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Why David Cronenberg thinks that "cinema has been permanently disrupted"

David Cronenberg is one of the most important auteurs in cinema history. The Canadian filmmaker is famed for his groundbreaking efforts and contributions to the proliferation of science fiction and horror in cinema. Hailed as the master of the body horror genre, without him, Hollywood would be without many of modern cinema’s greatest moments.

Notably, Cronenberg’s films explore stark bodily transformation, infections and technology, as well as examining the interplay of the psychological with the physiological. Without his pioneering work, you could say goodbye to later arthouse masterworks such as Julia Ducournau’s Titane and even Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan

Cronenberg’s best-known horror-oriented films include 1975’s Shivers, 1981’s Scanners, 1983’s Videodrome, and of course, the 1986 effort The Fly, which was loosely based on the ’50s novel and film of the same name. Since then, Cronenberg has moved out of what was once a strictly sci-fi/horror realm and has given us other contemporary classics such as A History of Violence and Eastern Promises, two complex investigations of humanity’s relationship to violence which saw him team up with Viggo Mortensen to universal acclaim.

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Cronenberg has now placed himself firmly on the radar again with the announcement of his new film, Crimes of the Future, which premiered at Cannes this week. It has been rumoured that the director had been forced into retirement because of a lack of funding, but regardless of what caused his lengthy absence, he has returned with what is set to be one of the most talked-about films of the year. 

Unsurprisingly, the movie made headlines when several people walked out of the theatre within the opening five minutes. Unphased by this, according to Cronenberg, he’d been expecting it all along. In an interview before Cannes, he said: “I said some people in town will walkout and Twitter went crazy and people said ‘we don’t want to see a movie where the director thinks we’ll walkout.’ And I wasn’t saying that everybody will walkout. The audience in Cannes is a very strange audience. It’s not a normal audience”

He explained, “A lot of people are there just for the prestige or for the red carpet. And they’re not cinephiles. They don’t know my films. So they might be walkouts, whereas a normal audience would have no problem with the movie. So who knows? But certainly a lot of people walked out when we showed Crash.”

However, that wasn’t the general consensus. Many of those who stayed in the theatre gave the film a six-minute standing ovation, making us excited for the film’s general release. 

Cronenberg’s reaction to those leaving the film early says it all. He is one of the most uncompromising characters in cinema, and this authenticity bleeds into his work, meaning that even if you don’t like the film, per se, you can still appreciate it as an artwork. In fact, David Cronenberg has long been one of the most refreshing voices in cinema, and his opinions rank amongst the most coveted in the field. He’s never afraid to speak his mind about the ever-changing format and has given us many hot takes over the years that have proven invaluable sources of deliberation.

When appearing at the Venice Film Festival in 2018, Cronenberg discussed the future of cinema and gave some profound thoughts on the direction it is going, using the movie theatre as an example of recent developments. He said: “We had a panel here, I was talking with Spike Lee and some other colleagues in cinema about the nostalgia there is for the old days of cinema where you would have a community worshipping in the church of cinema and a communal experience, maybe partly religious.” 

He continued: “I think (Pablo) Almodóvar talked about the ‘sacredness of the cinema’ and I said that ‘You must, perhaps, be a Catholic in order to believe that’. So, I think cinema has been permanently disrupted, I think that it will never be the same, and I think it might be like vinyl records, perhaps, or people who still type on typewriters, it will be a retro activity going to a cinema. I mean, there are social reasons why people like to go out to a cinema, but for me, I haven’t gone to the cinema for many, many years, I have to confess.”

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