“Cosmopolis,” the new film by David Cronenberg, is a bit anemic but as movie-events in Cannes go, it’s the bee’s knees. There’s a high-wattage star like Robert Pattinson in it, it is directed by David Cronenberg and it was adapted from a novel that is as relevant to our times as it is stinging in its indictment of them.
Pattinson plays Eric Packer, a multi-billionaire and yen trader who decides to get a haircut. Except, his preferred barber-shop is located across town and the president, whose motorcade is also going through town, is causing major gridlock. As Packer’s bodyguards negotiate their route, various associates visit him in his limo. Through their discussions we take away a vision of the world that’s hopeless: bankers rule the world and capitalism will eat us.
Cronenberg adapted the film from a novel by Don DeLillo. The dialogues as well as the storyline were transferred to the big screen intact. In a press conference this morning Cronenberg commented that, “it took me only six days to write the screenplay. What you see in the movie is almost word-for-word what’s in the book.”
You can recognize Cronenberg’s lighting style, the stillness of his mise-en-scène, the familiar locales which he’s used in other movies (Packer and his consorts visit a diner in two different instances), the graphic sex scenes, the indeterminate nature of time and place, the floating detachment with which the story is told.
“Cosmopolis” wasn’t so clearly cut for the big screen—the theatre? Yes. What appears like quick bursts of smart, logical language on the page come across as wooden dialogue on the screen. Packer is an intricate character and someone like Pattinson, with a very short acting career behind him, wasn’t up to the task of conveying the Packer character in all its predatory significance.
In describing the challenges of playing a character like Packer, Cronenberg said, “I cannot say to an actor,” he added, “you are the symbol of capitalism, I want you to play that. How do you play that?”
Don DeLillo, present at the press conference this morning, too, explained the genesis of “Cosmopolis”: “New York City streets at the turn of the century seemed suddenly filled with white stretch limousines. I began to get very interested in the spectacle of enormous cars trying to turn corners in crushing traffic and I decided to place a character in such a vehicle and go from there.”
Juliette Binoche, Paul Giamatti and Sarah Gadon make brief appearances in the film as well.
WHAT’S NEXT? According to Screen International a sequel to Cronenberg’s “Eastern Promises” (2007) is in the works.