When “Cosmopolis” premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival in May, critics rushed to see the director’s latest labour of love and ponder its Oscar potential.
Beyond Robert Pattinson’s hunk factor in this film, fans and critics wanted to see how Cronenberg would fare at adapting this challenging novel from American author Don DeLillo.
Such scrutiny did not unnerve 69-year-old Cronenberg.
“I like a good story,” Cronenberg told CTVNews.ca during the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival.
“In this industry you see a lot of ups and downs. But I’ve learned over the years to be true to my gut and to stay true to ideas that interest me. They may not thrill everybody else who sees my films. But to me that’s an act of courage. I want to make films that are, if nothing else, courageous,” he said.
Cronenberg’s body of work certainly speaks to his convictions.
Even with his first cult horror films of the 1970s, such as “Shivers,” “Rabid” and “The Brood,” Cronenberg’s taste for daring was unmistakable.
Decades later, the soft-spoken director transcended his horror roots and a genre that is seldom favoured by Oscar voters.
Today Cronenberg is revered as a filmmaking auteur after Hollywood witnessed his formidable work in 2005’s “A History of Violence” and 2007’s “Eastern Promises.”
Even so, Cronenberg takes praise with a grain of salt.
“If anyone had asked me back in 1970 what kind of movies I’d be making today, I don’t know how I would have answered. I was young. I was trying to prove things to myself. But looking back, I see certain seeds taking root in my mind, certain ideas that pushed me to take a chance,” said Cronenberg.
That cerebral rollercoaster, and Cronenberg’s fondness for riding it, is on full display in “Cosmopolis.”
True to DeLillo’s satirical work, Cronenberg creates an otherworldly microcosm in which billionaire Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson), experiences a meltdown of crushing proportions. But the real meat comes as Packer slides from untouchable New York money man to a tragic figure who sees all that he owns turn to dust.
“This is one of Cronenberg’s most accomplished films. I’d rank it at the top of his most recent movies,” said Canada AM movie critic Richard Crouse.
Calling the film “difficult, complicated and unrelenting in its point of view,” Crouse said it was still too early to make any Oscar bets.
“‘Cosmopolis’ is not ‘The King’s Speech’ or ‘Slumdog Millionaire,” said Crouse.
“This is not some uplifting story that leaves you feeling pumped with joy after the curtain falls. But it is the work of an accomplished filmmaker at the top of his game,” he said.
But even if this movie is not his best film, Cronenberg’s impressive body of work could sway Oscar voters to hand him a nomination for Best Director. If they did, it would not be out of the ordinary.
In 2012, 82-year-old actor Christopher Plummer won his first Oscar for the drama “Beginners.” Inconceivable as that may seem for an artist of Plummer’s stature, his portrayal of a gay man who comes out of the closet in his 70s convinced voters to give him his “turn” to win an Oscar.
The same rationale could apply to Cronenberg in 2013. But if Cronenberg is ignored once again the world won’t find him crying in his cups.
“If Cronenberg wins next year that would be great, but I don’t think he cares about it all that much,” said Crouse.
“Winning an Oscar isn’t the driving force behind a director like this,” he said.
That priority remains evident in “Cosmopolis.”
“Cronenberg believes in doing good work, no matter what. That’s what sets him apart.” Crouse said.
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