Culture Warrior

Warning: This article contains possible spoilers for Cosmopolis.

At some point about halfway through David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis, Vija Kinsky (Samantha Morton) informs young billionaire asset manager Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) that the chaotic protestors wreaking havoc outside the windows of the state-of-the-art, impenetrable limousine 2.0 they occupy subscribe to an anarchist philosophy that holds destruction itself to be a creative act. Implicitly citing the work of economist Joseph Schumpeter, Kinsky then points out (perhaps ironically, perhaps not) that capitalism is also a form of “creative destruction”: the market moves through cyclical ebbs and flows, older resources must be exploited in new fashions, the seemingly new is always replaced by the purportedly antiquated, and so on. This view of destroying the old as a means in of itself to produce something new also emboldens the work of productive critique, a practice in which Cosmopolis (as both novel and film) is heavily and centrally invested in terms of its narrative and intellectual preoccupations.

Cosmopolis is no doubt a strange and unique film, a provocation as necessary as it is unwelcome in the wake of Hollywood’s stock cloning practices. That the film stars Pattinson, an actor both beloved and despised because his astronomical fame has been created by this Hollywood, highlights the film’s inevitably polarizing difference all the more. Cosmopolis is a sort of narrative “essay film,” at once a polemic without urgency, a manifesto that doesn’t design a way out, and an apocalyptic suicide note too disillusioned with and desensitized in the 21st century to see much worthwhile past it.

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