Cosmopolis

Robert Pattinson gets his haircut in Cosmopolis

 

A movie for every day of the year – a good one

 

 

17 September

 

 

Occupy Wall Street starts, 2011

 

On this day in 2011, the Occupy Wall Street movement, unable to set up its protest against US financial institutions in its original two preferred locations, took over Zuccotti Park, New York. With its rallying cry “We are the 99 per cent,” it made reference to the growing disparity in income distribution in the US (back more or less to its levels around the time of the Wall Street Crash of 1929, in spite of more than 80 years of relative prosperity) and set off a wave of similar protests all over the world. Though apparently spontaneous, it was organised by the PR agency Workhouse on behalf of Adbusters, a Canadian anti-consumerist “global network of artists, activists, writers, pranksters, students, educators and entrepreneurs who want to advance the new social activist movement of the information age.” An aim they achieved. By the time the police closed Zuccotti Park on 11 November 2011, the largely peaceful protest had made its point and put income distribution back on the political agenda, to some degree at least. What gave the movement its political heft was the make-up of the protesters. Largely well educated, employed people earning good salaries, a third of them over 35 years of age, the statistic that must have caused most consternation back at the parties’ HQs is that 70 per cent of them identified with none of the political brand leaders.

 

Cosmopolis (2012, dir: David Cronenberg)

Yes, the thought of Robert Pattinson in the back of a limo, droning on for hours isn’t everyone’s idea of a great film. But it’s directed by David Cronenberg, master of a certain sort of horror (not Twilight style horror, admittedly) who uses Pattinson’s pallour and his reserve to good effect, as the super-entitled billionaire kid floating round a nameless metropolis (it’s Toronto) while outside unrest stalks the streets. It’s a Keanu role – eerie, blank – in a film adapted from Don DeLillo’s novel, a meditation on how the elite have become divorced from the rest of us. As troubled cyber-entrepreneur Eric Packer, Pattinson gets to talk in epigrams, non sequiturs, have sex with a succession of hot women, play with guns here and there. And as Packer heads off to get the haircut that the whole film hangs on we’re treated to a melding of DeLillo’s forensic cool with the weird of Cronenberg, the result an absurdist existential Camus-like examination of a distracted mind in the middle of a crisis. Give it a while to get going – the affectless style, Pattinson’s deliberately dead-eyed performance, the focus on the inside of a car almost to the exclusion of everything else, all the “just what the hell is going on?” questions it is bound to raise, they do all take a while to process. After that, though, it’s a gripping slide, effortless, graceful, towards the abyss.

 

 

 

Why Watch?

 

  • Intense cameos from the likes of Juliette Binoche, Mathieu Amalric
  • Watch Pattinson, then imagine Colin Farrell, its original lead, doing it
  • Pattinson’s character is the “one per cent” that Occupy Wall Street allude to
  • DeLillo’s verdit – “I am impressed… It is as uncompromising as it can possibly be”

 

© Steve Morrissey 2013

 

 

Cosmopolis – at Amazon

 

 

 

 

12 November 2012-11-12

Jeremy Irons in Margin Call


Out in the UK This Week

Margin Call (Paramount, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)

JC Chandor’s debut, and what a film, is about a Lehman Brothers’ (ish) bank hitting the skids. It’s the definitive Hollywood entertainment about the financial crash, a cool, glossy, edge-of-seat procedural about a night in the company of two low-level bank employees (Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley) who are on duty at the point when a gigantic accounting error comes to light. Whereupon the problem is batted further and further up the heirarchy, until it reaches the top (a particularly dry and corrupt Jeremy Irons). The performances are in the ionosphere – Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Simon Baker, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci and Paul Bettany all working hard to justify the huge salaries (of the actors, not the bankers). And if the message – that moving money around electronically is not as noble as making, you know, stuff – is hammered home a bit too forcefully, I for one was prepared to give a first-timer a pass. Which brings us to – how did Chandor get the cast? And what’s he going to do next?

Margin Call – at Amazon

The Giants (Artificial Eye, cert 15, DVD)

Beautifully shot and acted, this gem of the deadly pastoral genre is a River’s Edge-flavoured tale following three teenage lads through a long summer of thievery, joyriding and cannabis-farming among the inbreds of rural Belgium. The plot is full of genuine novelty and in Paul Bartel, oldest of the kids oscillating madly between child and almost-adult, it has a star of the future.

The Giants – at Amazon

Undefeated (Dogwoof, cert E, DVD)

“Young men of character, discipline and commitment end up winning in life and they end up winning in football.” The words of Memphis coach Bill Courtney, who tries to turn a nowheresville side into winners – and more importantly, men – in the Hoop Dreams-inflected documentary which won an Oscar earlier this year. Whether you like American football or not, you will like this film. It paints the picture of America that the world is still mad for – a country full of people with heart, who speak their mind, who are respectful and god-fearing rather than god-bothering. As for the film – it’s brilliant.

Undefeated – at Amazon

Cosmopolis (Entertainment One, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)

Just when you thought existential drama was dead, back comes David Cronenberg with a supercool, absurdist adaptation of Don DeLillo’s novel. which follows a Keanu-like billionaire (Robert Pattinson) on a long limo ride round a city falling apart, besieged by anti-globalisation protesters. Pattinson might or might not be much of an actor but he probably does know a thing or two about being found entirely attractive by women, so having sex with a succession of hot babes is probably no stretch for him. The sex also helps fill in the gaps between the existentialist non-sequitur dialogue and punctuates a film that is meant to be dull, blank, horizonless. It’s a hard film to get into, but it’s strangely rewarding once you do. Camus in a limo.

Cosmopolis – at Amazon

Trouble in Paradise (Eureka, cert PG, DVD)

Now restored and a defining example of “the Lubitsch touch”, the 1932 romantic comedy that helped found a Hollywood genre is a curiously timely tale of a grifter preying on the super-rich in the aftermath of the 1929 market crash. It’s considered Lubitsch’s best film and, considering it’s now 80 years old, it stands up remarkably well. The side players include Edward Everett Norton and C Aubrey Smith and they are proof of a tradition that continues to this day – that the support players are often far more interesting than the stars.

Trouble in Paradise – at Amazon

56 Up (Network, cert E, DVD)

Surely one of the most important TV programmes ever made, this unique documentary series has been checking in on its subjects every seven years since they were seven-year-olds in 1964. It proves the old Jesuit dictum – “give me a child for his first seven years and I will give you the man” – memorably in the case of the wide-eyed Paul Kligerman, who in 1964 asked “what does university mean?” He didn’t go. Michael Apted has been involved since its inception – he was a 23-year-old researcher on the first one and has directed all the others since, fitting his other job as a successful international movie director (Coal Miner’s Daughter and The World Is Not Enough, to name but two) round about. The participants are now 56 and Apsted finds himself asking them the question “Are you scared of getting old?”

56 Up – at Amazon

Friends with Kids (Lionsgate, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)

A woman with ticking-timebomb ovaries has a kid with her best male friend. Jennifer Westfeldt and Adam Scott play the convenience couple in this toxic rom-com sold on all the posters under the falsest of pretences. Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig and Chris O’Dowd all feature heavily in the publicity but are barely in the film. The fact that Hamm is Westfeldt’s real-life partner suggests Westfeldt called in a few favours when it came to casting. Ironically Hamm’s favour doesn’t do her any – the film is overbalanced by these bigger names. But not as much as it is by the sour chemistry between Westfeldt and Scott. And to think she was part-responsible for Kissing Jessica Stein – the refreshing cult oddball romance from 2001.

Friends with Kids – at Amazon


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© Steve Morrissey 2012