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David Cronenberg: Still too dangerous for an Oscar? Constance Droganes, CTVNews.ca Staff Date: Thu. Sep. 8 2011

a_dangerous_method_1When TIFF 2011 raises its curtain on David Cronenberg’s new film, “A Dangerous Method,” audiences will ask: Can the controversial director finally win an Oscar?

It he does, it’ll be a long time coming.

Cronenberg, 68, first found fame in the 1970s for cult horror movies like “Shivers,” “Rabid,” and “The Brood.” Three decades later, he has transcended a genre seldom favoured by Oscar voters to become a filmmaking auteur equal to art-house favourites like Jean-Luc Godard.

His films increasingly encroach into the mainstream, while retaining Cronenberg’s unmistakable penchant for disturbing violence. In 2005, he gripped audiences with one man’s secret past in the crime thriller, “A History of Violence.” The protagonist was played by one of Hollywood’s top heartthrobs, Viggo Mortensen.

He got down and dirty with the Russian mob in 2007’s Russian mob drama, “Eastern Promises.” That film also starred Viggo Mortensen, who won his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

TIFF co-director Cameron Bailey said Cronenberg has never strictly been a horror filmmaker, “even when he was making horror movies.”

“With films like ‘Eastern Promises’ and ‘A History of Violence’ Cronenberg showed that he could work in different genres and still bring really challenging elements to these stories,” Bailey told CTVNews.ca. “But these aren’t horror movies at all, and even less so at this point in his career.”

Now comes “A Dangerous Method,” a film about the power of ideas generated by two titans in the field of psychiatry: Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.

Set in Vienna on the eve of the First World War, “A Dangerous Method” has an impressive cast headlined by Mortensen, Michael Fassbender and Keira Knightley.

The script is based on Christopher Hampton’s 2002 play of the same name. It digs into the turbulent relationship between Jung (Fassbender) and his mentor Freud (Mortensen). That relationship implodes after one patient (Knightley) undergoes their treatment and takes these giants to the dark side of genius.

“Oscar voters love films like these,” said Canada AM movie critic Richard Crouse.

“It’s got great actors, a great story and historical gravitas. It’s is also being launched at a major international film festival. You know Oscar voters will give it some consideration,” said Crouse.

Even so, Cronenberg’s horror roots may still be too dangerous for some Academy members. A shocking 1981 film like “Scanners” — where a character uses telekinetic powers to make a man’s head explode — is difficult to forget.

“Once you’ve earned a reputation for making people’s heads explode on film, it’s hard to get the Academy to think of you as an Oscar contender,” said Crouse.

That may explain why Cronenberg was denied a Best Director’s nod for “Eastern Promises” in 2008. Whether that matters to Cronenberg is another matter.

“Cronenberg stays true to himself. Telling a great story will always be his real satisfaction,” said Crouse.

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