Tuesday, 4 April 2006

focus on david cronenberg

"What to do with David Cronenberg? A Canadian who never went south, an exploitation horror king who revealed himself to be a genuine auteur, a B-movie Fellini who jumped to the A-list while pursuing the very same themes that once saw him reviled in the Canadian Parliament as a public menace. " Steve Burgess, Salon.com

"Everybody is a mad scientist, and life is their lab. We're all trying to experiment to find a way to live, to solve problems, to fend off madness and chaos." David Cronenberg
ACMI is proud to present Focus on David Cronenberg, a big-screen retrospective of the director responsible for some of the most unsettling, thought-provoking films of the last three decades.

Running for 10 days from April 13, Focus on David Cronenberg - described in the Village Voice as "Man-machine interfacer, new-flesh apostle, techno-porn merchant" - charts the director's thirty-five year career from his early independent experimental and prosthetic-laden schlock features of the late 1960s & 70s (Stereo, Crimes of the Future, Shivers, Rabid, The Brood) through his infamous forays into the science fiction and horror genres in the 1980s (Videodrome, The Fly, Dead Ringers, The Dead Zone, eXistenZ) to his art-house adaptations of influential novels (Naked Lunch, Crash, Spider, History of Violence). 

"As one of the most innovative directors working today, David Cronenberg is a natural choice for an ACMI "Focus On" season, " says Focus on Cronenburg curator Lisa Pieroni. "His body of work is utterly unique, his uncanny capacity to shock more than matched by the wit, rigor and electricity of his ideas. But his films are not only intelligent - they are downright entertaining too. You could never get bored watching a Cronenberg film! Much of his earlier work only received a very limited cinema release and currently many of them are not available in Australia at all, so a lot of cinemagoers who know him from his later films such as The Fly or History of Violence do not know about his incredible diverse cinematic history. For Focus on Cronenberg we have scoured the globe and brought in many rare film prints from overseas, so that people can have the opportunity to see all his films in the medium where they made their original impact - the big screen."

Among the highlights

Shivers (1975) - A bonafide cult classic that stands alongside Dawn of the Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, and Last House on the Left as one of the seminal horror films from the 1970s that redefined and reshaped the genre. Shivers set new standards of 'yuck' as nasty slug-cum-maggots (artificially created parasites) turn the occupants of the exclusive 'Skyliner' apartment block into brain-dead and sex-crazed zombies. Distributed by soft-core porn outfit Cineplex films (a company run by Ivan "Kindergarten Cop" Reitman), the film's release attracted outrage from the media, many of whom were appalled that the film was made with government funding. One critic's scathing review was headlined "You Should Know How Bad This Film Is. After All You Paid for It." Shivers went on to become Cronenberg's first box office hit.
Videodrome (1983)
Hailed by Andy Warhol as "the Clockwork Orange of the 80s", Videodrome is the story of Max Renn (James Woods), an x-rated cable TV programmer who grows obsessed with the sadistic-erotic pulp emanating from a mysterious pirate station. Psychologist Nicki Brand (Deborah Harry) also becomes fascinated with Videodrome, and after auditioning for the show, vanishes to later reappear in broadcasts. Himself 'reprogrammed' by Videodrome, Renn is soon unable to distinguish between reality and hallucinations.

The Brood (1979)
The Brood is a horror-meets-gender politics story widely regarded by critics and fans as THE masterpiece from Cronenberg's early years. Described by Cronenberg himself as his response to the overly sentimental Kramer vs. Kramer (widely feted at the Academy Awards the same year), The Brood explores a theme permeated much of the director's work - human decay brought about by a misapplication of science.  Oliver Reed plays an eccentric psychiatrist who causes the inner rage of one of his patients (Samantha Eggar) to physically manifest itself in the form of murderous deformed children.

Scanners (1981)
The breakthrough box office hit that established Cronenberg's name beyond the exploitation house and drive-in audiences, Scanners follows a unique breed of people with one extraordinary talent: they can bend, mutilate and destroy other humans, using only their minds. Frequently heralded by Cronenberg's legions of online fans as featuring "the best exploding head scene ever".

The Fly (1986)
One of those rare films where the remake achieved as much if not more acclaim than the original, Cronenberg's intense and sharply written remake of The Fly adds a much-needed dose of dark humour along with his signature use of thoroughly nasty creature effects. Jeff Goldblum is scientist Seth Brundle, who invents a genetic transporter machine, and tests himself in his own invention, only to find himself changing as the insect takes over.
Crash (1996)
In this masterful adaptation of J.G. Ballard's seminal novel, Crash catalogued the dark adventures of an underground sub-culture of scarred car crash victims who involve themselves in serious accidents for erotic stimulation. 

Cronenberg Public Forum
ACMI invites you to join Philippa Hawker (renowned Age film critic), Philip Brophy (filmmaker/artist/musician/writer), and Ian Haig (international visual and media artist) for a spirited discussion on Cronenberg and his oeuvre. Enrich your cinema viewing experience, as well as your appreciation of the director's diverse filmography, with a splash of critical context and social analysis!

Other highlights in the program include: The Naked Lunch (1991), Cronenberg's evocative take on William Burrough's notoriously 'unfilmable' novel; Dead Ringers (1988), the chilling story of twin gynaecologists both played by Jeremy Irons in a tour-de-force performance; the disturbing Rabid (1977), a tale of plastic surgery gone very very wrong; two very early short-length features Stereo (1969) and Crimes of the Future (1970); The Dead Zone, an allegorical good vs. evil story revolving around the fate of a man (Christopher Walken) cursed with the power to see into the future of those he touches (Cronenberg's first foray into big budget 'mainstream' filmmaking); the futuristic thriller eXistenZ (1999); his current box office hit History of Violence (2006); as well as André S. Labarthe's documentary David Cronenberg: I Have to Make the Word Be Flesh (1999).

Further information

Danielle Poulos, ACMI Communciations Coordinator
Tel: 8663 2415
Mob: 0417 540 543
Email: Danielle.Poulos@acmi.net.au

Justin Rogers, ACMI Communications Coordinator
Tel: 8663 2475
Mob: 0412 172 887
Email: Justin.Rogers@acmi.net.au

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