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Quint finds David Cronenberg's Robert Pattinson starer Cosmopolis to be talky, political, bizarre and poetic. Cannes 2012!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis was one of the big ticket films that got me revved up for Cannes. Who doesn’t love David Cronenberg movies? I know there are those assholes out there, but they must know they’ll get a cauliflower ear if they diss the man or his work around me, so I don’t know that I’ve ever been exposed to a flesh and blood human being who doesn’t, on the whole, enjoy a David Cronenberg film.

So, bright and early I took my daily 20 minute stroll down the hill from my rented apartment (with fuck-all internet, by the way… which is why you see a flood of these Cannes stories instead of multiple hits a day) down to the Croisette, strolled into the Grand Theatre Lumiere and grabbed a good balcony seat for the big show.



There’s something off about the movie. It was distracting at first… the cadence of the dialogue, the theatricality of the writing, the way Cronenberg seemed to get right in Robert Pattinson’s face with the camera.

Check out this clip… it’s from about the middle of the movie when Pattinson’s character, Eric Packer, a Mark Zuckerberg “young and rich genius” type stops to eat with his wife… a woman who he’s never had sex with, apparently, and it’s driving him crazy. I place it here in this review so you can get an understanding of what I mean when I say there’s something (intentionally) off about this film.



See what I mean? The first scene with Pattinson and Kevin Durand, the head of his guard detail, they speak so oddly that I had a thought that this might be a Matrix scenario. I was wrong, the only reality is the one we see, although I’m sure you can question the honesty of this particular reality since we see it through Eric Packer’s eyes and his point of view isn’t exactly trustworthy.

It took me a little while to get into sync with the film, but when I did was captivated. Especially when we get to the Paul Giamatti stuff. Good God he’s great in this film. Like Academy Awards good. I can see the clip they’d play at the awards (if they still do that anymore), too. I was onboard by the time he comes around, but if I wasn’t I guarantee his performance in the movie would have pushed me over into “okay, you got me” territory.



The real trick of this one lies in Robert Pattinson’s portrayal of Eric Packer. This is a guy that has everything and anything bad that happens to him is invited in… kind of a difficult character to empathize with. He’s cold, he talks nonstop about money markets and philosophy, he fucks and eats so much you’d think he was Dionysus reborn.

And when you consider the journey of the film is to get a haircut, you start to get a picture of just how difficult a role this was for Pattinson.

I may not be a fan of Twilight, but I don’t hold that against Pattinson, especially if he’s going to use his starpower to do brave work like Cosmopolis. I wouldn’t say he comes alive here, that’s not the character, but he makes an unlikable character likable. You may not be able to relate to this man, but there’s just enough of a human being underneath the excess, psychosis and self-destructive behavior to keep him from being completely detestable.

It’s no surprise that Cronenberg has the skills to make a film that takes place mostly in a limo feel big. There’s chaos breaking out all around, as you can see in the clip above. Society is starting to unravel, almost in time with Packer’s own slackening grip on his own destiny.

He does that by keeping a parade of interesting character actors coming in and out of the story, from Samantha Morton to Juliette Binoche to Jay Baruchel (how is this his first Cronenberg film? They’re two Canadian peas in a pod) to Mathieu Amalric and the already mentioned Giamatti and Durand.

It also helps that the inside of the limo looks like Tron Legacy… all black leather and blue neon data panels.

Cosmopolis has a lot on its mind and it’s difficult to process after just one viewing. This wasn’t a film I left the theater in love with… it was one I had to mull over. I explored my feelings on this film while writing this review more than I typically do. The more distance I get from the movie, the more I like it. I’ve talked with a few people who didn’t like it much and I understand that. Cronenberg doesn’t flinch from going whole-hog into an offbeat story, not caring if he alienates some of his audience along the way.

For Cronenberg fans his fingerprints are all over the movie… not nearly enough (read: any) new flesh for my taste, but there’s a dark sense of humor that underlines the film.

Love it or hate it, it’s a fascinating movie, a different kind of experience than you usually expect at the cinema.



-Eric Vespe
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Readers Talkback
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  • May 25, 2012, 11:41 a.m. CST

    I'm in for a seat opening wekeend. Love Cronenberg!

    by tk863

  • May 25, 2012, 11:45 a.m. CST

    This is the most racist review I've ever read

    by Simpsonian

  • May 25, 2012, 11:45 a.m. CST


    by torpedoboy


  • May 25, 2012, 11:45 a.m. CST


    by Chocolate_Giddyup

    It sounds like you and I have a similar opinion on Cronenberg. What were your thoughts on A Dangerous Method?

  • May 25, 2012, 11:46 a.m. CST


    by Chocolate_Giddyup

    I'm super excited for this one.

  • May 25, 2012, 11:58 a.m. CST

    I was there already . . .

    by Nice Marmot

    . . . thank GOD it's "talky" . . .

  • May 25, 2012, 11:59 a.m. CST

    No mention of this being based on a book?

    by SoylentMean

    I haven't read the book, but I plan to. Before I see the movie. <P> I just wish Cronenberg would do a full on HORROR film. Although I'll take societal collapse induced madness as a close second.<P> Also, Shivers, Rabid, The Brood, and The Dead Zone on Blu-Ray.<P> I will take those as well.

  • May 25, 2012, noon CST

    How does the digital cinematography look?????

    by Samuel Fulmer

    This being Cronenberg's first feature length film shot digitally. Does it stand up to his other films visually?

  • May 25, 2012, 12:24 p.m. CST

    No mention of DeLillo?

    by StarWarsRedux

    That may account for the unusual cadence of the writing, and the talkiness. See, DeLillo's what we call a "good writer". Might be a little hard to recognize when people look at Christopher Nolan flicks or "The Empire Strikes Back" as the pinacles of screenwriting prowess.

  • May 25, 2012, 12:30 p.m. CST

    they aren't all great, but I've never regretted seeing a Cronenberg film

    by Spandau Belly

    I'll check this out.

  • May 25, 2012, 12:40 p.m. CST

    and I want to see Juliette Binoche go all trashy crazy

    by Spandau Belly

    That's novelty enough for me.

  • May 25, 2012, 12:45 p.m. CST

    "taking a haircut"

    by Minotaur7

    was a euphemism for wage cuts and austerity, right? Do they throw the rats at the Wall Streeters?

  • May 25, 2012, 1:01 p.m. CST

    Looking forward to this'un.

    by TheMachinist

  • May 25, 2012, 1:38 p.m. CST

    In ya face...

    by Rasmus Starup Petersen

    It's not that the camera is right in Pattinson's face. It's just that his face is too big for cinema. Geez, it's like a James van der Beek for a new generation of tweens...

  • May 25, 2012, 1:41 p.m. CST

    Sounds like CLASSIC Cronenberg

    by sonnyfern

    He's one of the few old school directors around that hasn't long one goddamn cell of his talent. In fact...I'd say he's getting better and better with every flick.

  • Had a good feeling about his performance in this. Glad to hear it's good. They both seem like the kind of actors that are capable of doing some great work. And for what it's worth, I personally feel that Twilight can't be the litmus test of any actor's ability. Yes, I've seen a few of those movies (between girlfriends and being a big brother, I've learned patience with this sort of thing). They're shit from the get-go and you can't judge Pattinson and Stewart for doing nothing but staring broodingly when that's pretty much all the characters are supposed to do to begin with.

  • May 25, 2012, 1:42 p.m. CST

    Oh yeah and The Fly...

    by sonnyfern

    One of the best horror flicks of all time. Just thought I'd throw that out there. Terribly underrated for how sick, twisted and genius it really is.

  • May 25, 2012, 1:51 p.m. CST

    Exactly what I wanted to hear

    by Flippadippa

    Hard to pin down, weird characters, in the vein of classic Cronenberg. Sold.

  • May 25, 2012, 2:07 p.m. CST

    Not enough RACISM on these comments...

    by MOOMBA is HERE

    Keep it classy, talkbackers! Moomba has spoken!

  • May 25, 2012, 3:01 p.m. CST

    I wouldn't say I've =regretted= seeing a Cronenberg film, but...

    by Jaster Mareel

    I've definitely been dissapointed a couple of times. Crash and Existenze jump to mind.

  • I have noticed that his style has changed drastically - but what is interesting isn't merely that it has changed, but that it has changed from film to film. "A Dangerous Method" is so stately while there is a grand austerity to "Eastern Promises" and "A History of Violence" is just completely in a universe its own, with more to relate it to comic book paceing and immediacy than anything else in his career. And over and over in his commentaries for his new films is an emphasis on his desire not to replicate his style anymore - that he thinks it is a fiction that a director's work must come in sync with what has come before, that as a director it is his endeavour to treat the material with the respect it deserves and not try to merely mutate it towards his own interests and stylistics (indeed, there is a deleted dream sequence in "A History of Violence" where Ed Harris is shot point-blank with a shotgun, only to refuse to die, laughily pointing his own gun at Viggo's stunned and horrified Tom Stall - it was removed specifically because it was felt to be "too Cronenberg-ish). So in his maturity and his penchant now for working with scripts not his own, Cronenberg is meeting us with new films that each have their own particular rythms and cadences, each most matched to the stories being told. The cold detachment of "Eastern Promises," for example, eerily adds depth and ambiguity to the complicated levels of morality that are on display in that film. As though Viggo is resigned to his position as a ferryman in the outer realm, takeing travellers safely between the living world, "the real world" of society, and the shadowy and stifling confines of the underworld. A fascinateing and tragic story that feels as far removed from the opera of 'the Fly' or the out-right addiction horrors of "Dead Ringers." Still, the psychological intensity, but gone are the reverence for specific mis-en-scene (note the set designs in middle films like "Scanners). Me, for one, am excited to get back into "A Dangerous Method," get beneath the veneer and see the tangledness of the metapsyhcial and professional conundrum that besets its famous protagonists. What a convoluted story for what is ostensibly a straight-forward historical tale. Cronenberg is really some kind of an ageing pugilist. While he may tire easier than before, he has instructed his head to lead his battles more than the blows and punches, the gut-leadings of his youthful years.

  • May 25, 2012, 6:16 p.m. CST

    This seems very David Lynch to me...

    by Raymar

  • now with confirmation that Cronenberg is back to the weird. I watched that same clip and pretty much made the same comment in talkback a while back. I like how the words are spoken, and the choice to almost make it it's own nearly Shakespearean cadence and style. I like the almost wide-angle lens view of the actors. A way to get up close and feel distant. There's a coldness to it all, and not in a bad way. In a Cronenberg way. And that's always a GOOD way. Sure he may have had a few stumbles along the way, but even in those cases, he delivers above and beyond the masterpieces of lesser filmmakers. Thank you again, Quint. I hope you're having a blast, because from here it seems like you are.

  • May 25, 2012, 7:09 p.m. CST

    made, not mad.

    by gotilk

    Fuck edit buttons.

  • May 25, 2012, 8:03 p.m. CST

    mentaldominance nahh

    by gotilk

    You can probably watch this in 1080p, on demand, VOD. Probably sooner than later, actually. Although I think it's criminal that we don't get to see so many of these films on a big screen as intended, I like VOD a lot lately. It gives me a chance to give back to the creators rather than the.... other option... like not too long ago. If they keep the prices manageable, I'll be paying for VOD monthly, budgeted in with food and utilities. It's just not like it was a few years ago, like what happened with Battle Royale or or films like Vidocq and Oshii's Avalon, when it was almost impossible to hand over your cash in exchange for a peek at the films. It's just not like that anymore... there's simply no excuse beyond not being able to afford it for downloading it free and sharing it. I mean, I still do not consider it criminal to do so, but there are simply not the excuses now like there used to be. end rant.

  • May 25, 2012, 8:33 p.m. CST

    movies then you are being scammed.


  • May 25, 2012, 8:50 p.m. CST

    Great career move for Pattinson

    by Mr. Voodoo Potato Head

    He knows the Twilight crap is a fad, and knows he has to take a risk to go beyond it. He'll probably be working too hard in 5 years to watch Taylor Lautner on Dancing With The Stars.

  • May 25, 2012, 10:10 p.m. CST

    Also makes me think of Scorsese's "After Hours,"

    by ChaunceyGardiner

    Easily one of the most unique films of Scorsese's distinguished career. "King of Comedy" and "After Hours" both illustrates Scorsese's ability with irony, how he can sustain both an atmosphere of mad comic surreality while also elucidateing character in a satirical way that makes room for pathos to creep in as we realize the journey which it took the characters to get to this ragged place in their lives. Robert Pupkin is so enamoured with the idea that fame will give his life value that he doesn't comprehend the way in which this dangerous and self-absorbed quest is hurting, abuseing and misuseing those around him. And in doing so, showing what one man is willing to give up of himself, his dignity and relationships with others, merely in order to achieve the plastic fancy of people a million miles away on the other side of a TV screen, Scorsese is able to make a horrible nightmare of a parody of fame and what people sacrifice for such a small glimmer of what essentially is artifice. Then in "After Hours," we see a young man whose life is horribly thrown off in the course of one night of misunderstandings, chance meetings, and the simple fact of being in the wrong part of the city, hopeing to get luckey. What is powerful though is the fact that the whole incident stems from his own neurosis concerning his pain and a selfishly perfectionist image of the female body - and the resultant fear of intimacy that causes him to jilt a beautiful but damaged young woman. It is almost as though he is being punished for his lust and small sliver of revealed selfishness in the most brutal and happenstance way possible. Throughout the night, the fact remains that he cannot escape himself - much less the strange cycle of events he's found himself trapped in. Both films exist within odd versions of this world, parallel places where the grotesque is elaborated and the normal is supressed to an impotent shell of reality. As though there truly was some underneath to it all...

  • May 25, 2012, 11:24 p.m. CST


    by Jeremy Jar Binks

    Shouldn't that be "starrer?" Which is an unholy beast of a word in itself. Whatever happened to "vehicle" as in, "I knew that Ashton Kutcher vehicle would bomb at Cannes" anyway, this film looks... interesting. I am sure it will offer nuggets for film students everywhere for decades to come. Which is probably its main purpose.

  • May 26, 2012, 10:03 a.m. CST

    DeLillo's dialogue is stilted enough on the page

    by Wanda Tinasky

    I'm really not sure whether it will translate to the film in a way that produces the same effect, especially given that it so often works in concert with the prose around it and the enumeration of consumer culture failings. That said, @starwarsredux, he's a good writer, but not a great one. Re-reading some of my favorites of his over the last 2 or 3 years reminds me that he's only written one great book (Libra) and some good books (White Noise [which doesn't stand up as much as I'd hoped] and Underworld [which sags horribly for about 300 pages in the middle]). Still, if someone was going to do this film, Cronenberg is the choice. Lynch would have butchered the dialogue even more.

  • May 26, 2012, 10:20 a.m. CST


    by Freddy

    Personally I'd spell it "starrer" ... if it were actually a word. Can we please kill those annoying Hollywords?

  • May 26, 2012, 10:45 a.m. CST


    by StarWarsRedux

    Disagree on "Underworld"-- that stuff in the middle is great, in my eyes. Agree somewhat on "White Noise"-- the airborne toxic event is inspired, but the ending with the drug is out of nowhere. "Libra" is indeed his masterpiece", though I enjoyed "Mao II" quite a bit. "Cosmopolis" grows on me more each time I read it. His last book, "Point Omega", was kind of a dud, but still fun from an intellectual standpoint.

  • May 26, 2012, 10:54 a.m. CST


    by Wanda Tinasky

    The opening scene of Underworld is so brilliant I think that it's inevitable that some of the stuff in the middle will pale. I enjoy Mao II (another fantastic opening) and can say it's good, but not better than that. All in all, though, it becomes clear on re-reading him that, despite my youthful embrace and his once-fresh approach, his style is limiting. Not just for his characters but in the number of topics he can touch on without seeming to repeat himself. Also, the man can't write women for shit. Have yet to read the new short story collection, however, and I'm looking forward to it.

  • May 26, 2012, 1:16 p.m. CST

    DeLillo & Joyce

    by Comedian

    I really like COSMOPOLIS as a novel, though I have to admit I like WHITE NOISE and LIBRA much more. I always saw COSMOPOLIS as his take on Joyce's ULYSSES, though. There are certainly a lot of similarities, enough that I think it would make a great literature class to compare and contrast the two.

  • May 26, 2012, 1:22 p.m. CST


    by StarWarsRedux

    The opening of "Underworld" stands out because it's very tight, concentrated and focused for an extended period in a way rather unlike a lot of his other work, and only resembling "Libra" (his best) stylistically in broad strokes. The rest of the book, while still top notch writing in my opinion, obviously can't hold a candle to that opening, because it feels very familiar to readers of him. It's sort of a greatest-hits montage of his stylistic and thematic obsessions. The 90's and 80's stuff, especially, feels very familiar, almost as though they're portions he cut out of "White Noise" and other books from the period. <p> <p>It's fun as hell for me, though, and a great way to usher younger readers into the denser historical portions that make up the meat of the bulk of the book. That in depth plumbing of historical figures is what made "Libra" and the "Underworld" opening so invigorating, and though I do sort of wish he'd found a way to come up with a work of equal depth and focus without a lot of the familiar DeLillo hallmarks along the way, I really can't argue with it from a pure enjoyment standpoint. <p> <p>His writing can be limiting, I'll give you that. And he only really writes a particular kind of urban intellectually fatigued woman, really not that different from his men. To my ear, his voice is almost an asexual Mamet, with the same staccato rhythms and rat-a-tat-patterns, only relying on collegiate glutton-vocabularies instead of dropping Carlin's 7 dirty words every other sentence. Considering the way that Mamet has degenerated in the past decade, I'd say that DeLillo has aged better as an artist overall, though I would love to see what would happen if you put the two of them together. <p> <p>I'll also say-- "Cosmopolis" and "Falling Man" are pretty good, if you look past the limiting qualities of the writing. The latter reminds me a bit of "Players" in some portions, but something of a better version of it. And the former is really underrated, I think. I'm hoping it gets a major rediscovery when the Cronenberg film hits, and hopefully it'll hit our shores. Maybe during the NYFF? One can dream.

  • May 26, 2012, 2:10 p.m. CST

    It's funny about DeLillo...

    by cptrios

    You guys keep bringing up the opening of Underworld. I've tried to read the book three times, and I've never made it past the opening...not because I lost interest, but because other things interfered. And yet, that opening is one of my favorite chunks of writing ever. Really excellent stuff. I really liked White Noise when I read it a while ago, but I was pretty disappointed with Cosmopolis. The prose and dialogue felt incredibly forced to me, and I just couldn't stop thinking of every hyper-pretentious Bret Easton Ellis wannabe with whom I've ever been in a writing workshop. I can imagine the dialogue will translate very strangely onto the screen.

  • May 29, 2012, 4:34 a.m. CST

    What's a good first book to read by DeLillo?

    by hst666

    Heard a lot about him over the last few years, but wasn't sure where to start.

  • May 30, 2012, 9:56 p.m. CST

    Here's what Kristen stewart had to say about the movie

    by JaoKing I don't think this movie looks that good.