David Cronenberg on the set of Crash - 1996
David Cronenberg on the set of 'Crash' (1996)
Stories & Ideas

Tue 28 Jul 2020

Focus on David Cronenberg

Film Retrospective
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Your museum of screen culture

Look back on the great Canadian filmmaker's body-horror classics.

For ACMI at Home, we're sharing our curatorial insight into different films, artworks, TV series, or videogames each fortnight, as well as where you can find them online.

Man-machine interfacer, new-flesh apostle, techno-porn merchant, director David Cronenberg has devoted his career to experiments in transfiguration

Village Voice

David Cronenberg's unique and visceral body of cinematic work consistently explores repressed sexuality and its manifestations; fantasy and deception; self-identify and body horror; auto-fetishism and morbid hedonism. 

Affectionately known as the King of Venereal Horror or the Baron of Blood, Cronenberg was one of pioneers of the body-horror genre; mixing the physical and the psychological to create visceral bodily transformations. Join us as we explore a selection Cronenberg films available to stream online right now. 

Videodrome (1983)

At this point in his career Cronenberg was already considered one of the most original sci-fi filmmakers, and his imagination and talent is manifest in this unsettling, brilliantly satirical tale that picks away at the scab of contemporary society. Videodrome follows Max Renn (James Woods), an x-rated cable TV programmer who grows obsessed with the sadistic-erotic pulp (a show called "Videodrome") emanating from a mysterious pirate station. Psychologist Nicki Brand (Deborah Harry) also becomes fascinated with the show, and after auditioning for it, vanishes to later reappear in its broadcasts. Renn, who is himself ‘reprogrammed’ by Videodrome, is soon unable to distinguish between reality and hallucinations.

Rent on Google Play or YouTube

The Fly (1986)

This intense and sharply written remake of Kurt Neumann’s 1958 sci-fi classic adds a much-needed dose of Cronenberg's dark humour along with his signature use of thoroughly nasty creature effects. Jeff Goldblum turns in a remarkable, if grotesque, performance as the slightly crazed scientist Seth Brundle, who invents a teleportation device. Recklessly using himself (and unbeknownst to him, a fly) to test out the machine, he finds himself morphing as the insect genes take over. Playing on two of Cronenberg's most cherished themes, the tendency of the human body to turn on itself and the shifting of identity, The Fly was an enormous box office success and, arguably, his most polished horror film. 

Rent on iTunes, Google Play, Microsoft or YouTube

Dead Ringers (1988)

The unnerving yet enthralling Dead Ringers tells the chilling story of identical twin gynaecologists, both played by Jeremy Irons in a tour-de-force performance. Suave Elliot and sensitive Beverly – bipolar sides of one personality – share the same practice, the same apartment and the same women. When a new patient, glamorous actress Claire Niveau (Geneviève Bujold), challenges their eerie bond, they descend into a whirlpool of sexual confusion, drugs, and madness.

Stream on SBS On Demand 

Naked Lunch (1991)

An adaptation of William S. Burroughs' notoriously unfilmable cult novel, this masterpiece of interpretive surrealism features a superb cast including Judy Davis, Ian Holm, Julian Sands, Roy Scheider, and Peter Weller as William Lee (Burroughs' alter ego and early pseudonym). Lee, an insect exterminator in 1950s New York City, lives in quiet squalor with his wife (Judy Davis) until one day, on a bug drug high, he accidentally shoots her while playing William Tell. Breaking into a hallucinatory state, he becomes embroiled in dodgy dealing in a shadowy port called Interzone. Then his typewriter morphs into a giant cockroach … 

Stream on Amazon Prime

Crash (1996)

In this masterful adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s seminal 1973 novel, Cronenberg examines the frightening and complex extremes of human sexual compulsion. When TV commercial producer James Ballard (James Spader) is in a near-fatal car accident with Dr Helen Remington (Holly Hunter), he is drawn into an exploration of the links between danger, sex and death. Discovering an underground sub-culture of car crash fetish victims who stage reenactments of famous collisions, James attempts to rejuvenate his sex life with his wife (Deborah Kara Unger). "A surreal meditation on sex, death and the eroticism of destruction" – San Francisco Chronicle.

Rent on iTunes

A History of Violence (2005)

A History of Violence is a dense and troubling psychological thriller that crackles with dramatic tension and visual flair. Adapted by Josh Olson from a graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke, it recounts the tale of a man (Viggo Mortensen as Tom Stall) with secrets in his past that haunt his present. A primal tale of a prototypically normal Middle American family put to the test by crimes that disrupt and threaten its very identity, A History of Violence features superb performances from a cast including Maria Bello, Ed Harris and William Hurt. As one of the most artistically daring and exciting filmmakers in the world – over the last 25 years coming up with one dazzling, original vision after another – Cronenberg’s A History of Violence incontestably ranks as one of his finest works.

Rent on Google Play or iTunes

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