Pursuing his transformation from a director of "body horror" films into one of "soul horror" films, David Cronenberg follows up his exquisite A Dangerous Method with a more experimental, offbeat adaptation of Don de Lillo's opaque novel of economic crisis. Taking place in a single day within an armoured limousine, Cosmopolis tells of the monetary apocalypse as seen through the eyes of millionaire trader Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson), caught in a citywide traffic jam on his way to a haircut as hangers-on, advisers and friends climb in and out of the limousine. The parade of visits, with the characters played by a distracting all-star ensemble effectively doing little more than cameos, suggests a symbolic pageant of life parading in front of a hollow, superficial, soul-less person that is trying so hard to comprehend what is happening that he ultimately fails to see what is going on - but the film ends up itself being a mirror image of the quandary at its heart.

     Mr. Cronenberg is trying so hard to make Mr. de Lillo's smart, opaque dialogue the centre of the film that he fails to inject any breeze in his claustrophobic, airless world, making Cosmopolis into a bracing, heavy-going philosophical dialogue that not even the director's evident smarts can make it work. Part of it falls squarely on Mr. Pattinson's shoulders - on first sight perfect for the role (a younger, less experienced actor than everyone else on the star-studded cast, portraying a character clearly out of his depth), he fails to imbue it with the necessary gravitas once the story shifts up a gear in the climactic third act opposite a wonderfully no-sweat Paul Giamatti as Packer's nemesis.

     Part of it is also the sense that Mr. Cronenberg is aiming essentially at an abstract construct, its subdued dystopian overtones making it seem more like the grandiose conceptual experiences of 1970s cinema passing themselves off as upscale prestige entertainments - but such abstraction effectively shuts off the film from any meaningful connection with the audience, turning it into an impressive block of ice you admire from a distance but feel unable to connect with. Intriguing and daring it may be, but it's a clean break in Mr. Cronenberg's recent run of great movies.

Robert Pattinson; Juliette Binoche, Sarah Gadon, Mathieu Amalric, Jay Baruchel, Kevin Durand, K'naan, Emily Hampshire; Samantha Morton; Paul Giamatti.
     Director, David Cronenberg; screenplay, Mr. Cronenberg, from the novel by Don de Lillo, Cosmopolis; cinematography, Peter Suschitzky (colour, processing by Deluxe and Éclair); music, Howard Shore; designer, Arv Greywal; costumes, Denise Cronenberg; editor, Ronald Sanders; producers, Paulo Branco, Martin Katz (Alfama Films Production and Prospero Pictures in association with Kinologic Films, France 2 Cinéma, Téléfilm Canada, Talandracas Pictures, Jouror Productions and Leopardo Filmes), Canada/France/Italy/Portugal, 2012, 109 minutes. 
     Screened: Zon Lusomundo Amoreiras 3, Lisbon, May 31st 2012.


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