⭐⭐½ (2½ stars out of 5)
Crimes of the Future (2022) Directed by David Cronenberg
Rhetorical and inconsistent is this comeback to the roots of old-fashioned body horror from transgressive Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg. After an 8-year directorial abstinence the master of the provocative and visceral returns to the artistic vernacular that made him who he is, entering territory so familiar to him that he feels like an old man returning home. But Crimes of the Future, unfortunately, is nothing more than a worn-out declamation of a director forgetting his own tools and complex ideals. A succulent script that is aggrandized by pretensions perhaps too ambitious for its ambiguous finality; and conceptually it is a film that confuses its inaccuracy and suggestiveness with complexities referring to contemporary issues.
Once the primary narrative contraptions suffer an excessive dependence on the explicit perversity of physical terror, it automatically ceases to have substantial agenda. A narrative that operates from the perspective of pathologies, depravities that incite anatomical transmutations or mutilations is what made Cronenberg’s disconcerting cinema of the past so unusual, so injurious and radical; mental dilapidation and the reflection of that deterioration in society is allegorized in the kind of physiognomic iconoclasm that takes place in the classic Cronenbergian narratives of the 20th century, that is the quintessence of the subjectively named body horror. Crimes of the Future follows these patterns but with antithetical purposes and such vague subtleties that its ponderous intellectualism evaporates at the expense of its apathetic characters.
The gauzy, sluggish storytelling never adapts to its protracted plot setup. From the proliferation of abstract mechanisms in the diegesis, one can egregiously see that the film flounders with its own obtuse determinations. Such as never contextualizing the plot. Crimes of the Future doesn’t want to tell us exactly where we are, and to tell the truth, that asphyxiating cryptic atmosphere works as a symbolic formation of what it wants to express, yet the anachronisms are so exasperating and absurdist that they enhance a sense of implausibility so great that it ends up detracting from the rigor of its “dystopian” structure. Bizarro is not necessarily instant genius, and this journey into an anesthetized world where sexual experimentation defies terminology in the realm of the normal and scientific, now a spectacle of body modifications one more extreme than the other is the new lustful act par excellence. The intellectual prerequisites are set in place for a contemporary comparative exercise, which intimidatingly can lend itself to a wild but very rich dissection. However, relying only on the literalism and truisms of the content diminishes the cinematic gravity of this work, and it makes me despair to conclude that Cronenberg has basically remade Crash (1996), but instead of cars, extreme surgeries are now the new debauchery.
The vehement desire to reinstate idioms of the past with a sensibility more appropriate to the 21st century turns the art of the provocative on its head. I would openly say that there is nothing daring about this film in Cronenbergian terms, a fundamental Reading of his oeuvre and it will be enough to make you realize that there is nothing revolutionary or radical in this film that he hasn’t already done in the past. Though in fairness, you can’t judge a film simply by not having the same impact as previous films, but what you can objectively judge is how gratuitously opaque it is when it doesn’t need to be. The sculptural mise-en-scène and exhibitionist monstrosity never fail to produce luminous thoughts; categorically that’s the highlight of its poetry of self-mutilation and deranged surgical procedures, but the uncanny formal routine stutters with the procrastination of its ends. This production features a cast uniquely suited to the raw eroticism of this narrative, a tragic Viggo Mortensen, a surreally beautiful Léa Seydoux and a subtle but vital Kristen Stewart.
Crimes of the Future is a disappointment that prompts me to remember again how great Cronenberg was in his golden era in the horror spectrum, and how adventurous and irreverent he was in the distant past. This film is synthetic like the world it portrays, and babbles in its “body horror” spirit, but doesn’t blisteringly externalize it with the innate cogency of its exploitative genesis.