Cosmopolis: capitalism’s apocalypse
by Domenico La Porta
25/05/2012 - For his 20th feature film, Canadian film director David Cronenberg has chosen to adapt a novel by Don DeLillo, a writer whose quizzical prose is known to plunge readers into chaotic, obscure universes. The two writers are champions at unhealthy science-fiction that blends fantasy with philosophy, and the Cannes Film Festival has chosen to celebrate this mix by selecting Cosmopolis [trailer] for its official competition.
Cosmopolis is the hypnotic tale of a day in the life of a golden boy about to lose his empire to the financial crisis. With feverous nonchalance, he crosses New York as is succumbs to chaos, cocooned up in his state-of-the-art soundproofed limousine. His whim of the day? A haircut at the other end of a town paralysed by riots and police. This slow-motion odyssey sets out to the pace of meetings with his wife, mistress, minions, and a few enemies who will lead him to a point of no return.
Cronenberg has always liked to surprise his audience. From one work to the next, his filmography has followed an asymptotic pattern that is both fascinating and hypnotic. His filmmaking is unique, and he is continuously reinventing himself to core themes: violence, absurdity, and science-fiction, while alway continuing to explore human condition. But how does one adapt a tale so cryptic that it allows for a thousand interpretations? For a filmmaker who had already managed to turn a literary monument of absurdity into an powerful, puzzling, and loyally evocative film that stood on its own with Naked Lunch, the feat did not present too many challenges. Loyalty is important here, as this cinematic adaptation has been made to be just like the original: talkative, sometimes irritating, but also puzzling.
Cosmopolis is an apocalyptic fable about corruption in finance and capitalism, in which class struggle in slowly crushed by a steamroller at the bottom of a bubbling cauldron. Everything in it is boiling, from the symbols (limousine, graffiti...) to the mathematical theories and many incomprehensible speeches. Robert Pattinson proves to be an intriguing choice for the leading role, but its constraints do not allow him to show off any talent. He will have to seize another, more conventional, opportunity to really prove himself.
(Translated from French)