DAVID CRONENBERG FEATURE
Star vehicle: Janos Spoiler and llolly Helm In Crash
Breaking the crash barrier
After provoking a storm of controversy at Cannes, David Cronenberg's Crash doesn’t yet have a British distributor. The acclaimed director talks exclusively to Nigel Floyd about the Drambuie Edinburgh Film Festival event that will screen clips of the film to an eager audience.
he response of one publisher‘s reader to Crash. J.G. Ballard’s I973 novel about ‘auto-eroticism‘. was direct and to the point: ‘The author is beyond psychiatric help. Do Not Publish!’ So when it was announced that Canadian director David Cronenberg was about to make a film of Ballard’s brutal. futuristic world. where disconnected car-crash fetishists grope towards
a new sexuality born from a perverse technology‘. reactions ranged from stark disbelief. through anticipatory disgust. to
delicious excitement. It was Cronenberg. after all. who gave us venereal slugs in Shivers. exploding heads in .S'ccmnw‘s. and Goldblum‘s putrefying Dr Brundle in The Fly.
When Crash was shown at the Cannes Film Festival in May. reactions were predictably mixed. At the official gala screening. Cronenberg received a standing ovation and. despite strong objections from some of its members. the jury awarded the film a special prize for its ‘daring and originality‘. Press screenings. by contrast. were marked by a split between those who walked out in disgust (or stayed to whistle and boo at the end). and those who sat transfixed throughout. then cheered loudly in recognition of the director’s bleak. uncompromising vision.
C rash is a remarkable Cronenbergian themes. from the melding of ﬂesh and metal (Brundlelly‘s fusing with the telepod at the end of The Fly) to the creative embracing of a new reality (‘long live the new fleshl‘) — in this case a psychological pathology based on eroticised car crashes. fetishistic fantasies and the forging of a whole new human sexuality. As Cronenberg has said elsewhere: ‘This is not a film for people who want to see sex and cars.
although we have made a movie with a lot of
both. Cars are the technology through which the characters are reinventing human existence.‘
J c ff
lnevitably. since the medium through which the characters are reinventing themselves is sex. there is a great deal of it. some of it amidst the twisted. blood-stained metal of wrecked cars. Crash opens with three consecutive couplings. and later features a scene in which Gabrielle (Rosanna Arqucttc). her legs encased in metal
‘Sex is not just a soporilic — you watch TV, you hang your wife and then you go to sleep - it’s something that continues to be revealing to yourself. and to reveal how you are changing.’
callipers. offers Ballard (James Spader) an open wound as a potential sexual orifice. What Cronenberg feels his detractors have missed is that. unlike the merely decorative sex scenes in Hollywood movies or the plainly arousing ones in porno movies. those in Crash tell us a great deal about who the characters are. and who they are becoming.
The director has a thoughtful response to those who claim his sex scenes are pornographic or repetitive: ‘They‘re only repetitive ifyou react to them the way most people react to sex in Hollywood movies. which is to sit back and wait
for it to be over. so the movie can get going again. Those sex scenes are kind of modular. you could take them out and it wouldn’t affect the movie at all. Whereas here you have to pay attention because things are happening - the juxtaposition of scenes. the different things that happen. whether they have orgasms or not. are all narrativer significant.
"These are scenes where. in discovering different forms of their own sexuality. the characters are inventing themselves. advancing themselves. and exploring. At its best. that's what you do with sex. it's not just a soporiﬁc — you watch TV. you hang your wife and then you go to sleep — it‘s something that continues to be revealing to yourself. and to reveal how you are changing.‘
At the Drambuie Edinburgh Film Festival. Cronenberg will present a Scene By Scene analysis of extracts from Crash. but because the film has so far failed to find a UK distributor. it will not be shown in its entirety. He is disappointed. but not totally surprised. that a film which has been sold to 40 other countries. has failed to find a champion here.
'I guess the question is whether it is me who has changed or Britain.” be muses. ‘Whenever I come here to do interviews. there are many undertones which I know I’m not really in touch with. There‘s always a. freneticised. over-heated politicisation ofeverything. It‘s all being worked on and fidgeted into place. according to various agendas. So I can't pretend to sort it all out. but what I’m suggesting is that perhaps it has more to do with Britain‘s present climate. and how it’s changed since i first came here. I came to Edinburgh in I975. with Shivers; so there we have 2| years of me changing a little bit. and maybe Britain changing a lot.‘ ' David C mnenberg Scene By Scene on Crash. ABC. Edinburgh. 0/3/ 467 8855. I3 Aug. 6pm. £8 (£4).
The List 9-l5 Aug I996 21