Perhaps the best reviewed movie of the year, David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence, pissed the living hell out of me. It has been proclaimed “Epic”, “Incredible”, blah and blah. I had been looking forward to this for a while. I thought – here is a good director, an interesting script and a lot of talk about how this was a meditation on “George W. Bush’s America” – this should be great.
I call bullshit on all the critics and I especially call bullshit on David Cronenberg. To find out specifically what I call bullshit on, listen to this podcast of Elvis Mitchell’s interview with Cronenberg. Go on.
Doug Liman made a movie recently in which he had these perfect-bodied specimens [Brangelina or Pijolie?] play normal, suburban couple who are in reality Assassins! The movie was a good-hearted farce and clearly intended that way until the end when suddenly the rubber bullets that had been raining all along, turned steel-tipped for no apparent reason. The fantasy [beside imagining Brangelina pleasuring itself] was that a thin veneer of normalcy hides the truth – we are all secret killers and tango dancers. The thing about Liman was that he never said that he was making some parable about America or Bush or whatever. He was just trying to wreck Jennifer Aniston’s marriage.
Here comes Mr. Cronenberg and he wants us to sit up and take notice about the ways in which violence hides itself in plain light in America. He builds up this Rockwellian simulacra [hi Daisy] of Americana with the howdy y’allz and the baseball diamonds and the offers of pies and the cheerleader uniforms and the man who cleans out the spark-plugs of his trusty pickup truck. The camera moves slowly and deliberately; the colors are bright yet dusted; the dialogue is shrugged; so perfect is this chimerical American dream. Then, he shows us violence happening. Bad people doing bad things to good people. But, guess what, the good people are even better at violence than the bad people.
Violence is easy enough to depict. Trademark Cronenberg shots linger on a face missing the lower half; on holes exploding in skulls, and chests; on noses and eyes ripped. Yeah, whatever. I have seen the best of Miike. It is the moment before and after the violence that is tricky. Cronenberg has variously led us to believe that his movie follows the results of violence – which apparently begets violence – and that this somehow explains Iraq. So, let us see what the movie shows us: That the real result of five bodies piled up on a “normal” family’s lawn by the actions of two members is a tortured conversation over meatloaf. That is the end result of all the violence. The man sits down to a plate set up by an innocent child. Oh, you say that there is all that ambiguity? You have been had, dear reader. The “normal” conclusion of homicide and fratricide should be a suicide. There is no normal in that scenario. Life does NOT continue as is. The consequences are not sleeping on the sofa.
Cronenberg has made a Mr. & Mrs. Smith except all the critics have fallen head over heels for this sorry-ass excuse of a “message” movie when they said that Smith was exploitative. Why? Why did every critic fall for it? Is it because there is a complete lack of any engagement with America as it is today? So, anything that is not released by Michael Moore gives the critics instant boners? Well, I don’t care that they have to schlep their miserable lives reviewing Transporter 2, they don’t have to con me as well.
Oh, and I do realize that those of you who have seen the movie, won’t agree with me here. Enjoy.