dir. david cronenberg
st. jennifer jason leigh, jude law, willem dafoe, don mckellar

...it's too easy to not try and understand, to leave it all to self-consciousness and unbearable Parker Posey funded smugness, another one willing to place themselves upon the rack, work your ideas through your technique and still come to the same resolve, it's all fragmentary, it makes no sense, but Cronenberg has discipline, and the film succeeds in the attempt, Cronenberg risking making what seems to be a purely theoretical exercise, a film about how all films these days seem to try and kill the author, try to annihilate sense and point bitter fingers, hoping to regain some sense, back to "realism", so it's a film about the current annihilation of art, about misguided nihilists destroying all in the hope of creating and returning to the pure, and just what is that anyway, so here we are again, Cronenberg destroys that dream in the last scene of the film...pure...real...what the hell does that mean?, so if that sounds like a smug know-it-all attitude, Cronenberg goes beyond that, because some films begin with that cool assumption these days, and if you start with it, it means nothing but if you finish with it...oh this is all a game, a stakeless puzzle, ENJOY, and Cronenberg rattles you, gives the film a destructive scent and hunts it down furiously to the end, for it's about how all creation is now futile, expressing only loose ends, how all art is now self-reflexive and here is a self-reflexive film about how all art is self-reflexive, but oh well, the best we can hope for is the framing of these issues...

OK now, a second time round.

...the film looks a little drab, don't it?, a little muted in its blues and greys, a little hesitant in its amphetimined camera moves, oh it just don t dazzle me, GOOD, it's a tentative plan, a fictional world, it's restraint in action paradoxically enough, and I can vaguely remember what that looks like...

OK now, a third time around.

...opening scene interrupted by gunfire, quick escape, the first motions of the plot, very confusing initially, built on sabotage, treachery, narrative quicksand, let's stop the car, find a spot, progress the action, interesting, let's discuss the hardware itself, narratively speaking, and a scary supporting character, told you he was trouble, he s dead now anyway, so let's try and start again, so says main character number 2, what's the game about, well says no. 1, it's about playing a game...

OK now, a fourth and final time around.

...is this reality or is this a dream? Maybe once this was an unimportant question, but at this very moment simulation threatens to annihilate some very crucial realities, and the question now seems very relevant. Existenz isn't a final answer to these problems, merely a brief pause as the lines become increasingly blurred. Is this a game anymore? It seems like an important question after Existenz, not merely the nagging voice of some tired moralist whose supposed reality is just a little bit stale and boring. The true moralist here poses his question with subtlety.

adam rivett
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