AAs you read this, I’ll be packing my tuxedo, linen shirts, and several packets of ibuprofen for the Cannes film festival, which kicks off on Tuesday — where it belongs in the calendar, in the springtime blush of May. At last year’s pandemic-delayed July edition, a wildcard palme d’or was won by queer cars-and-carnality freakout Julia Ducournau. Titanium seemed an appropriate response to wet conditions.
For viewers at home, Mubi’s Cannes takeover season offers some highlights from festivals past, little-seen finds such as Mauritanian director Med Hondo’s powerful 1967 immigrant portrait. Oh, Sun to more recent hits like Laurent Cantet’s passionate class debate The class. Three of Mubi’s selections are from last year’s festivals, yet to be seen in the UK: Philip Roth’s airless adaptation of Arnaud Desplechin Deception was a disappointment, but Nadav Lapid’s Jury Prize winner Ahed’s knee is exhilarating stuff, a scorching and furious attack on what he perceives as the cultural complacency of contemporary Israel. A sweeter staple is sailor of the mountainsBrazilian director Karim Aïnouz’s nostalgic and lyrical documentary about his own mixed heritage and sense of not belonging, retracing his very first trip to Algeria, his father’s homeland, in his mid-50s.
For my part, I am preparing myself by revisiting the work of David Cronenberg, the 79-year-old Canadian master of the perverse and the perverse, who will return to Cannes with Future Crimes, his first film in eight years. More importantly, it’s his return to body horror – the genre that made his name, but he hasn’t fully embraced since 1999. exist.
I started with the obvious precedent for Future Crimes: Cronenberg’s hour-long 1970 lo-fi feature of the exact same name (Arrow Player), though we’ve been told not to expect a remake. Often put on hold with his equally brief and disjointed film Stereo (Amazon Prime), he served as the model for a number of the filmmaker’s great works, preoccupied as he is by irresponsible medical fetishism, masculinity in crisis, and the human body turning wickedly on itself.
The 1970s would see him expand these fixations into crisper, sharper tales of horror. Thrill (Apple TV) merges the terrors of parasites and sexual assault into a gruesome pandemic, while Enraged (BFI player) and The Brood (Amazon) both reconfigure the female body as a weapon; in the latter, the matrix is literally exteriorized, reproducing manifestations of rage.
Videodrome (Google Play) has spent the director’s biggest budget yet on a delightfully crude allegory of media’s technological control over the human state of mind; Fly (Disney+, rather inappropriately) finally got a hit for Cronenberg, though his relatively simple update of a mad scientist story didn’t skimp on the overbearing grotesqueness.
Dead ringtones (BFI Player), my favorite Cronenberg, played things cooler, returning to themes of toxic masculinity and female exploitation with a surgical twist and an accurate icy double spin from Jeremy Irons. It played down the upsetting spectacle, but was the director’s most disturbing film until the highly controversial Accident (Arrow Player), with its striking imagery and dark, tangled questions about the limits of human desire and arousal, has arrived. In adapting JG Ballard, Cronenberg found another literary parallel for his more dangerous fixations than William Burroughs: his adaptation of the writer’s novel naked lunch (Arrow Player) looks sensational, but feels, unusual for Cronenberg, all in his own head.
Since the wacky but less enduring pyrotechnics of video games by exist (Amazon), Cronenberg flirted with greater gender respectability, skinny black suburban A history of violence (Google Play) to mind games in a corset from his Freud-Jung biopic A dangerous method (Curzon). There’s merit in all of these experiences, but at the end of the day, good taste isn’t Cronenberg’s forte: bring the gagging.
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