Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pull Up to Dave's Bumper, Baby!

Craig here, with a look back at David Cronenberg's Crash (1996).

That's not the car horn Mr Spader!

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.

James Spader and Deborah Kara Unger putting the car into carnal desire

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.


ZiZo said...

OT: Nate, you HAVE to write about the Madge-ical episode of Glee!

MattyD. said...

I just saw "Crash" for the first time two weeks ago. I'm still very disturbed and confused. Great piece though.


thanks for writing this up Craig. I always like to read takes on CRASH. I saw it twice in short succession when it opened and I remember someone (can't remember who) asking me "are you crazy?"

no. I just, uh, love good movies.

Sean said...

I liked the movie, but I haven't seen it since it was released in the theatres! I really should watch it again. I just remember some of the dialogue being laughable. Especially the homoerotic scene. No one talks like that in real life. Ha. I will have to rent this one.

OtherRobert said...

This is one of the only Cronenberg films I haven't seen. Now I want to remedy that. My circle is always talking about Cronenberg in horror/sci-fi veins, so I understand why I've only heard that Crash was messed up and nothing more. Now I know what Drawn Together was making fun of when Princess Clara kept getting off on Captain Hero-created car crashes. To the top of the Netflix queue.

Less Lee Moore said...

You also have to consider the twisted mind of JG Ballard not just Cronenberg.

Jason Adams said...

I totally want to see Optimus Prime pleasuring himself. Is that weird?

Great piece, Craig. "Entangled celluloid entrails" for the win!

Andrew R. said...

People either love or hate this movie and I hate it.

Burning Reels said...

Love it:)

Anonymous said...

Love it very much. Deborah Unger rocks!!!!!!!!
thanks for the post!


Anonymous said...

Have to admit I am a fan of Cronenberg's CRASH. Everytime I see the movie I get a different idea as to just what he and Ballard were saying with this story. Watching CRASH is a very visceral experience. The cold and unemotional behavior exhibited by the characters adds to the general feeling of unease that moves throughout the entire film.

I respect all of the actors who were brave enough (or foolhardy enough) to do this film. It was probably detrimental to each and every one of their careers at least for the short term. but all of these folks wanted the opportunity to work with Cronenberg so they were happy to be involved on this project.

Craig Bloomfield said...

Glad you enjoyed it, JA. I think there's a part of all of us that wants to see some Optimus Prime self love. (I've only just checked out My Best Plaid Pants - excellent. Why did I take so long??)

Unknown said...

This is one of the only Cronenberg films I haven't seen.

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