Friday, April 04, 2008

Videodrome (1983)

I just recently watched David Cronenberg's film "Videodrome" again, and found that it still really holds up, and actually is a really fantastic film. I've been a Cronenberg fan for sometime. His films such as "The Brood", "Rabid", and "Scanners" are very horrific in a cerebral sort of way. I've always said that Cronenberg was the thinking man's horror director. The topics in his films were delicate subjects taken to extremes, and that's why I think h is films are so visceral. Even today the films he's made in the past still send a chill down my spine. Cronenberg knows how to get under our skin, and sometimes literally that happens in his films. But back to Videodrome, which was released in 1983. For me I was in my early years of college, and Cronenberg had a deep influence into what I wanted to do, and that was filmmaking. In 1981 when Cronenberg released his film "Scanners" I read an article in the magazine Cinefantastique about Cronenberg. In it it had a section of his earlier work when he was in college. I do remember trying to emulate his style and writing. I remember doing films in Super-8 which contained a lot of elements that Cronenberg touched upon.


But again I digress. What about "Videodrome"? To say that the film plays well today is an understatement. Back then cable was in its infancy, and the day of 3oo channels was only a dream. Now where digital cable, satellite TV, and the all powerful "Internet" has taken hold of our culture you can see that Cronenberg was a man ahead of his time. The story is simple in Videodrome. James Woods plays a sleazy small time cable operator who is looking for the next show. He stumbles across "Videodrome", and finds a program that appeals to the lowest common denominator and that is sex & torture. Thinking he needs this for his station he goes on to find out where the signal is coming from, and find the creators of "Videodrome", and buy it. What he doesn't know is that embedded in the signal is a mind altering signal that will warp his reality, and make him a pawn in a much bigger game. Throughout the film we are subjected to some really alternate reality. At some point we don't know where the reality ends, and where the fantasy begins, and that's what Cronenberg wants you to feel. For a picture that was marketed as a simple horror film the film works on many levels.

Deborah Harry plays Nicki Brand a radio pop psychologist who also gets exposed to the Videodrome signal. It was Harry's first film roles. Before that she played in Lillian in a movie called "Union City". In a side note "Union City" was one of the inspirations for my film "Deadly Obsessions". Since then Ms Harry has played in numerous films, and has proven herself quite an accomplished and skilled actress. Her role as Delores in the film "Heavy" is one such role. But in 1983 Ms Harry's part as Nicki Brand was one of her first, and she plays a person who is a bit damaged too. Just as James Woods character Max Renn is also. Cronenberg's attention to detail in his characters is what gives his films more depth. We know there is more to the characters, and are given clues to their traits, but only little glimpses. Such as the scars on Nicki's shoulders as Woods & Harry discuss pain & pleasure. Another great trait of the film is its cinematography by Mark Irwin . The mixture of video footage and film kind of makes the film have it's own reality, and one that works well. One does not know when we are looking at a delusion of the characters or if it is actually reality that they are seeing. Cronenberg keeps us off balance, and it works for the film.

The film is only 83 minutes long, and it is a quick view. Criterion has released "Videodrome" on one of their special disks, and you can see that Cronenberg shot a lot more of the film that is in the final print. If you get a chance or are a fan I suggest you pick up the DVD and watch all the extras. You won't be disappointed.

After watching the film again I've revived my admiration for Cronenberg. I enjoyed his last two films "A History of Violence", and "Eastern Promises". Cronenberg seems to be staying away from his roots for now, but when he does another one I'm sure it will be one that will rock it's audience to the core. Cronenberg still is the "thinking man's" director. There is always more under the surface of one of his films then we the audience are lead to believe, and that's why on second viewing of his films you'll find something new in all of his films. It is what makes David Cronenberg a good director & writer.

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