[Review] Cosmopolis (2012)
In a boiling New York, the era of capitalism is drawing to a close. Eric Packer, a golden boy of high finance, rushes into his white limousine. While the visit of the President of the United States paralyzes Manhattan, Eric Packer has only one obsession: a haircut at his hairdresser on the other side of the city.
As the day progresses, chaos sets in, and he watches helplessly as his empire collapses. He is also certain that he will be murdered. When? Or? He is about to live the most important 24 hours of his life.
This year’s Cannes Film Festival will have given pride of place to adaptations of novels deemed unsuitable. After the failures of On the Road and Paperboy, which should never have left the paper format, it’s the turn of Cosmopolis, a slightly boring but highly promising novel, and incidentally already cult, by Don DeLillo. Don DeLillo + David Cronenberg + Robert Pattinson, the most unlikely association on paper. Or not.
After having analyzed in all senses the degeneration of the flesh, at the height of his study in the 80s, David Cronenberg has increasingly focused on the spirit and drifts quite logically towards the verb. One can always reproach him for gentrification, but Cronenberg is nonetheless one of the most interesting contemporary authors, with a guideline in his work that is of an implacable logic.
With Cosmopolis, he delivers nothing more and nothing less than the logical extension of A Dangerous Method without the leaden academism and the costumes, without the frontal psychoanalytical purpose and without the pomp.
By opening on a Jackson Pollock canvas and closing on one by Rothko, or clearly inspired visuals, Cosmopolis sets the tone: that of abstract expressionism, of a film that doesn’t get bogged down in a clear narrative framework and won’t give a turnkey result. Complex in its form and in its reflections, Cosmopolis is undoubtedly the most accomplished film of its author since Crash, while escaping what was too much expected, namely his return to trashy cinema.
David Cronenberg shaped the story of Cosmopolis by expunging it from everything that sounded too “Cronenbergian”. Thus, the extremely misleading trailer does not at all do justice to this exercise in a generally uncluttered style, turned towards icy sophistication and relevant analysis of human relationships in the 2010’s.
Much less sex, erased passages, and an aborted finale are the results of an author who no longer wants to repeat himself and radically looks to the future. Cosmopolis is a generational film built around a visionary narrative, with a result that is stifling, unhealthy and clearly disturbing despite appearances.
With an economy of easy effects and relying on Don DeLillo’s writing, which finally takes on its full scope when it is put into images, David Cronenberg weaves a canvas that plays on the viewer’s confusion and a profusion of information in order to manhandle him and make him live an experience.
At the end of Cosmopolis, it’s difficult to feel anything but deep terror as the demonstration is so formidable. This man in his limousine represents the essence of outrageous capitalism, currency manipulations that become a game for a kid with big toys.
With his fall, financial, it is the fall of an empire that follows, and the fall of our whole world in a logic of failure that is chilling. David Cronenberg draws from this visionary tale, which nevertheless announced the financial crisis 10 years ahead of time, a wonderful pamphlet that is not necessarily obvious to feel, but which anchors itself in the unconscious of the public like the worst of the parasitic murders.
And there, it’s obvious, all Cronenberg’s cinema led to Cosmopolis. The mutation, the central theme of his work, no longer transforms men into monsters, no longer makes them enter the matrix, but directly affects the universe.
The character of Eric Packer is a mutant virus that contaminates the economic system, a virus created by the system and which will cause its loss. We have to go beyond the very wordy side of the film, which takes all the dialogues of the novel to the letter, and each line of dialogue contains a wealth of information, to realize the richness and relevance of this film.
Cosmopolis is a work to be placed right next to The Social Network in this virtuosity to capture the spirit of the times. A film of stunning modernism, which constantly misleads the spectator through a skillfully studied staging, perverting its unique decor and limited by a multitude of almost subliminal movements, Cosmopolis is thus a demonstration of the strength of a director who not only evolves in the right direction but is also perfectly aware of the evolution of the world around him.
Sometimes sexy, sometimes creepy, always right and hypnotic, he creates chaos through the windows of a limousine and imposes himself as the premonitory dream of a virus or the requiem of a world in its entirety.
And if we can question the last act, led by a Paul Giamatti who makes tons of jokes and contrasts far too much with the almost clinical sobriety of the rest, Cosmopolis is a film of incredible richness and an extremely solid exercise.
And beyond some rather brilliant supporting roles, like small parts of a world already buried, the whole film is carried by the revelation of an imperial Robert Pattinson, who proves himself capable of supporting such a strong film on his young shoulders.
He is bluffing and confirms that certain talents can only be revealed through contact with great directors.