[Movies] David Cronenberg Talks Cosmopolis, His Comments About Dark Knight Rises, More
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 01.02.2013
To promote the Cosmopolis video release...
David Cronenberg recently spoke with IGN about his film Cosmopolis which hit DVD and Blu-Ray yesterday, his controversial comments about The Dark Knight Rises and more. Check out the highlights:
On the 'Making Of' feature with Cosmopolis: "I think the "making of" is actually longer than the movie, so it should do something along those lines. Obviously anyone who bought the DVD is interested enough in the movie to pursue it. I think one of the reasons that I like doing a really good "making of" is that we try very hard when we do that to not just make it a sort of fluff piece where everybody says, "it was great working with everybody," but to really show what the process of making the movie was. As a result, for example, it's great for film students and film enthusiasts because it's as close as some people get to really being on a film set. And in this case it's an unusual film set, obviously, because of the limo and so on. So we really took a lot of care to make sure that it was accurate, honest, straightforward and illuminating."
On the theme of technological obsession and whether it is specifically a contemporary concern: "I think that's accurate, yeah. I mean it's well known I think, if you're an artist, that you have to be very particular in order to be universal. You have to be very specific, and Don Delillo chose the world of finance and this particular character and his sort of bubble/hermetically sealed existence in that world to really talk about the human condition in general. I think that's the way it works. So, although you could see the movie and the book as being about finance on Wall Street, I think that's just a jumping off spot to talk about more universal aspects of what it is to be a human being.
On Robert Pattinson's character razing his company and life within the course of the film: "Well it's kind of a cliché that capitalism is creative destruction, but there's some truth to that. I mean capitalism doesn't exist outside of human society. There's no natural equivalent to capitalism, really. Although people like to think of it as survival of the fittest, or this or that, in fact it's a uniquely human invention. It's kind of strange isn't it? Because we invented money, but we can't control it. You know you'd think that the world could also say: "Look, we've invented this, and things are going wrong, and we're all suffering, so let's just fix it, because we can." It's not the same thing as a natural disaster like a tsunami or an earthquake where we can't control it. But it seems to take on a life of its own so that a financial disaster is like a tsunami. It's really intriguing, and I think that the movie discusses that on a metaphorical level."
On his comments about The Dark Knight Rises not being art: "Well cinema is an art form, and that means that it has many, many functions. Sometimes they're context specific. In certain circumstances art can be politics and it can be revolutionary in a political sense, and has been. At other times it's an escape, its pure escapism. At other times it's a meditation on the human condition that invites the audience to consider things that the they might not have considered otherwise and to walk out of the theatre more understanding of their life, or of human life. So I don't think you can define art as just one thing. If it's a Freudian structure that you're working out of, then art is an expression of the unconscious, and of the Id. So, as I say, there isn't just one function. In terms of the Batman movies and such, you know context-wise, I was asked by the journalist (and that's what's always missing, the question which provoked my response) the question was: "Since comic book movies, and especially the Batman movies, have proven that they are capable of functioning at the extreme upper-levels of cinematic art, would you be interested in directing one?" And I said, "Well, wait a minute, who says that they function at the extreme upper level of cinematic art? I don't think that they do." It wasn't as though it was a bug that I had that I had to express, or that I was angry or anything like that. I was just responding to a question that involved an assumption that I was questioning, which is the definition of what art is, or what art can be. I think that if you're working within the expectations of the superhero comic book movie you're limited. You've automatically limited your horizons and your expectations, because you've got an audience that expects certain things and you can't frustrate those expectations and be successful, so you have to work within those limits. And they're too strict, those limits, to allow you to really be creative as an artist, at the highest level of art. Let's put it that way. Obviously the Batman movies are wonderful expressions of the technology of cinema, there's no question about that. At that point it depends on what you look to movies for. As you say, what is the purpose of art and cinema? Well, you could say to any cinema goer: "Why are you watching this in the theatre right now, or why are you putting that DVD into the machine?" You won't get the same answer from everybody."
On his own A History of Violence being based on a comic book: "Yes, that has been mentioned, but the script that I got didn't really reflect the graphic novel, it was a complete reinvention of it. So I actually didn't know that the script was based on a graphic novel, nobody told me. I was actually making the movie before I learned that. I hadn't seen the graphic novel, so I don't think of that movie as an adaptation of a graphic novel, certainly not a comic book. The screenplay diverged from it quite extremely. But that's neither here nor there. Obviously a graphic novel where you're inventing characters that no one has ever seen before is quite different than doing another Batman movie, or a Green Hornet movie, or a Superman movie where the characters are well established and people expect certain things from them. I was kind of shocked when the journalist said that. I thought, "Wow, how do you compare The Dark Knight Rises with Fellini's 8 ½?" I don't see the connection myself, quite frankly."
On his earlier work being genre films: "Oh, they definitely are genre. That's a different thing, to me. I think Nicolas Roeg's film Don't Look Now is kind of a horror/thriller, and therefore it's a genre picture, but it's a brilliant movie. You know, there's genre, which would include comic book movies, and then you're saying Batman, which is narrowing it further. So, I've never felt that doing a genre picture meant that you were therefore automatically excluded from the temple of art. I mean there have been some incredible gangster movies that are definitely art, that I would say are high cinematic art. So it really depends very specifically on what you're talking about. I don't think generalizations really help much. We were basically talking about Batman movies in that conversation, that was pretty specific."
On art vs. commerce in filmmaking: "Ultimately it's a completely subjective thing, as it should be. Therefore what I think doesn't necessarily have anything to do with what you think. At that point the joke is "I don't know much about art but I know what I like." In a way there's truth in that. It has to be: Does it affect you in a certain way, in an overpowering and full way? Does it resonate with you? Do you wake up thinking about it? Are you dreaming about it at night and does it alter some perception that you had or some way that you live your life? I really normally refrain from mentioning specific movies and critiquing them in public, just because of that. I know how hard it is for example to get any movie made, even a crappy movie, the people who made it deserve credit because it's so hard. One of the things that put me off doing like a Batman movie is that you have this enormous budget, but you do pay for it. You have a lot of people with a vested interest in that budget, with that movie as a result. And you have to deal with them, you have to talk to them and fulfill their expectations and you have to quiet their anxieties. So the money comes with a lot of strings attached, and I think that those strings, for me, and I can't talk about Christopher Nolan because I don't know how he works and obviously he's functioning very well in that world, but I think it would cripple me. I think it would hobble me and that I would find it too frustrating and too limiting. When I did Cosmopolis there was nobody. Rob Pattinson was shocked, he said he'd never been on a movie where the director immediately just made all the decisions and didn't have to phone the studio. That didn't have to talk to people to get permission to change the color of the wall or the lens we were using. He was used to the Twilight thing, which had become a massive franchise in which the directors were really not the sole masters of the shot, and I was, and I always have been. So if you've got something that is a $200 million movie then you know that you're playing a different game. I mean I would have to accept that it was a different ball game than what I'm used to, and I would, if I chose to do it. I would say, "okay, I know that I can't make casting decisions on my own." You know I didn't have to tell anybody who I was casting for Cosmopolis other than the couple of leads to make sure we could get financing, but after that I don't have to tell anyone. Whereas when you're doing a big, huge studio movie everything you're doing is being questioned all the time, by all kinds of people."