TIFF Cinematheque - David Cronenberg

31 Oct 2013

Toronto director David Cronenberg earns another retrospective of his films from his first film STEREO to his latest COSMOPOLIS.  The films tie in with the Cronenberg exhibit that begins November 2 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

A number of his films will be introduced by special guests.  The opening night 31st will have DEAD RINGERS which was the opening film at TIFF way back when, introduced by both the director Cronenberg and its star Jeremy Irons.

Being familiar with the films will make the exhibit a more rewarding experience.  The exhibit includes stills from all his films, costumes, instruments used as props and special effects on display.

My favorite Cronenbergs are eXistenZ, SPIDER and A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE which were made in consecutiveness.  eXistenZ was released the same time as THE MATRIX and made that look childish in comparison.

For a complete listing of the films, venue and ticket pricing, please check the TIFF website at:


Capsule Reviews for Select Films:

THE BROOD (Canada 1979) ****

Directed by David Cronenberg


This is the story of a man’s (Art Hindle) desperation to save his daughter, Candice (Cindy Hinds) from the clutches of his ex-wife, Nola (Samantha Eggar) under the care of a cult (psychoplasmics) like doctor Dr. Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed, hamming up the best he can).  Apparently, the wife’s anger is personified, literally in the form of mutant children that go about killing whoever she dislikes.  This is like the CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED in action and scarier than that movie at that!  Cronenberg does not compromise on the gore, violence or language.  THE BROOD, like many of Cronenberg’s films contains many classic unforgettable scenes.  One is the ex-wife giving birth to a new mutant baby and another is the sight of a deformed Nola as she lifts up her dress.  Despite the predictable ending, THE BROOD is one true horror film and Cronenberg at his best!

CRIMES F THE FUTURE (Canada 1969) **

Directed b David Cronenberg


The second feature by Cronenberg, also running just over an hour, is very much similar to his first STEREO and despite its intriguing premise, is unfortunately just as boring.  Shot this time in color, the otherwise silent movie has it soundtrack mainly a voiceover narrative dubbed over.  The story set in an institution follows a reluctant dermatologist (Ronald Mlodzik) roaming around the premises trying to get things sorted after the founder, Antoine has mysteriously disappeared and presumed dead.  Apparently, his cosmetics have killed off the women.  CRIMES OF THE FUTURE is quite advanced of its time considering that it deal with taboo issues like pedophilia, homosexuality and sexual revolution.  But don’t expect any conclusive messages from this strange little entry.

FAST COMPANY (Canada 1979) ****

Directed by David Cronenberg


A film about funny car and drag car racing, FAST COMPANY appears like the only Cronenberg out of place in the retrospective.  But it is his love or cars that got this excellent film and CRASH also about cars (and sex) made.  Even though one might not be fan of car races, FAST COMPANY is remarkably compelling and drags the audience right into to the business and people involved.  It helps that Cronenberg draws the audience into the drama of each character.  Lucky Lonnie Johnson (William Smith) stands up for his principles and loses his sponsor Fastco.  Cronenberg understands that a good villain is important and his evil man takes the form of John Saxon who does a great job as the guy Fastco hires to keep the racers in place.  Exciting speed racing, exciting drama and great looking characters all around make this unexpected racing film several notches above the average.  Ironically the lead actress Claudia Jennings died in a car crash not long after making the movie.

SOCIETY (USA 1989) ****

Directed by Brian Yuzna


This horror cult classic got a release 3 years after 1989 but it became a hit in Europe.  It is the classic tale of a protagonist; in this case Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock) who believes the society surrounding him including his parents is engaged in a cult orgy.  Of course no one believes him or those who do like Blanchard (Tm Bartell) mysteriously disappears.  At times the film has a look like Stanley Kubrick’s EYES WIDE SHUT.   Paranoia sets in and it turns out that the doctor Bill is seeing is in cohorts with the cult.  Though the film plays tongue in cheek with the terror, the climatic horror scenes with special effects by Screaming Mad George is really frightening.  The orgy scene is disgusting to the point of nausea but I suppose that is a good thing.

STEREO (Canada 1969) **

Directed by David Cronenberg


His first feature running just a little over an hour is a black and white largely silent feature imposed intermittently by a voiceover explaining the experiments and laws of telepathy.  A young unnamed man (Ronald Mlodzik) in black cloak arrives at the academy studying telepathic abilities of a group of 8 through sexual exploration.  The film looks static and there is too much technical jargon (though this is likely the intention) for a largely silent film.  The experimental segments are very sexual in an eerie sort of way.  Those who are scientifically inclined will be more amused at the laws and theories of telepathy concocted.  STEREO is not very good but marks the beginning of Cronenberg’s career as well as well as themes recurring in his later films.  Cronenberg shot his film at the Scarborough campus of the University of Toronto and gives the setting a futuristic large laboratory look.

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