Saturday, March 10, 2012

Videodrome

By Sati. Saturday, March 10, 2012 , , , , , , , ,
83/100 (87 min, 1983)
Plot: A sleazy cable-TV programmer begins to see his life and the future of media spin out of control in a very unusual fashion when he acquires a new kind of programming for his station.
Director: David Cronenberg
Writer: David Cronenberg
Stars: James Woods, Deborah Harry and Sonja Smits

"Long live the new flesh!"

Before "The Ring" made people scared of videotapes nearly two decades earlier came "Videodrome". Andy Warhol called that movie the "A Clockwork Orange of the 1980s". Disturbing, provocative and shocking, "Videodrome" is one of the signature works of David Cronenberg, who has very unique style and can make repulsive and potentially scarring things look curiously sensual and fascinating.

The film follows Max Renn, determined and unscrupulous TV produced who wants to find the new exciting show to be aired on his station. Due to coincidence he discovers the show called "Videodrome" featuring torture, sex and humiliation. There is no plot there, there is just senseless violence. Max thinks that the show can be a big success, but as the plot unravels we, along with him, find out more and more about Videodrome and the horrifying effect it can have on people who watch it. Soon his situation is starting to become very dangerous and he is beginning to experience disturbing hallucinations.

I don't know what it is about Cronenberg's movies but although they never feature characters that are especially likable or easy to relate to, the stories always engage the viewer and for some strange reason we root for the main character. When we watched "The Fly" I'm sure none of us wanted anything bad to happen to Seth. With "Videodrome" as the story progresses although Max does some strange and reprehensible things we start to feel for him, because he is caught up in something much bigger than himself - massive paranoia, bizarre hallucinations and especially a conspiracy web which essentially makes it impossible to trust anyone. The worst thing that happens to him, though, is the fact that because he is going insane, he can't even trust himself.

The film, as most of Cronenberg's pictures,  features whole variety of quirky and fascinating characters - sadomasochistic Nicki, who is fascinated by Videodrome and plans to star in the show while pursuing Max and later on becoming very important figure in his hallucinations, mysterious Bianca who is reluctant to share her knowledge about "Videodrome" with Max and the people who work with Max, who in some cases will turn out to be much more important, than it appeared in the beginning, near the end of the film.

Cronenberg is known for infusing his movies with strong surreal vibe. "Videodrome" is perfect example of his style - intense scenes of hallucinations, fairly disturbing gore and weird images coming out of nowhere. The film also has this very disturbing fusion of sex with something completely asexual - perhaps the most brilliant scene is the one where Max sees Nicki on the TV set and we see close up of her lips, when suddenly the hallucination kicks in and it almost appears as if the TV set became her, moving, breathing, moaning as she does on the screen.

The film has absolutely mind blowing special effects for its time - there are scenes here which I can't even begin to understand how they were made, but they look incredible. I honestly don't think they could be made better nowadays, even with all the progress of technology. As with for example "Alien", "Videodrome" is so slick and cleverly shot that there is absolutely no need to ever improve it or change anything. The best thing though is that ironically all the body horror scenes were made using practical effects - there is no CGI, the actors really had some gross make up on them or things literally glued to their skin, so it would look realistic and it really works.
Watching the film was very intense experience mostly to the heavy style and Howard Shore's haunting score. The more we find out and the more we see, the more bizarre movie gets. Its last 30 minutes are so far-out that you really have to immerse yourself in the film and just watch the movie, without trying to figure out what exactly is happening. It's one of these movies where we only see main character's point of view so there really is no way of knowing what is real and what's not. Because of that, the movie can be watched many times and each time you can find something new in it - there are many scenes that can be interpreted in different way, many clues scattered all over the film.

Cronenberg always has terrific cast in his movies - here the lead is played by great James Wood, who is perfect as Max delivering very strong and complex performance. I also loved Deborah Harry who plays sexy and disturbed Nicki, it's a shame she disappeared in the latter part of the movie. Each time she appears on the screen the movie almost turns wet because of her intense sexuality and on screen charisma.
Many years after "Videodrome" Cronberg made "ExistenZ", which is basically a companion piece to it. In "Videdrome" we had television as the source of horror, in "ExistenZ" it's video games. Both movies feature very disturbing scenes of fusing the flesh with technology - in one it's the videotape put into the hero's stomach, in the other it's the cord inserted into a spine that hooks you up to the game. Howard Shore's scores for the two movies are almost identical at many moments and the line "Long live the flesh!" appears in both of them. While "ExistenZ" wasn't as praised as "Videodrome

"Videodrome" is very intense movie and the perfect example of David Cronenberg's film, perhaps even more so than "The Fly". After the disappointing "A Dangerous Method" it's great to see this his earlier work - Cronenberg doesn't use the surreal/body horror mix anymore, turning more to the drama category with his "History of Violence" and "Eastern Promises", both great films, but still really different from the films he used to do. And he used to do them so well.

4 comments:

  1. This is probably my favorite David Cronenberg film that I've seen so far. It's kinky, it's disgusting, it's disturbing, and thrilling. Yet, I love it!

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    1. It's my favorite too, along with The Fly and Existenz. I love the boddy horror in this movies, it's so bizarre and frightening and the atmosphere is just unreal.

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  2. Also one of my favorite Cronenberg with Crash, Dead Ringers. The Naked Lunch hasn't aged very well although it is essential Cronenberg I also like his latter films. However, I haven't seen A Dangerous Method. Nice write-up.

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    1. Thank you! I still need to see Crash and The Naked Lunch.

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