Home Video Hovel- Cosmopolis, by Aaron Pinkston
For what it’s worth, of all the films I have seen in 2012, none of them made me as unsure as Cosmopolis. Being someone who occasionally writes about movies and with the artificial authority that brings, it is difficult to excuse yourself from a film because you didn’t “get” it. After seeing Cosmopolis for the first time, I felt I didn’t quite have the brain capacity to fully understand (also: enjoy) this film. With that being said, there probably wasn’t a film released this year that I was as curious about revisiting. And I’m glad I did. Even if I still don’t know if I liked it, if that is even an option.
Cronenberg has always been a filmmaker I’ve been drawn to. Even the films that seem minor or off (Cosmopolis is possibly both) are hard to ignore. Cosmopolis feels both undoubtedly Cronenberg and not — it is so different in scope and style than many of my favorites, but you can’t miss Seth Brundle’s strange cadence or the anarchic nature of Naked Lunch. It is also nearly impossible to summarize, typical of Cronenberg, whose films are much more than their plots, which are often indescribable. His comedic sensibilities are also in full force, so constantly serious to the point that it is constantly funny. Its never-ceasing intellectual density even seems like a cruel joke. The feeling of self-seriousness, which is perhaps my biggest struggle, is hard to judge and penetrate.
Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about the film is that you begin to understand exactly what this world is and how it works without it ever really explaining it to you, despite its density. It feels something like ours, but a bit too intense and extreme. Through the conversations we witness and, more importantly, how they are told, the pieces wonderfully fall into place without seeming to make the effort. Even if you don’t understand what the hell anyone is talking about (I’ll raise my hand), everything you need to understand is in the tone. For much of the film, the conversations seem so dull, so unimportant that you have to wonder why these conversations are being shown. But, no matter what, the gist comes through. And there is something in that mood (with nothing more) that works. It is cold and monotone, but also incredibly confident, which makes it hard to outrightly dismiss, like all of Cronenberg’s work.
The Blu-Ray I received for this review contains three special features: “Citizens of Cosmopolis” featurette, interviews with the cast and crew, and audio commentary from Cronenberg. Strangely, if you look at the Blu-Ray and DVD offered on Amazon, no bonus features are listed, but that seems to be incorrect. There is also a two-disc combo pack available exclusively from Best Buy (which is currently cheaper than the single-disc Blu-Ray available on Amazon), but I’m unsure if these features are included. These details may not be important to you, but Cosmopolis is the type of film where features can be the perfect supplements, at least a guide to unlocking the film.
With “Citizens of Cosmopolis,” I was expecting your run-of-the-mill featurette jammed into most every DVD release, but was shocked to see that it is feature-length documentary, actually longer than the film — made up of interviews with Cronenberg, the cast and crew, and behind-the-scenes footage. The cast and crew interviews aren’t much different from the typical making-of features, but Cronenberg’s input is what stands out. Hearing Cronenberg talk about how he came across Robert Pattinson and his experience watching the Twilight films is pretty wild and worth it. This is carried over into Cronenberg’s commentary track, which is incredibly thorough and informative. Discussions regarding the process of adapting Don DeLillo’s novel and the difficulties of shooting in such a small location offer great background in viewing the film. Those who enjoyed this film or were completely perplexed by it will find something to gain with these features.
I can’t, in good conscience, wholly recommend Cosmopolis, but if you are willing to be endlessly frustrated by a film, this one will do the trick. In the film a character exclaims that nothing is unique any more, but that is a major drawing point to this film. There isn’t any film with quite the tone, sense of humor, atmosphere, intellect, all working together. The features on this Blu-Ray release will reward those with time and patience, willing to spend extra time in this strange world.