Cosmopolis (2012)

Our review of David Cronenberg’s beautifully directed adaption of Don DeLillo’s headache inducing 2003 novel-length collection of monologues and dissertations. Featuring some guy who was in at least one of the Harry Potter movies. Oh, and some soft-core vampire porn series you might’ve heard about.

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4 thoughts on “Cosmopolis (2012)”

  1. Even considering your deprecation of “pretentious” as an all-purpose boo-word, I think you’ve defined it quite well here in relation to the novel – written to be talked about, not to be read.

    1. Yeah, I have serious doubts Don DeLillo’s ever paused to consider a reader in his whole damn life. Though, again, to be fair, I’ve never had the courage to go back past White Noise (his 1985 novel, the only one of his I still own, and the one that still gets him props) so what do I know? Maybe Late-70s Model DeLillo actually possessed some “stunning” insights about This American Life. But like Myers said in his Reader’s Manifesto, “Do we need writers like DeLillo for their insight, which rarely rises above the level of ‘some people put on a uniform and feel bigger’? Or do we need them for an ironic perspective that most of us acquired in childhood, when we first started sneering at commercials?”

  2. You know, after listening to Don DeLillo’s dialogue, I feel like paraphrasing Dennis Dutton (if you’ll indulge me):

    The dialogue beats the audience into submission and instructs them that they are in the presence of a great and deep writer. Actual entertainment has nothing to do with it.

    I might be wrong (considering you seemed to compliment his way to write the suffering of office drones) but every single line seems tailor-made to force you to analyze every single line and find some sort of profundity in the product, even if there might no be any there. That’s my opinion, anyway.

    Also, general audience question: does anyone else think the dialogue sounds like its trying to be William S. Burroughs routines?

    1. No, you’re right. And as repulsive as he makes his dialogue, his narration is even worse…save for a few rare occasions I chalk up to the Even-A-Broken-Clock-Is-Right-Twice-A-Day Rule. Thank Cthulhu Cronenberg spared us that at least. Also, the Bill Burroughs connection is far from specious. The chronologies line up perfectly: Burroughs was in New York and becoming the Grand Old Gentleman of its late-70s virgining Punk/poet scene just as DeLillo was making a name for himself with books I haven’t read.

      By far, his best work (out of the things I’ve read) is 1988’s Libra. Sort of an anti-JFK, except written years before JFK moved into development. It details a fictionalized account of Kennedy’s assassination, and we spend most of the book in the third-person-limited perspective of Lee Harvey Oswald. Occasionally, the scope expands to include all those people who (allegedly) helped Oswald on his long, strange trip to Dallas, but for the most part the confines of verifiable history forced DeLillo to tell the most linear, straight-up narrative he’s ever told. At least a third of it could pass for a biography of Oswald, since the book starts in his childhood and ends as he did, with Jack Ruby, outside Police Headquarters.

      But even here, DeLillo gave into his Joycian, jazzy impulses. He can’t seem to help himself. It’s like a nervous tic. And in this case, it expresses itself by breaking up the early-60s period piece narrative about the Kennedy assassination with flash-forwards to…an overworked junior CIA analyst slowly going mad as he attempt to write a report about the Kennedy assassination. The most vivid image in the book is of an ocean of documents spilling out of a tiny office and into a hall. And I’m supposed to go, “OOOOOOH” over how “clever” that supposedly is, and how profound his conclusions are…even though sticking yourself (or an audience avatar) into your book was already old when Dante did it.

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