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Director: David Cronenberg

Year: 2012
Language: English
Format: Colour/DCP
Runtime: 109 min
Director: David Cronenberg
Producer: Paulo Branco, Martin Katz
Writer: David Cronenberg, based on the novel by Don DeLillo
Cinematographer: Peter Suschitzky
Editor: Ronald Sanders
Sound: Michael O’Farrell
Production Design: Arvinder Grewal
Costume Design: Denise Cronenberg
Music: Howard Shore
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Sarah Gadon, Jay Baruchel, Juliette Binoche, Emily Hampshire, Samantha Morton, Paul Giamatti, Kevin Durand, K’Naan
Production Company: Alfama Films, Prospero Pictures

David Cronenberg's chilling adaptation of Don DeLillo's apocalyptic satire about a billionaire financier is extraordinarily timely, arriving in the wake of a financial crisis brought on by wild speculation and unrestrained greed as well as the Occupy movement of 2011-12. Cosmopolis was instigated by fabled Portuguese producer Paulo Branco, who purchased the rights to Don DeLillo’s novel and suggested to Cronenberg that it would be perfect for him. Though Cronenberg was unfamiliar with the novel (despite being a fan of DeLillo’s work), he speedily adapted the book, transcribing the relevant dialogue and producing a viable first draft in less than a week. The final result was Cronenberg’s first solo-authored feature-length screenplay since 1999’s eXistenZ.

DeLillo’s scenario seems geared expressly toward Cronenberg's sensibilities. The film plays like Videodrome — or, as the New Yorker argued, Crash — transplanted to the increasingly endangered world of the one per cent, and rolling out like a fusion of La Ronde, pornographic movies and Louis-Ferdinand Céline's Journey to the End of the Night. As tycoon Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) frets about a market gamble he's made, he fails to notice the world around him sliding into anarchy as he foolishly insists on being driven across town in his stretch limousine to get a haircut, despite the traffic and an impending visit by the President, which has the city in lockdown. En route, he’s visited by a variety of people in his employ, ranging from his physician to his finance director and his new bride, Elise (Sarah Gadon, A Dangerous Method, Antiviral).

Motifs and strategies prominent in Cronenberg’s earlier work figure significantly here. See, for instance, the role of Packer’s limousine: as commentators like Ernest Mathijs (The Cinema of David Cronenberg: From Baron of Blood to Cultural Hero, 2008) and David L. Pike (Canadian Cinema Since the 1980s: At the Heart of the World, 2012) have observed, cars or vehicles often play key roles in the director’s work — providing key connection points, sparking the action, etc. — in a manner radically different from the functions they serve in other films, particularly American ones. “The typical function of the car, especially in American society, is as a buffer between public and private, a mobile space that insulates each monad-driver from every other.… Fast Company and Crash … resolutely break this mould. First, they approach the automobile through a sub-culture in which it has … a spatiality that is open to the world. … In their more limited roles in the other films, cars are highly luminal spaces, exposing rather than insulating their drivers and passengers from the outside world” (Pike 2012, p. 67) Packer’s ride in his limousine, usually the type of car which cuts you off from the world, forces him to deal with “reality” in the form of the protesters and his visitors. At one point, Packer even slides out of his limo to meet Elise in an adjacent cab; he’s irritated that she’s not in her own car, but she argues that cabs are preferable because that’s how she learns about turmoil in the real world.

Boasting a stellar cast that also includes Canadians Jay Baurchel (Goon, Tropic Thunder), Emily Hampshire (The Trotsky, My Awkward Sexual Adventure), Kevin Durand (Edwin Boyd, Citizen Gangster) and imports Paul Giamatti, Juliette Binoche and Samantha Morton, Cosmopolis was named one of the top films of 2012 by Cahiers du cinéma and Sight & Sound and made TIFF’s annual Canada’s Top Ten list. Writer, programmer and Top Ten panelist Paul Ennis wrote, “Canada's pre-eminent director never fails to excite the senses. In Cosmopolis, David Cronenberg transcribes Don DeLillo's indictment of financial hubris run amok into a technically precise, claustrophobic metaphor for a financial system torn apart from within…. And who better to represent this rapacious greed … than the affectless Robert Pattinson, an actor popular culture has chosen as the object of millions of teenaged girls' desire.”

By: Steve Gravestock

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