the book by J.G. Ballard and starring James Spader & Deborah Unger), A History Of Violence and eXistenZ. Not a bad list, hey? Not at all, and that’s not everything he’s done either.
And he’s Canadian too, never shot a damn thing in the States and only a couple of things outside of Canada. That’s rare.
I'm going to have to cover his movies over a few weeks, so what do you want to hit first? Well, The Fly is a classic, isn’t it? A well done remake of the 1958 classic, with a lot more special effects and gross disgusting fluids. Seth Brundle was a scientist who was working on a teleportation…. Um…
One element that Cronenberg returns to again and again is the relationship between humans and machines. And illness and viral infections and society and the like. Often they overlap, and The Fly is a great example. The Fly puts a love story together with a disease (yeah, like that’s never happened before) and technology. This works out perfectly for Cronenberg, it must have been almost too easy for him. He also likes to make the viewer think about the disease as another character, and tries to get you to look at things from the disease’s point of view. The Fly is a great example of that too. Cronenberg looks at diseases as living creatures that deserve at least the same respect as psycho killers and aliens. Disease wants to survive as much as we do, and it’s just another form of survival of the fittest. And as far as he’s concerned you’d be silly to think any other way. Think of those scenes where Seth is describing what’s happening to him. It’s almost like he’s trying to explain for the process, almost like he’s speaking from its point of view, or speaking to it and relaying what he’s told.
“I know what the disease wants…. It wants to turn me into something else. That’s not too terrible, is it?”
“I’m an insect who dreamt he was a man and loved it.”
And like I said at the beginning of all this, if you have no time for that pretentious bullshit, then don’t worry because The Fly is pretty gross and everything is going to be just fine for you. Shitty for Seth Brundle, but good for you. Jeff Goldblum’s character slowly changes from a human into a fly, a Brundlefly, and it’s not pretty. First a little extra energy, then some weird looking hairs, then shit goes haywire. Slime and bad skin and poor eating habits and blood…. and the worst part, the very worst part of all, is the love that was lost.