To tell the truth, I’m no film critic. I’m a simple moviegoer, but to be more precise, not even that. I’d never even try to become one, as I’d never get to the point of writing professional opinion on any movie. I’d have to spend too much time preparing from the works of the piece of art to be criticised, the director and the actors. I’d read the adapted book, watch the available films made by the director and the leading actors. If it was no adaptation, I’d prepare from books of similar subject. After all these, I’d still not present my opinion as one above all others, as in this case, the following article is my humble, simple point of view.
My inspiration to write this article was that I managed to read the essay of a certain critic working at a website operated by one of this country’s largest cell phone service provider. The essay was about a film contesting on the Cannes Film Festival, 2012 and a film that was at the first place in the category of the most anticipated movies on the MTV Brawl. This film is David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis.
This article was indeed upsetting for me, and I commented it, and another commenter put me down for being personal. Just because I thought that the job of a critic is to do most of the things written in the first paragraph, and I expected the critic to do accordingly.
Yet, it was not what I received.
After all this, I feel that I wish to tell my opinion, how I saw the film, how it affected me after two years of anticipation.
The history began not even two, but three years ago, when a colleague of mine handed over a DVD to me, this was the film ‘Twilight’. She noticed that it was a nice love story with two young protagonists. By that time I’d heard a lot about this film, but the comments had not been too shiny. The male protagonist had a better reputation, too good for my taste: beautiful, sexy guy etc. I watched the film, the vampire story was not very vampire-ish, more like a mashup of Romeo and Juliet and Love Story. The protagonist was interesting, but why the great applause? I started excavating internet databases, in which I managed to find way after doing some research on Colin Firth, although half a year before I had not been able to find out, what’s good in sitting in front of the computer for long hours. Well, there’s a lot good in it.
I was searching for the previous films of the leading actor, which was no easy task, as they were all but accessible from this part of the world. I did watch the films. I did read the reviews. I did watch a lot of interviews with – let’s name him at last – Robert Pattinson. And he convinced me that he was a charming, humble, clever person with a wry sense of humour. And also he was not an uninteresting actor.
At the time, ‘How to be’ was my favourite film because of the topic and the acting of Robert. The more films I saw (‘Little Ashes’, ‘Haunted Airman’, the cut scene from ‘Vanity Fair’, and two parts of ‘Harry Potter’, against the revolt in my family), the more I found that this guy has something that makes him interesting. In that time ‘Remember Me’ was being shot, and I was consciously waiting for that film. Later came ‘Water for Elephant’, and finally ‘Cosmopolis’. For the last one, not even Robert was the original lead actor selected.
As I had a mind for reading the books in connection with the previous films as well, I started to look for Cosmopolis, the book written by Don DeLillo. At first, I checked the local bookstores. Later, I was looking in second-hand bookshops. I risked searching in libraries, but by that time I knew that in Hungary, I’ll never find it. After all, I managed to get a copy in English. I started reading. And I gave up. I asked my son to translate it, the task took him a whole year. As not only his knowledge in English, but also his use of Hungarian and his ability to understand texts in the topic of economy and politics is slightly above the average, he did quite a good job in creating a readable translation. And I almost failed again, as the book was not easy to read even in my mother tongue. It’s no miracle that in the time of its publishing, the book did not become a bestseller. One needs more than basic knowledge in politics, economy, mathematics and information technology. We have to admit that there are not many in this world to have such a broad view on all these topics. But among those, who have, the book was a success.
Someone realised that the book, written in 2003, models the current events the world in a surprisingly accurate way. There was a brave Portuguese producer, who found the book worthy for adaptation. He also found the single director extravagant enough to make the film. The director also wrote the screenplay himself, in six days.
Until two months before I admit I’d seen only two films of this director. These were ‘Naked Lunch’ and ‘The Fly’. None of these were bad films, though ‘Naked Lunch’ could rather be characterised as eerie.
Back to Cosmopolis.
Many people attacked Cronenberg for casting Robert Pattinson for the role of Eric Packer instead of Colin Farrell. He had an emotionless face, an emotionless voice, that he was talentless – most of the male critics and several of the female critics shared these arguments. According to the other side the actor was not only talented, but also a handsome, or even beautiful guy. So the critic society started making theories whether this actor could do some acting or not, as they could not say that Cronenberg simply got mad when casting Pattinson. Miracle or not, the money was assembled for the film with his entry, which was not managed with Farrell. So now? Robert Pattinson is not a good actor, but we raise the funds to see him again as not being good? It looks a bit contradictory to me. I would only ask, what do many think what was he doing in the hated ‘Twilight’-movies? He did not go down shopping, but he was playing the character of Edward Cullen, most hated movie person by men, as women will want a guy like him from now on. Kind, educated person, who would give everything to his chosen girl, a bit controlling, but can be convinced. So Pattinson actually suffers from some chauvinism. Not to mention the female critics. I have to admit, I’m no great feminist, and those, who hate Edward for some reason, are probably feminists. Yet it’s not necessary to like the character, but after abstracting from the role model, it’s quite clear that Pattinson delivers briliant acting.
Oh my, I wasn’t talking about Cosmopolis again. Sorry.
Back to Cosmopolis, part two.
So, I prepared for the film. Read the book, watched several Cronenberg-movies in three weeks (Ms Butterfly, Naked Lunch, eXistenZ, Videodrome, Scanners, Eastern Promises, History of Violence, Dangerous Method, Spider, not to mention The Fly, that I saw a couple of years ago). And I went to watch the film.
I must agree with those saying that Cronenberg made a big shot with this one. As well as all the cast. As though Pattinson is the lead actor, all the others are no less important. This is no one-man show.
Maybe the point is not the amount of events. This is no adventure movie. It’s a thinking movie, nevertheless, the official trailers are indeed diversive. Still, there was no secret about the film being an adaptation, one can get the book and read it. The point of the film is hidden in the long dialogues in the low number of actual events – and there is a point. If one does not find it, they did not listen. If one writing a review on the film was tired, watched the film only as a part of the job, did not care about it, then the point remains hidden. But the chief of theory tells it, and the distorted quote from Marx.
I will not write the obvious about the film. Just a few thoughts.
It was sensational to see that Eric Packer, seated in the middle of his stretch limo is the centre of his world, his subordinates come before him, and everything just looks fine. Eric sits on the high throne, the subjects come, he makes decisions.
After a short flash, his world begins to collapse, and this flash is the short appearance of Benno Levin (Paul Giamatti) in the corner of Eric’s eyes, standing at a cash machine. Until then we only heard rumours of something going wrong, but the ‘wrong’ stay out of the car. But after this flash Eric gets out of control. He can be seen on different seats of the car, eating breakfast, lunch, dinner with his newly-wed wife, making love with his art counsellor and his bodyguard. At a time he even makes contact with the anarchists, but he’s still in charge. Later, a doctor states that Eric has asymmetric prostates. With this moment, the space configuration containing the ‘wrong’ enters the limo, and it goes worse when Eric is informed about the death of his rapper friend. He shoots the last stable point in his life, his chief of security on the throat, driven by childish curiosity. His hair is cut in an asymmetric shape by the barber he’d known since his childhood, as Packer feels an urge to jump out of the chair before the old man could finish the haircut. Then we see that the eyes of his driver are also asymmetrical. Eric marches towards his destiny, as he loses everything in the speculative attack against the yuan, he deliberately destroys the world around him by acting on impulse, after failing in the pre-designed plans.
In the final twenty minutes one must listen carefully, this scene is tense, but very rythmical, the actors draw all the attention on the events. Who will shoot whom, and in which second? And what do they want to tell us? What is the explanation of their deeds? As both characters, victim and murderer try to understand himself and the other. This was no boring scene. I watched the film twice, and didn’t get bored. For the second time, I knew exactly what was going to happen, and I watched as intensely as before. I was astonished for the second time, when Packer shot his bodyguard, and I was wondering if he would shoot the barber or let him go (Eastern Promises came into my mind with the barber shop). The process of Eric’s life falling apart can be seen on his clothing. The perfect gentleman becomes a simple guy in dirty rags, walking into the ravaged house where his life is about to end. Or is it? As the film does not state, what the book does. Cronenberg was joking, about wanting to make a sequel.
Everyone had a great part in the movie. Many told that Pattinson was a good choice as he had a robotic face. Not at all. He plays the indifferent yuppie with a fortune enough to buy smaller countries but with no interest in anything. By the end of the film this state also changes. The money manipulator becomes a man and starts to understand what he’d been playing with in all his life – human life. This is called acting. And not only Pattinson was good. Everyone was. Sarah Gadon was marvellous in playing the rigid, cold, rich heir of an ancient family, and all the others played fantastically. I was missing the “I want to bottle-fuck you slowly with my sunglasses on”-sentence from the scene with the medical examination. Why was it omitted? Who was so shy?
Nothing else was missing. It’s natural, that every adaptation alters the original slightly. In this case, nor the original story, nor the essence of it was corrupted.
A specter is haunting the world. The specter of capitalism. The point of capitalism is to destroy the current world and build a new one on the ruins. This is happening just now.
I’d give 5/5 for the film. And I agree with the Spanish critic saying that Cosmopolis shoud have been awarded with the Palm d’Or.