Monthly Archives: April 2011

The Fly

Horror and sci-fi fans alike rejoiced with the 1986 release of The Fly, a remake of the 1958 horror classic. David Cronenberg both directed and wrote this reimagining, fusing together his usual cocktail of techo-paranoia and body horror. The Fly begins at a science convention, with writer Veronica “Ronnie” Quaife (played by Geena Davis) hitting it off with scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum). He quickly lures her off to his lab where she soon discovers that Seth is no ordinary lab rat, but rather a certified genius on his way to creating the world’s first teleportation device. Ronnie is desperate to write a story on him and brings her idea to her editor, ex-boyfriend and borderline stalker creep, Stathis Boran, who is quick to dismiss Seth, assuming his work is an elaborate hoax. Undeterred Ronnie works out a deal with Seth to follow the progress of his work and create a book about the project. All seems to be going well in their professional and personal relationship until Seth unwittingly turns his teleportation device into a gene-splicer. Seth’s transformation into “Brundle-fly” is simultaneously repulsive and tragic. In the end, Cronenberg creates a film that delivers both the grotesque scenes befitting any of his early body horror films and a critique on man’s use and abuse of technology and nature.
Although a little corny at times I really do love this film (and not just because I worship the Altar of Cronenberg). First, Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis have fantastic chemistry. They were married shortly after The Fly was released so it’s safe to assume their onscreen romance was fuelled by off-screen passion. Davis handles her character with intelligence and avoids becoming another simple female horror drone. Goldblum is of course the star of the show, spewing frenetic energy in the role he plays so well, that of the rambling smart and somehow sexy scientist (yes, he is still able to pull off sexy in this film despite the terrible hair and various states of decay). Cronenberg is able to create a relatively smart sci-fi horror. He questions mankind’s drive to push technology to its limits and manipulate nature. In his films this manipulation always tends to lead to some unpleasant mishap, as seen in The Fly where Jeff Goldblum experiences the consequences of his failed experiment as a wasting disease. Whether you want to ponder the message of this film or just revel in the fantastic gore (it didn’t win an Academy Award for Makeup for nothing…) The Fly delivers on every level.

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Filed under David Cronenberg, genetics, Horror, Science Fiction

Harold and Maude

Harold and Maude may not have appealed to audiences when it was first released in 1971 but it has since become a cult classic held close to the heart of many film lovers. The strange yet simple tale follows the ultimate odd couple: Harold, a young man obsessed with death, and 79 year old Maude, an eccentric with a lust for life. These two apparent opposites fuse a tender and beautiful friendship which forms the glittering heart of this film that explores themes of alienation and existentialism.
Harold is an awkward young man who drives a hearse, stages mock suicides and attends funerals for amusement. His mother does not seem to understand him, nor make much of an effort to, being concerned mainly with surface appearances and the façade of normalcy. She attempts to set him up on blind dates and strives to ignore him. Harold’s life is fairly sombre and without meaning until he spots Maude at a funeral he has crashed. When he sees her at yet another funeral, Maude takes the opportunity to introduce herself and sows the first seeds of their friendship.

The performances in the film are fairly simple, yet engaging. Although he was rarely cast as a leading man in subsequent films, Bud Cort delivers a fantastic performance as Harold, drawing both laughs and compassion from his audience. The story is at once touching and darkly humourous as viewers are simultaneously presented with seemingly opposite views of life, the dark and the beautiful. For instance, while Harold enjoys watching cars being destroyed in a junk yard, Maude revels in nature and has no qualms with liberating trees from public property. Harold’s obsession with death and oblivion seem to stem from the fact that he has no stake in this world, and feels no personal connection to anyone around him. Maude is able to curtail Harold’s obsession for destruction by showing him the beauty of nature and the fulfillment life can offer when lived with vitality.

This being said the film carries with it a very existentialist perspective. Maude constantly reminds Harold that all in life is transitory, enjoy it while you can, but never trick yourself into thinking that you have true ownership of anything in this realm. Not much is revealed about Maude’s past in the film other than her recollections of being involved in social protests and the fleeting glance Harold and the audience is able to catch of a Auschwitz ID number tattooed on her forearm. Maude clearly has a history and allows Harold to see that if he is willing he can create a meaningful future.
If you have yet to see this American film classic, I suggest you correct that unfortunate condition!

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Filed under Comedy, Dark Comedy, Film