All of this will be old news to the movie buffs among us. Cronenberg is revered in cinemaniac circles as a god of the disturbing and bizarre. Having seen his new movie Spider and spoken to the man himself, I can report two tidbits that may come as surprises: a) Spider deals with a perversion of the human mind, not the human body and b) Cronenberg is a calm, collected, erudite, normal dude. The premise of the movie -- a schizophrenic man (Ralph Fiennes) moves to a halfway house and begins to recall his childhood and the events that led him to be institutionalized -- is so far removed from the usual Cronenberg repertoire that the question "What attracted you to this film?" seemed less banal than it usually is. "It was really the screenplay and thinking of Ralph in the role that I responded to," was Cronenberg's answer. While watching Spider, I came up with what I smugly thought was a great analogy: in the way that the film has the viewer utterly confused until the final frames, when a revelation makes everything more or less clear, it structurally resembles David Lynch's Mulholland Drive. Mostly in the interest of finding out what he thought about the man whom many consider his long-lost twin brother, I asked Cronenberg to contrast his new movie with Lynch's two year-old masterpiece. "I didn't think it was as coherent as Spider because it's not contained within the mind of a main character whom we're following all the way through... I understand why you say that, but I do think the structures are pretty different." I related a personal anecdote to Cronenberg: the weekend before the interview, I sat down for a double bill of The Fly and Dead Ringers. The movies made me feel genuinely bad. Cronenberg commented, "Sadness is the real feel of all of my movies, and so that you should feel that is not surprising to me... when I make a movie, I feel that I'm sharing it with my audience, and I'm looking for things, I'm finding things out, and I'm saying look at what I experienced... and so I don't think of it the way Hitchcock did, where he's sort of a puppeteer and the audience are marionettes, and he is making them jump, and laugh and scream... I'm sharing it. If you're going to be an existentialist, it means you're going to look things in the face, whether they are pleasant or not pleasant, so I think that's what you were getting. At the same time, I have to believe that ultimately, maybe not the evening that you went to bed, but eventually, you realize the fact of art, that to make the films is in itself an affirmation of life, because if you were really depressed, and really sad, you wouldn't have the energy to create." Oh, and Spider is a pretty good flick. You should check it out.


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