Craig here, with a look back at David Cronenberg's Crash (1996).
When was the last time you got all hot under the collar as you passed a road traffic accident? When you get into a car do you rub your thighs with glee at the thought of not getting out again without a cranial fracture followed by a good seeing to? Do you expect to see a naked Holly Hunter writhing in ecstasy in the back seat on the way to collect groceries? Anyone? No? Didn’t think so. Me neither.
On the drive home from watching Crash, David Cronenberg’s 1996 “sick car smash flick” I checked that my seatbelt was securely fastened. I wanted to get home safely – if only to see what folks were saying about it. I felt as though I’d watched the artiest road safety video ever – albeit one where the actors liked pressing their bodies against the chassis just a little bit too much.
To this day it’s still banned in part of London; it can’t be shown anywhere in Westminster. It’s been thirteen years since its controversial journey to eventual theatrical release (with an 18 certificate in the UK and both R and NC-17 versions in America): do the Censors That Be still have their hazard lights flashing for Cronenberg’s auto-erotic, auto-fixated degradation derby?
In all that time I’ve not heard a case of someone deliberately ramming someone so they can then, er, ram them afterwards. Crash, even now, no more promotes down ‘n’ dirty driving to the public any more than it expresses a desire to turn us into Shivers-style sex-crazed loons, feeding on entangled celluloid entrails. Unlike what Cronenberg himself might brazenly essay in his work, technology itself – say, car parts or film projectors – can’t transmute the human brain to yearn dangerous behaviour. And it’s not like Cronenberg will direct Transformers 3 either – nobody wants to see Optimus Prime pleasuring himself.
On the flipside, in the years since Crash’s release the likes of Gone in Sixty Seconds, The Fast and the Furious and co. (movies that positively idolise life in the fast lane) have whizzed by with nary a word said on their need for speeding. The smash-ups in Crash are sudden and devastating – just like in real life. It’s just that Dave likes to provocatively orchestrate them using horny stuntmen in Jayne Mansfield drag. What’s the big deal? Maybe it’s not the auto or the erotic, but the two words together that worked censors into a frenzy.
Of course, it’s long been available on DVD, so anyone with a healthy interest in Cronenberg’s particular strain of subversive cinema can sit back and enjoy the melding of flesh and metal to their heart’s content: ban be damned!
In fact, Crash is perfect home viewing: Cronenberg’s deliberately even-textured, distancing camerawork suits the slick, streamlined design of a flat-screen television. What better way to absorb his mend-bending automotive allegory than at home. You just might not want to be cosied up between Rosanna Arquette and James Spader on the sofa. Or perhaps you do.