Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Defensive Cinema #1: Crash (1996)

Defensive Cinema is a series devoted to films seemingly dismissed by the greater population. And me getting all defensive like and telling you why my opinions hold more water than yours.

David Cronenberg's Crash is .... like a car accident. You can't look away. Partially because there's people having sex in the wreckage, but mostly because it's a deliberately judged, chilling and elegant film that deepens, warps and scars each time you view it.

Crash author J.G Ballard wrote a fanboy letter to Cronenberg, that's how true he felt to this cinematic adaptation. Beyond that it's a film true to the director's style - seeing as horrors of body and mind are the center of Cronenberg's universe. Thus this story of people aroused by car accidents. Each character tells a frightening, oddly beautiful story of detachment, sexual frustration, and love sought in the wreckage that is the human body. They're fascinating people because we have no idea exactly what's driving them. They also have some of my favorite character intros in film:

Catherine Ballard, Flight School Student.
She will undoubtedly excel in the industry.

James Ballard
, Producer.
Loves his work but is overwhelmed.

Helen Remington
, Doctor.
Moving on instantaneously from her husband's death in a car accident. An inspiration.

From the start, only one thing in this film is obvious: You can't take these people anywhere!

Gabrielle, Rosanna Arquette's handicapped character, is showing off her sense of style at the auto lot. Probably because she makes her own clothing. Heavy duty specialty clothing to hold her joints... and her joints.

Not to sound too high on it, but Crash is sensationally dense in creativity. It's about a truly modern form of lovemaking, the fusion of flesh and metal, social attachment wrapped inside social detachment, the American obsessions with sex and the automobile... That's all matched with a stellar sense of mood and detail, a perfect score by Howard Shore, and some entirely classic and original moments.

Including the best game of "show me your scars."

The best gay sex between husband and wife:

(For a translation just highlight here - seeing as Catherine's game of Crash-Victim 20 Questions is hilariously NSFW. Live dangerously.)

Catherine: Is he circumcised? Can you imagine what his anus must look like? Describe it to me. Would you like to sodomize him? Would you like to put your penis right into his anus? Just thrust it up his anus? Tell Me. Describe it to me. Tell me what you would do. Would you just kiss him in that car? Describe it to me. Reach over and unzip his greasy jeans. Take out his penis. Would you kiss it, or suck it, right away? Would you hold it in? Have you ever sucked a penis? Do you know what semen tastes like? Have you ever tasted semen? Some semen is saltier than others. Vaughn's semen must be very salty.

Crash is in Cronenberg's eyes a love story, and James and Catherine Ballard's love story is wholly unique to cinema. Fascinating, oddly erotic... And yet. (And yet.) True with every character really, they seem completely removed from each other and still more passionately close than ever. The problem is that they're always looking for something new. Sharing the experience of a car accident becomes something to strive for, something to survive, and a wound to see manifested on their sleek, stylish four wheels.

And like a car these couplings eventually get a little bit dirty. And so the film supplies a scene with the best worst car wash:

The only car wash where you come out dirtier than you went in. And that's probably a feeling many people have upon seeing Crash. (And probably as of now, reading this blog.) I say give it a test drive, or a second ride. One of Cronenberg's finest films I say (and a think-piece with some softcore.) Whatever you do: Drive Safe! Avoid running into that DVD with Sandra Bullock and Brendan Fraser - which is often a good rule of thumb. Maybe the next one... Maybe the next one.

Drive defensively! More Defensive Cinema coming soon!


Pax Romano said...

Avoid running into that DVD with Sandra Bullock and Brendan Fraser - which is often a good rule of thumb.

I should have warned my 72 year old mother when she rented this film from her local library thinking it was the other Crash ... she was dumbfounded at what she saw ... and yet, my 79 year old father really enjoyed the film (what can I say, Dad has always enjoyed movies that are left of center).

Rob91316 said...

I totally agree with your assessment -- one of Cronenberg's best...and one of my favorite movies of all time...a vastly under-rated masterpiece...and superior to the other "Crash" on so many levels.