Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Clinical Kinks

Who would have thought such an unassuming, nice little-ol' country like Canada (eh), could have produced such a dementedly twisted artist like director David Cronenberg. In fact, IMDB has kindly informed me that he's known as The King of Venereal Horror(!) and the Baron of Blood. Two titles I'm sure all good Canadian children aspire to. Just looking over his filmography: The Dead Zone, The Fly Crash (not the Best Picture winner about Race in LA, but the one where Holly Hunter and James Spader get sexually turned-on by car crashes. Somehow the Academy passed on it...) Spider, A History of Violence, etc. one gets a sense that feel-good Family Films are not his expertise. Even their titles evoke a kind of visceral feeling of dread and foreboding. His 1988 film, Dead Ringers (see what I mean about those titles), a disturbing film about twin gynecologists both played by Jeremy Irons, is the subject of this week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot over at The Film Experience. In addition to celebrating its 25th Anniversary, the film was chosen in honor of Nick Davis's new book: The Desiring Image: Gilles Deleuze and Contemporary Queer Cinema. Nick is a fantastic writer and he successfully completed his goal of seeing every Best Actress Oscar Nominated performance. Ever. Like, all of them. Check it out – you'll be sucked into an actress K-Hole the likes of which you will not emerge for days. Make sure you left some food for the cat...Anywho, onto the Queer Cinema.

The film begins with some amazing opening credits in which black and white anatomy drawings from the Renaissance are displayed against a blood red background. The images are beautifully grotesque. And the color red pops out again later in the film as the color of the scrubs and operating linens during surgeries. The film has such subdued colors throughout that when the stylized uniforms, usually a clean, stark white, are suddenly a vibrant crimson it's unsettling–as if the figures around the woman are performing a satanic ritual and not a medical procedure. The red looks also brought to mind another Canadian artist's work: Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale in which fertile women are kept as concubine's by wealthy men. Dressed head to toe in red, they're only purpose is to procreate. Sex is not for pleasure but a necessity. This discomforting mix of constraint and clinical detachment with the primal act of intercourse is also evoked in my choice for Best Shot:

Claire, (played by Genevieve Bujold. I loved her so much in Anne of a Thousand Days that I put this film in my Netflix queue years ago. Well, thanks to this series, I finally saw it. All I can say is, her character is far from Anne Boleyn) an actress who sought out the help of the twins, begins an affair with them (although she only thinks it with one of them). One of her sexual encounters with the twins leads to her being tied to the bed with tourniquets and various other medical instruments. The scene and the above image don't so much titillate as disturb with their oddity. And the act itself seems detached from emotion or feeling. It's an arresting image that shows Cronenberg at his best. Compelling, able to provoke with its unusualness, it lingers in the viewers mind.


  1. I nearly picked this same scene, though not that closeup. I'd do a second post if i thought people were into this movie but I sense that a lot of movie types these days are unfamiliar (shocking really!)

    1. ha. i just always remember people saying that jeremy irons only won the oscar for reversal of fortune because he really should have won for this film. there's so many great movies out there–it's hard to keep up with them all!

      i almost went with one of the red cloaked surgery scenes, but went with this one instead. there's just something so bizarre about it. and before he takes her out of the restraint, i thought he had somehow mutilated her with the instruments.