Special Report from Cannes Film Festival
Cronenberg's road trip to hell
David Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis" arrived in Cannes not with the apocalyptic bang some of us had expected it to. Showing on Friday, two days before the Palme d'Or night on May 27, the adaptation of Don DeLillo's 2003 novel about a billionaire currency speculator (Robert Pattinson) on a day-long quest to get a haircut has the cerebral menace and barbed, dark humour, but the whole design and faithfulness to the book also makes the film a tad too mannered and airless. In "Cosmopolis" Pattinson plays Eric Packer, an investment hotshot who rides across Manhattan in his surreally long stretch limousine -- big, showy cars have become something of a Cannes in-joke this year after the same type of vehicle is unforgettably featured in another critical hit, Leo Carax's "Holy Motors". Eric, ensconced in his throne in the back of the limo, receives a coterie of assistant, guests and lovers (with stars like Juliette Binoche and Samantha Morton chipping in); meanwhile, outside this enclosed world, Manhattan erupts with a vandalising protest against greed and capitalism. This is a story of a man who's lost touch with the real world and now riding en route to self-destruction. You can see it all for yourself since "Cosmopolis" (thanks to the star power of Pattinson) will open in Bangkok soon.
At the Cannes press conference, DeLillo joined Cronenberg and the actors -- Pattinson and Sarah Gadon -- on stage. The popular reading of the novel, and now the film, is that it is a metaphor for the cold, heartless onslaught of the financial system that's bringing about the collapse of the soceity. And with the economic woes of Europe and elsewhere, that theme seems to have a particular resonance. DeLillo insisted, however, that the sole image that inspired him to write the book was that of a super-long, super-white limousine navigating the corner of New York City. The rest came naturally. "Cosmopolis" discusses big, deep, sometimes pretentious ideas -- from the marriage of technology and greed to inevitable inequality and the asymmetry of the soul (whatever that means) -- and the film apparently faces that tricky task of bringing the novel's long, complex, self-conscious dialogue into the cinematic environment. I doubt if the film will have passionate support in the jury, but the futile guessing game will end when the awards are announced on Sunday night.
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