A Dangerous Method

David Cronenberg

David Cronenberg has made many types of films, but all of them are unmistakably Cronenberg. From B-horror movies to a beat literature adaptation to a film about the working relationship between Freud and Jung, the Canadian filmmaking veteran’s oeuvre exhibits a versatility of subject matter that somehow maintains consistency in style. Cronenberg’s films are known for their complicated portrayals of sex, in-your-face depictions of violence, and unmitigated explorations of human transformation, whether that transformation be from a human to a fly, a patient to a psychologist, or an east coast mobster to a Midwest suburban father. David Cronenberg got his start in underground experimental films, then made interesting low-budget B-movie horror features, and has since risen to prominence as one of North America’s most respected and revered auteurs. In August, the 69-year-old Cronenberg’s 18th feature film will be released, and he may follow it up soon with his first ever sequel. So here’s a bit of free film school from an experienced filmmaker hailing from America’s favorite hat.

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This Week in DVD

Welcome back to This Week in DVD! It’s pretty slim pickings this week with the best release requiring a region-free player, but there are still a few titles worth a rental. Some of this week’s releases include David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method, Angelina Jolie’s In the Land Of Blood and Honey, the 80’s shocker Don’t Go in the House and more. As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. The Yellow Sea (UK) A man finds himself in over his head with gambling debts and decides to head to Korea to look for his wife who went there months prior. The trip’s financiers task him with an assassination to wipe his debt clean, but what should have been a simple act becomes something far more complicated and messy. This is the first Korean production to be co-financed by a major US studio (Fox), but thankfully it seems to have had no negative effect on the finished product. Hong-jon Na’s film is just as wonderful and brutal as his debut, The Chaser, but it benefits from a deeper, more political story. Not to say it shies away from the action and violence… there is some spectacular bloodletting here in addition to gun/hatchet/fist fights and chases. **NOTE – This is a region2 DVD which requires either a region-free player or the willingness to watch on your PC.**

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Culture Warrior

Usually I’m quite cynical about end-of-year lists, as they demand a forced encapsulation of an arbitrary block of time that is not yet over into something simplified. I typically find end-of-year lists fun, but rarely useful. But 2011 is different. As Scott Tobias pointed out, while “quiet,” this was a surprisingly strong year for interesting and risk-taking films. What’s most interesting has been the variety: barely anything has emerged as a leading contender that tops either critics’ lists or dominates awards buzz. Quite honestly, at the end of 2010 I struggled to find compelling topics, trends, and events to define the year in cinema. The final days of 2011 brought a quite opposite struggle, for this year’s surprising glut of interesting and disparate films spoke to one another in a way that makes it difficult to isolate any of the year’s significant works. Arguments in the critical community actually led to insightful points as they addressed essential questions of what it means to be a filmgoer and a cinephile. Mainstream Hollywood machine-work and limited release arthouse fare defied expectations in several directions. New stars arose. Tired Hollywood rituals and ostensibly reliable technologies both met new breaking points. “2011” hangs over this year in cinema, and the interaction between the films – and the events and conversations that surrounded them – makes this year’s offerings particular to their time and subject to their context. This is what I took away from this surprising year:

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Do not expect a body horror show from A Dangerous Method. Do not expect someone grotesque mental or physical transformation. Do not expect kinky or unbelievably outlandish sex scenes. Most of all, do not pigeonhole director David Cronenberg. Whatever a “David Cronenberg film” means is a mystery now. Who would’ve thought the director behind Videodrome and (the very underrated) eXistenZ would go on to make an excellent gangster picture? Certainly not me. Now Cronenberg has tackled a subject that is, in some ways, in his wheelhouse. A Dangerous Method is not a dry or sloggy bio pic, but an entertaining depiction about the clashing of ideals and an exploration of how we tick, as expected. Much of the film focuses on the rise and fall of a rocky relationship between a young and intellectually hungry Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and the older, wiser and sex obsessed Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortenson). Most the script involves Jung and Freud in back and forth conversations about their ideas, which will surely turnoff many viewers. If you are not at all into psychoanalysis and were bored to tears during your sociology 101 class, then this is not a film for you. At one point Freud jokes to Jung, forgive me if I am misquoting the line, “Have you realized we’ve spoken for eight hours now?”, and some may feel those eight hours. For myself, the exchanges between a convincingly conflicted Fassbender and a surprisingly hilarious Mortenson, are funny, intellectually stimulating, and, yes, cinematic.

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Ever since its debut at Venice, some have discredited A Dangerous Method as not being cinematic. The film is 99 minutes of nonstop conversations — and not at a brisk pace — regarding psychoanalysts and the collision of different ideas. Those conversations are acted out by Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, and Vincent Cassel, and directed by David Cronenberg. I don’t see how that’s not cinematic, and neither does Cronenberg. Just because there’s no body horror involving Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud (although that would be extremely fun to see) doesn’t mean this isn’t a “Cronenberg film,” a tag that the director himself seems annoyed by. When someone is capable of making films as vastly different as Videodrome and A Dangerous Method, all bets are off about what type of filmmaker you’re dealing with. There’s a thematic through line in his distinct works, but they’re mostly their own beasts. Here’s what director David Cronenberg had to say about damaged psychoanalysts, a dramatic conflict of ideas, and why the human face talking is the essence of cinema:

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Last month the Oscar season officially kicked off, and this month we’ll be getting plenty more Oscar baiters and real contenders to add to the mix. We’ll get another Brett Ratner film, the 25th film of the decade from Clint Eastwood, another upbeat audience friendly film from Lars von Trier, and the most expected and clichéd, a Martin Scorsese “kids” film. A fairly promising month, right? I’ve already seen a few films coming out this month, and there’s plenty of good-to-great films to see, even one or two that didn’t make it on this list. Honorable Mentions: My Week with Marilyn (an extremely enjoyable film with a great performance by Kenneth Branagh), Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, and London Boulevard (a solid anti-cliché gangster film). But here are the names who made it all the way to the top ten:

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As the temperatures turn just the slightest bit colder and the fall colors settle in the landscape (if you’re lucky enough to live near trees), we should start directing our film focus to the fall movie season. We love summer for its mind-numbing fun, but the last season of the year tends to offer some of the most vulnerable, honest, and captivating films (you know, just in time for that other “big O”). Fall supplies films meant to scandalize our minds and even our naughty bits, and there is nothing wrong with that. But with so many films and film festivals to choose from between now and December, it becomes overwhelming to sort through all the goodness being dispensed our way. Lucky for you, my love of highlighting full-frontal male nudity and questionable sexual conduct happens to pay off for a change. Below you’ll find a helpful collection of five sultry features sure to stimulate your brain and your nethers.

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Top-tier director David Cronenberg hasn’t released a movie in four years, so anticipation to see more of his work is kind of at a fever pitch. I know first hand, as I just tried to buy a ticket to a festival showing of his new 2011 release A Dangerous Method and discovered that it was completely sold out. Why is there so much excitement over Cronenberg releasing a new film? Well, it’s because the guy always makes movies that are edgy and cool, and more often than not, they end up also being pretty good. That’s why I was interested to hear that Shock Till You Drop got ahold of Cronenberg while he was doing publicity for A Dangerous Method and asked him about the possibility of doing sequels to a couple of his best films, and his responses were encouraging enough that I thought I’d pass the info along. When asked about the rumors circulating a couple of years ago that he was working on a remake of his 1986 sci-fi/horror classic The Fly, Cronenberg revealed that a reboot wasn’t exactly the real story, but that something a bit more interesting is a possibility. He explained, “The Fly is not exactly a remake, it’s sort of a sequel, kinda. Yeah, that was a thing. I’ve written a script of that, and I don’t know if that’s going to really happen, but that has to do with Fox.” Watching Jeff Goldblum slowly morph into a slobbery fly creature left a […]

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There are many expectations fans of director David Cronenberg have embraced when he makes a new movie and his ability to surprise is definitely one of them. Not surprises in terms of jump scares but more in the vein of not knowing what you’re going to get. One thing is certain, his work is never boring and is willing to go to dark places whether it be psychological (Dead Ringers), sexual (Crash), or spiritual (A History of Violence). Having said that, it’s my sad duty to report that the only surprise in his latest work, A Dangerous Method, is his ability to take an intriguing subject (sexual analysis) and make such a tame, limp movie. On paper, the thought of Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud and Michael Fassbender as Carl Jung in a duel of wits and sexual psychosis sounds like a film lover’s dream. The actors are more than capable of going to extreme places in search of an authentic performance and are only matched in their dedication by their fearless director. So why is it that a movie about the raw and animalistic ways we perceive sex be so neutered and detached from itself?

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This weekend’s 38th annual Telluride Film Festival has just announced their slate, including a number of buzzed-about titles from the likes of Cronenberg, Payne, Ramsay, Kaurismäki, Scorsese, Herzog, and McQueen. Telluride differs from other film festivals by keeping mum on its lineup until the day before the festival opens, though speculation runs high in the weeks before opening, with a bevy of well-educated guesses often revealing the festival’s top picks well in advance (an example from this year would be We Need to Talk About Kevin, as star Tilda Swinton is a consistent Telluride favorite). The festival will continue to announce additions to its lineup throughout its run. The festival seems to have a taken a number of cues from Cannes and Venice, with Cannes picks The Artist, Le Havre, Footnote, The Kid with a Bike, Bonsai, and We Need to Talk About Kevin showing, along with Venice films A Dangerous Method and Shame. The festival also announced that they will be bestowing the Silver Medallion Awards (which “recognize an artist’s contribution to the world of cinema”) to George Clooney (starring in The Descendants at the festival), Swinton, and French filmmaker-actor Pierre Etaix. The festival runs this weekend, from September 2 through September 5. Check out the full lineup for the festival’s main program, which also includes Albert Nobbs, Living in the Material World, and The Tuirn Horse, after the break.

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Considering how much I like striped shirts, pasta, and films from controversial Greek directors, it looks like I may need to stow away in someone’s suitcase and get over to Italy next month for the 68th Venice Film Festival. The fest, which runs from August 31 to September 10, has just released their lineup for the year, and I may be speaking out of my macaroni here, but this batch of films really wets my noodle. Nathan already reported last month that George Clooney’s The Ides of March was likely to join the festival, and today’s announcement confirms that twofold – Ides will not only show at the festival, it will serve as opening night film. Other good stuff here includes Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (which has one of my favorite trailers of the year), Roman Polanski’s adaptation of play God of Carnage (shortened to Carnage), Ami Canaan Mann’s Texas Killing Fields, David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method, Steve McQueen’s Shame, Todd Solondz’s Dark Horse, Madonna’s W.E., Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion, and Dogtooth director Yorgos Lanthimos’s Alps. In short terms, this is an incredible lineup of films that I cannot even remotely snark on, because I would probably do something violent if it meant I could go to the festival. Check out the full list of films after the break.

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New Cronenberg means that Christmas comes in September this year, and Christmas Eve happens today with the release of the first trailer for A Dangerous Method. The film focuses on the real-life story of Carl Jung developing his methods with mentorship from Sigmund Freud and getting a little on the side with one of his patients. The drama is heady, and the cast is superb. Michael Fassbender as Jung, Viggo Mortensen as Freud, and Keira Knightley as the mistress Sabina Spielrein. It’s Cronenberg doing kinky sex. Check it out for yourself:

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This being my third Cannes Film Festival in a row, I feel I’m now in the privileged position to demand something of the festival in return for standing thanklessly in queues in the baking sun, and allowing my English Rose skin to wilt/burst into flames under the unforgiving French Riviera sun. So, with that in mind, below is a run-down of what I’d ideally like to see when I get to Cannes in May – along with a few reasonable predictions, based on what’s coming up.

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