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Sunday, January 15, 2006 

Overlooked & Under-appreciated #2

Crash, 1996, dir: David Cronenberg

Plot: James Ballard (James Spader), a mildly misanthropic TV director with an ailing marriage, is involved in a serious car accident which leaves him physically and mentally scarred. With the aid of a fellow recovering crash victim (Holly Hunter), the two become embroiled in a perverse underground world of auto-eroticism: a bizarre sub-culture where the car crash is viewed as an erogenous act for all to admire.

Why I like it: I don't particularly 'like' Cronenberg's Crash (nor do I think we are intended to), a film which manages to be one of the most challenging and diverse of the nineties, but also one of the filthiest. Then perhaps the title of 'Overlooked & Under-appreciated' wouldn't be the fairest to adopt, Crash is more 'Misunderstood & Proud of it'. It's certainly a tough film to love, and by no means perfect -far from it, actually- but the intense portrait Cronenberg paints with his paradoxical brush means Crash gets under your skin. And stays.

Immediately following a seedy opening credit sequence set to Howard Shore's equally lurid twangs, a woman is sprawled across a red bonnet and taken from behind. Thus the nature of Crash. Cronenberg forces us to accept his portrayal of sex as both an artistic and base action, one that is rough and disgusting but also understandable given our zombified protagonists. It's a consistently grim movie which is not an easy task to achieve, when Ballard exclaims "After being bombarded endlessly by road safety propaganda, almost a relief to have found myself in an actual accident.", it is both sincere and cynical. One can't help but applaud Cronenberg for trying something so radically different, even if he does come up short on several occasions. By the end of the film we're so emotionally drained and morally shattered, it doesn't matter if we're left with a beautifully haunting image of two people by the side of the freeway.

But Crash is a film that grows on you. Once you get past all the sex -and there's plenty of it- you begin to appreciate the underlying messages the movie presents you with. It's no accident that the film's tagline is 'Love in the dying moments of the twentieth century.', this ironically potent statement blaming a placid, consumer-friendly society for the freaks it creates and then punishing them afterwards. Cronenberg throws us into this world with the dumb naivety he affords his characters. By coupling two seemingly opposed elements and mashing them together, regardless of the results, and by swapping the novel's quaint English backdrop to a gnarlier America he ensures that not only is Henry Ford's American Dream shattered from the get-go, but also stands testament to the fact you can get away with a hell of a lot more on paper than you can on film. Despite this however, the cinematography is flawlessly done contrasting with the shenanigans of the fine cast the film boasts, all present realising the deliberate distastefulness and manifesting this in their performances.

Don't expect to be entertained by this film, especially now it's been eclipsed by Paul Haggis' effort of the same name. Don't even expect to like it. Are there any socially redeeming qualities to a person that would get his kicks by re-enacting James Dean's famous death behind the wheel, and then get fucked afterwards? Probably not. But at least expect this film to take you in directions you normally wouldn't go. Overall, it's different, it's visceral, and whatever your disposition; it will provoke a response from you.

See if you liked: The Cooler, Blue Velvet, Fight Club

If you do not already have a career in the movies industry, you should definitely seek out one. I personally, have a thing for some quotes that I find in movies.

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