Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Its Soul Got Sucked Out

Crimes of the Future (2022) - Cronenberg Crimes of the Future Hardly reinventing the wheel, but with Crimes of the Future, David Cronenberg reiterates his usual theme strongly- inadequacy of human bodies and our soulless society. Crimes might lack his usual titilation and shock value, but it's still quite potent in making those points, more so than his better films over the years, namely - Dead Ringers, Crash, Cosmopolis and even Dangerous Methods.

Crimes of the Future presages with a disturbing beginning where a mother murders her own child after the young boy starts chomping at the plastic garbage bin in their bathroom. It's the indescript near future where human bodies evolved to a point that they don't feel pain or in needs of anticeptics when the knives cut into them. Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) is a performance artist. He and his partner, a former surgeon Caprice (Léa Seydoux) performs a sort of live autopsy on Saul's torso. It's Saul's ability to will a new organ that serves no function to his body and Caprice's tattooing and removing the organs that make them the superstars of this seemingly still unlawful and underground art form.

Saul, always shrouded in veils and hunched over, is physically not well. Either his mutations made him always brittle and ill, or his performances left him looking like a MS sufferer; he spends most of his time in the aide of a cocoon like bed hanging from the ceiling - a true cronenbergian contraption that looks like an upside down cockroach and a skeletal chair that helps him feed.

Their registering the new organs at the very literally named Organ Registy Office, a dreamy, Kafkaesque reimagining of what 'institution' looks like, connects the pair to a nebbish bureaucratic hottie Timlin (Kristen Stewart in a very comical performance), who breathlessly praises Tenser's artistry. Surgery is new sex, she declares. The dead child's father, who's also training his body to the effects of poison, approaches the pair and offers his son's body for the performance. Do they perform the live autopsy of the boy in front of the live audience or no?

Watching Crimes of the Future immediately reminded me of the famed painting by Rembrandt - The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp. In it, spectators surround a recently deceased corpse and Dr. Tulp is explaining the denuded musculature of the corpse's left forearm. Yet, the spectators' attention is not with the corpse but elsewhere and they are not even noticing the inaccurate arm (it's the right hand depicted instead of the left). Rembrandt was commenting on the inadequacy of seeking knowledge and truth in the human body in the Age of Enlightenment. And this is the point Cronenberg has been making all his career- our futile quests for answers in what makes us humans, in our bodies which are the most personal, tangible things that each of us possesses, and not finding it there. And pursuing so hard to find something in all the blood and guts, you lose sight of whatever the humanity that's left in us. In a way, Cronenberg is going back to the basics - to the flesh after more cerebral musings in searching for the soul (Dangerous Methods, Cosmopolis). Crimes of the Future is less kitschy and much less over the top parody like History of Violence or Maps to the Stars. And its general mood is closer to Spider and Dead Ringers. But nonetheless it's undeniably Cronenbergian and great.

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