David Cronenberg’s adaptation of Don De Lillo’s acclaimed novel, Cosmopolis, is as talky as a screwball comedy with the dialogue, however, fixated on grand existentialist questions than witty repartee.
The consumer society, the flux and instability of global economics and trade, capitalism falling apart, the fragility and trouble with relationships at business and personal levels, individuality and personal freedom versus social contracts, the poor revolting against a system that promised them the world and returned little – this is one mixed up, chaotic picture to wrap your head around. At the centre is a billionaire who wants to get a haircut.
Featuring a supremely confident performance from Robert Pattinson, as a seemingly, albeit brittle, Randian sort named Eric Packer, and a parade of world cinema thesps in support, Cosmopolis features what James Joyce called HCE, in his ultra-complex novel Finnegans Wake (1939). There’s something near prophetic about the meaning of ‘Here Comes Everybody’ – both as a paranoid, sinister feeling and perhaps a jauntier moniker for our truly globalised world. Eric shuts himself off, at least superficially, in his limo kingdom, accepting acolytes and visitors along the way. But the crowd is always there, sometimes violently so.
The spectre of Joyce, or at least a spiritual element given the universal tone he captured in his work, exists as much as the Marxist-riffing tag shouted by anarchists in a coffee shop: “There’s a spectre haunting the world!” Here we have an epic of the everyday with a myriad of issues coursing through its fibre-optic veins. Information is in constant flow but humans struggle to understand all they receive. It also, simultaneously, feels like a movie for everybody yet whose techniques push the viewer away, or at least sets a challenge to say, ‘This isn’t going to be easy, ladies and gentleman. Forget being spoon-fed details, you’ll have to keep up’.
Cosmopolis pulsates with vitality and genuine sense of capturing our 21st century western world. Packer’s day slowly but surely gets stranger and yet more and more revealing. Packer is a Stephen Dedalus-like figure reimagined as a dotcom kid turned confused young adult, searching for something elusive. Do these business types suffer the same ailment as New York writer Paul Auster once identified of artists? That for them the world just isn’t enough. That is as striking a thought as Satre’s ‘Hell is other people’.
How’s the picture and sound?
One of Cosmopolis’s greatest achievements is the balance between intense visuals and the dialogue-heavy nature of the material. Cronenberg’s cinematographer, Peter Suschitzky, does some remarkable work and this DVD transfer is lovely. It’s delivered in the widescreen format with Dolby Digital 5.1.
An epic feature length documentary on the making of the film which clocks in at one hour and 46 minutes. Pretty much the same length as the film proper. This is a revealing and often funny doc which shows how David Cronenberg works on-set as well as plenty of info about all aspects of production. Citizens of Cosmopolis is an excellent bonus feature. Also included is a trailer.
Elusive and mesmerising, Cosmopolis might have raised eyebrows with its casting of Robert Pattinson as Eric Packer, but the actor shines in the lead. Cronenberg’s exploration of existentialist concerns, on a dizzing array of levels, is both playful and vital, falling somewhere between The Naked Lunch and EXistenZ yet offering something entirely fresh.
Extra Features Rating:
When’s it out?
Monday 12th November