We want to like this movie, “Cosmopolis.” David Cronenberg fills his movies with concepts and ideas, then turns them into something stupendous and horrible. Sigmund Freud is finished, Don DeLillo is next. But his cinema is losing its narrative quality the same way that painting did once upon a time. We don’t want just another movie; we want two hours that will stop the world.
This is the kind of thing people write in reviews. (Or novels, ha ha.) But what are reviews other than a half-baked collection of personal bias and subjective impression, laced with the occasional populist groveling? Real information lies elsewhere.
“We’re speculating into the void.” We know that, because “Cosmopolis” tells us so, as its hero — a Wall Street weasel, the kind of guy who voted Republican because all his friends are smug, insincere, filthy-rich asset managers — is driven around a city not unlike New York in his pimped-out, bulletproof, soundproof stretch limo, his face as blank as any model in a Dolce & Gabbana ad, his encounters — sexual, financial, medical, philosophical and otherwise — taking place almost entirely in this hermetically sealed environment. He gets cream-pied by Occupy-ish anarchists; he pleads with his trophy wife to have sex with him; he places a gazillion-dollar bet on the Chinese currency; he has sex, or tries to, with just about every female he meets; he asks his bodyguard to tase him for kicks; he quotes St. Augustine (“I am an enigma unto myself”); and he is stalked by a mysterious assailant.
But we look closer: It’s the film that’s speculating, mercilessly dispensing vast torrents of DeLillo’s prose as flat, robotic dialogue — this film, we know, having been adapted from a book, a process not unlike chicken into nugget — and the audience becomes the void, asleep in the dreams of those who cannot wait the eternity it takes for human Ken doll Robert Pattinson to learn how to act, or for Cronenberg to realize not even “Batman” movies have bad guys who rant and rave for a full half hour before they try to kill the hero, as Paul Giamatti’s vengeful stalker does here.
We suspect we are in the realm of parody, yet conscious monitoring of our vital bodily functions does not reveal any movement of the abdomen or facial creases around the mouth and eyes that would indicate activation of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Not even the sight of Pattinson, his face inches away from one of his advisors as he hits on her while simultaneously getting a rectal exam from behind, is enough to trigger a smile.
“The more visionary the idea, the more people it leaves behind.” We’re sure the makers of “Cosmopolis” will console themselves with this knowledge. Fans of the arch and alienating — Peter Greenaway springs to mind — may find some inherent value, but those seeking any sort of coherence or emotional response other than ennui should avoid.
For a chance to win a copy of Don DeLillo’s “Cosmopolis” novel translated into Japanese by Nobuo Kamioka (Shincho Bunkokan, Price ¥620), visit http://jtimes.jp/film. The deadline is April 22.