SPOILER POST: Part 1 – “Let it express itself.” Chauffeur Deb reviews ‘Cosmopolis’

Well, go find your shocked face. I loved Cosmopolis. I’ve seen it eight times now and came away with something a little different each time. Sometimes it was a deliberate decision of mine on how to approach a specific viewing ie. looking at the background or focusing on character reactions. Sometimes it was the theatre itself. The energy of each group was unique and I actually have a favourite viewing for that very reason. (Friday’s 7:20 show at Varsity in case you were curious.)

A little background: I was lucky enough to attend an informal “Cronenberg 101” given by Tedracat one fantastic day last summer (re: I went to her house and she fed me while we watched as many movies as possible). She pointed out lots of Cronenberg film markers as well as his common themes of technology’s impact on humanity, religion and motherhood. (Please note: I’ll refrain from winking every time I mention a mother or father reference in Cosmopolis. But I’ll be winking on the inside). So a part of me really enjoyed Cosmopolis on an aesthetic level;  the form, the lines and the Cronenbergian palette of ‘all the colours of a bruise’ and punctuating red. It truly is a work of art to look at. It brings to mind Cronenberg’s quote about film being “fantastic faces saying fantastic words”. Poetic prose put to a moving painting. Not your average day at the movies.

So. Here are my main points – the things that were really stand out for me. This is my blatantly biased review of Cosmopolis.

“That’s my peanuts you smell.” Eric Packer

Humour: One of the biggest surprises was how funny the movie is. Reading the book was a more serious experience, although there were certainly moments of humour while reading too. Here in the film, DeLillo’s words sometimes contrast with the visual in a really absurd way. Shiner’s pleas that the system is secure is comical when viewed through Jay Baruchel’s performance. He’s a nervous wreck, twitchy and on edge. Eric has driven him completely crazy. The prostate exam is gloriously absurd. Poor Jane may be feeling sexual tension but the audience is squirming along with Eric while giggling (yes, I heard man giggles) at the prolonged procedure and Robert Pattinson’s subdued yet… expressive expressions.

“That was theory. I am your Chief of Theory. I deal in theory.” Vija Kinski

Vija Kinski: An absolute highlight is Eric’s time with Vija Kinski. Samantha Morton is one of those actors that I would watch in anything. You know the saying “I’d listen to them read the phone book”? That. She is just mesmerizing as Eric’s Chief of Theory. Her manner of speaking is so soothingly distinct, completely different from anyone else in the movie. After a few viewings I finally put my finger on what it reminded me of; it’s as if she’s telling a bed time story to a child. Eric is rapt and so was I. During one particularly intense exchange Vija tries to temper the theory she’s filled Eric’s head with. It’s one of my favourite scenes in the whole movie and is echoed later when Eric and Benno talk. Seriously, I could watch a full length feature of Vija and Eric sipping vodka and talking about things I’ll never understand. Fantastic faces saying fantastic words indeed.

“Report from the complex. There’s a credible threat. Not to be dismissed.” Torval

Torval: Kevin Durand is simply amazing. The shifts in his attitude toward Eric are comic relief at points. He’s all intensely concerned and frustrated one moment and then shaking his head at Eric’s antics the next. There is a definite father/son connection here; Torval literally speaks to Eric as if he’s a child a few times and Eric’s aloof evasiveness is teenagerish. Kevin Durand is just fascinating to watch, with his twitching lips, narrowed eyes and menacing voice. Besides Elise, Torval is the only character we see interacting with Eric throughout the movie; we see Eric’s slow destruction mirrored in their reactions to him.

“You saw the car. We were under attack by anarchists. Just two hours ago they were a major global protest. Now, what, forgotten.” Eric Packer

The angles: Strange but true – I loved the unique shots in Cosmopolis. Often from slightly above, there was a voyeuristic feel to the whole film. I think part of that is how removed I felt from these characters. I couldn’t relate to them but I could watch and see what they would do. It has that ‘I shouldn’t be looking but I can’t look away’ feeling. There was a fishbowl quality to it. A scene with Eric and Elise, their final scene together at dinner, was shot almost exclusively in a sharp profile. It’s gorgeous. When the shot returns to full face you feels as if you should look away. It’s almost too much.

“I gave this guy his first haircut. He wouldn’t sit in the car seat. His father tried to jam him in there. He’s going no no no no no. So I put him right where he’s sitting now. His father pinned him down.” Antony

The barber shop: After the first couple of viewings I started to dread this part because I knew it was getting close to the end. I loved this set. I loved Antony standing in his beaded curtain doorway letting us look at the old room and imagine it as it would have been back in the day. And that child’s car seat. Red. The religious symbols on the wall, the talk of Eric’s father. You can feel the whole movie, Eric’s whole day, settle in and say “this is what it’s all about. He wanted a haircut”. One of those surreal moments is here; Antony and Ibrahim, the actual chauffeur, talk about driving their cabs, eating at the wheel, their modest decorations and where they would pee. Well, we’ve just spent an hour with Eric’s tricked out limo in which he peed. Perhaps not the most significant observation but there you go.

“It’s women’s shoes. It’s all the names they have for shoes.” Benno Levin

Benno: These scenes are nothing short of brilliant. I’ve loved hearing the actors talk about the long takes and single takes at that. I’m going to take a brief detour into fangirl land, bear with me. I adored Rob’s swagger up the alley, his shaking the gun around, the quiet ‘Nancy Babich’ and kicking that door in. It made me wish we could have seen Eric on a better, normal day… just once. Do you know what I mean? Anyway, this is another amazing set which I needed many viewings to be able to focus on. Paul Giamatti and Rob demand your attention. The power shifts back and forth, the mood bounces around. Ironically Benno is one of the only characters that I really felt sorry for along the way. He’s been driven mad, partly by Eric, and I couldn’t help wonder if that’s where Shiner would have been heading had Eric gone on pushing his limits. (See what I did there? Deep thoughts by Chauffeur Deb)

Rob’s perfect here. Another favourite part is Eric chastising Benno through the blinds. Eric’s voice and delivery, the simple gun pulling down the blinds and letting them snap back up – so dismissive. So Eric. I liked hearing him seem to channel different people when he’s talking to Benno. At times I heard Vija and Elise. An echo of all the things he’s heard and taken in coming back out to deal with this madman. Something he doesn’t know.

I still think there is a good chance that this day of Eric’s is a projection, a fantasy of Benno’s. His wife won’t have sex with him, he gets pied and loses all his money. He sees Benno. He comes to him to be destroyed. That was my take when I read the book but like I said above, I’m no post modern scholar. 😉 I loved Cosmopolis on a lot of different levels; as a fan of Rob’s, as a proud Canadian who now idolizes David Cronenberg, as a piece of art, as a surreal ride through Eric’s unknown.

There is so much more I could talk about. Sarah Gadon’s Elise was icy perfection and Patricia McKenzie’s Kendra… well I don’t feel I’m quite recovered to discuss that scene coherently. At least not in the post. As I’m trying to wind this up I’m remembering more; the poignancy of Eric after hearing about Brutha Fez, the minimal use of score but the awesome song at the end credits. I could go on for a long while…

Following this film from announcement to now has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life. It’s been an absolute gift. Thanks to you all for reading and commenting along the way. Chauffeur Tink will post her review to coincide with the U.S. release of Cosmopolis. (we’re just extending the party in the limo 😉 ) Whether you’ve seen the movie or not I can’t wait to talk to you guys in the comments. Get in the limo!

  • 4tlashes4erimus

    What a pleasure to read! I loved your insights and it made me even more excited to see the film!! 🙂