The more films David Cronenberg makes, the more I think back to"Scanners," the film he made in 1981 about telepaths with incredible psychic powers. Most people remember it for the famous exploding head sequence. Since that achievement, Cronenberg's sole goal seems to have been to make films that are so confusing -- films like "Crash" and "Dead Ringers" -- that one day some unsuspecting person will wander into one and be so perplexed that his brain matter splatters all over the theater walls.
It certainly doesn't take Cronenberg long to get the migraine started. "Crash" opens with three sex scenes in a row. First Catherine Ballard (Deborah Kara Unger) is rubbing her breast on a plane. Then her husband, James (James Spader), is screwing some girl. Then the two meet, describe their affairs and screw each other. After this, the car crashes start. James has a run-in with Dr. Remington (Holly Hunter), who flashes him a little breast just after her husband flies through the windshield. I guess she figured hey, she was single -- why waste any time?
Cronenberg has talked on occasion about the need to be subversive, because in order to be an artist, one must challenge convention. Perhaps the most infamous scene in "Crash" features Ballard having carnal relations with a leg wound belonging to Gabrielle (Rosanna Arquette), a member of a car crash cult led by Vaughan (Elias Koteas). This is more than subversive -- it's a threat to the fabric of society as a whole. Think of the kind of world we would live in if men knew they could be artists simply by running around and sticking their penises into weird places. Every time you picked up a coffee cup or replaced a light bulb you'd have to check carefully to make sure an artist hadn't been there first.
Perhaps Cronenberg's next film will combine the best of both his worlds: sex and exploding heads. If all you're going to do with your film career is try to gross people out, you might as well go for the gusto.
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