Thursday, September 12, 2013

The David Cronenberg Sinister Beauty Parade

David Cronenberg films are led by men almost universally, but nearly every one of them features at least one compelling female role as well. Often these roles are enhanced by his eye for women who are darkly alluring, polished surfaces that give way to warped thoughts (much like the movies themselves). A few I've noticed lately:


Lynn Lowry, Shivers: The prototype, if you will; a blueprint for a newborn artist. Lovingly filmed right in the middle of an expository dialogue about "a parasite that's a combination of aphrodisiac and venereal disease that will hopefully turn the world into one beautiful, mindless orgy." Lowry is a commanding presence in a movie that often finds its time divided amongst a bloated cast, but her lilting, eerie final monologue puts her above and beyond the rest.


Genevieve Bujold, Dead Ringers: Probably a top 5 performance for Cronenberg's oeuvre, Bujold's turn as an over-the-hill actress with a Master's in sexual depravity is both perverted enough to enliven the obsessive, sociopathic Mantle twins (Jeremy Irons, also top 5), and human enough to challenge them. Her face and voice and body leave her unable to deny this intense dysfunctional connection, no matter what words come out of her mouth. 


Judy Davis, Naked Lunch: Small picture, but you get the idea. For a while in the early 90s, Judy Davis was the go-to gal for auteurs looking to cast a cold, vastly intelligent woman. Naked Lunch is convoluted and sort of exhausting, but Cronenberg at least has his gift for prosthetics to give visual life to an inscrutable story, and the good sense to frame it autobiographically by dragging elements of crazy-ass William S. Burroughs' life into the narrative. Davis, despite a limited role, serves as both the catalyst for Peter Weller's delusion and his singular erotic obsession, the remaining vestige of an increasingly foreign life left behind.


Sarah Gadon, A Dangerous Method + Cosmopolis + Maps to the Stars: Cronenberg's newest muse and the only woman with whom he has collaborated repeatedly, Sarah Gadon's conventional beauty exudes more than a fair share of menace. There's an air of inaccessible power to her, something that both Cronenberg (frigid heiress in Cosmopolis, Hollywood matriarch of old in Maps to the Stars) and his son Brandon (Antiviral's celebrity to end all celebrities) have employed with considerable results in the last few years. Her career is young yet, but she's an intelligent woman with excellent taste in auteurs, so the prognosis for a rich filmography is promising.

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