Sunday, August 19, 2012

Half a haircut: Cronenberg's COSMOPOLIS demonstrates to a T the 3 P's of "art" films

You don't know the three P's? You will after you've seen a pile of glossy garbage called COSMOPOLIS: Pompous, Pretentious, Pointless. TrustMovies had to miss an earlier showing of this film and so attended its special opening day screening this past Friday, followed by a Q&A with David Cronenberg, the film's director and adapter (of the novel by Dom DeLillo) at the Walter Reade Theater of the Film Society of Lincoln Center. (The movie is having its official NYC theatrical release just across the street in the not-enough-leg-room-for-tall-people Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, as well as at the more comfortable Landmark Sunshine Cinema.)

TM never misses a Cronenberg movie (the filmmaker is shown at left), even though he consistently runs hot and cold to them: loved A Dangerous Method; found the ending of Eastern Promises ridiculously unbelievable and melodramatic; for all the good in A History of Violence, the man couldn't direct a believable shoot-out action sequence to save his life; thought Naked Lunch was brilliant, his best and, in fact, one of the best adaptations-to-film ever, working on every level. And so on.

I have read only two of DeLillo's novel (Players and White Noise), did not enjoy or find either one edifying, and so was not expecting to be blown away. From what I hear, Cronenberg has been quite faithful to his source. The movie is set in New York City, in the environs of Wall Street, and tells the tale of a more-or-less current Master of the Universe named Packer (played by Robert Pattinson, above) having a very bad day, financially, if not sexually/medically. If only he could relax and enjoy that rectal exam....

Perhaps half of this movie takes place in our "hero's" white stretch limo (including the rectal exam), and the filmmaker sees to it that we're inside this confined space without feeling unduly cramped or claustrophobic. He also occasionally surprises us with what the limo contains (the scene of Pattinson peeing is a perfect example). Outside the limo all hell is breaking loose: The "President" is in town, and there are protests going on all around. But Packer wants to get a haircut and so demands that his "security" and driver take him to his special barber (shown at bottom).

Along the route various folk climb in and out of the lino, most of whom -- those who are not servicing him sexually, that is -- are connected with Packer in some business way. Look! There's Jay Baruchel and Juliette Binoche (shown two photos above). Now comes Emily Hampshire and Samantha Morton. Later, and best of all, are Mathieu Amalric (above, being molested by the very fine Kevin Durand, of Citizen Gangster) and, in his own non-limo space, Paul Giamatti, below, who provides the film's one real bit of characterization, and, as you might expect from Mr. Giamatti, it's a lulu, though too little, too late.

None of these people -- given the dialog they're given --  provide much character, but then DeLillo is not big on this; his people tend to sound, if not act, quite alike. Their dialog runs to arch and archer. Occasionally this provides a laugh, but even those seem awfully second-hand. And how often, I wonder, must we hear the prostate "joke"? Let me count the toll.

Does this movie have anything remotely new or interesting to say? I don't think so. Money and power corrupt. The life of Wall Street is dank, empty and unsatisfying (except for maybe the money). The past does indeed impact us. Few understand the jargon and number-crunching that goes on in this banking business. And we all need to be saved. That's about it. But if you've ever wanted to spend lots of time inside a stretch limo, here's the movie for you.


TM had all good intentions of staying for the Q&A, but Cosmopolis left him in the foulest mood he's sustained so far this year, and so he just wanted to go home and kick the dog. Upon sight of the closing credits, he beat a hasty retreat from the theater and onto the subway. Fortunately, he doesn't have a dog.

No comments: