The excitement over Crimes of the Future, set to premiere next week at the Cannes Film Festival, suggests that David Cronenberg retains a strong fan base more than half a century into his filmmaking career. But many of us who consider ourselves part of that fan base didn’t discover his work in the theater, much less at Cannes. Rather, we found it at the video store, ideally one that devoted a section specifically to his work — or at least to his signature genre of “body horror,” which his films would in any case have dominated. Fitting, then, that the new Cronenberg interview above takes place among shelves packed with, if not the VHS tapes and Laserdiscs we grew up with, then at least DVDs and Blu-Rays.
This video comes from Konbini, a French Youtube channel whose Video Club series has brought such auteurs as Claire Denis, Hirokazu Kore-eda, and Terry Gilliam into the hallowed halls of Paris’ JM Vidéo.
“They have 50,000 movies, I think,” says the interviewer. “That’s too many,” replies Cronenberg, “so you need to give me a few.” The director of Videodrome, The Fly, and Crash turns out to have no trouble spotting and discussing movies of interest, and the list of his picks from the stock at JM Vidéo is as follows:
- Federico Fellini, La Strada (“the beginning of my entrancement with moviemaking”)
- Ingmar Bergman, The Hour of the Wolf (“a beautiful movie; very much a nightmare”)
- Roger Vadim, And God Created Woman (Brigitte Bardot “was incredibly sexual, beautiful — I was totally in love with her”)
- Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Rosetta (which the Cronenberg-led 1999 Cannes jury selected in “the fastest vote for the Palme d’Or ever in the history of Cannes”)
- Ridley Scott, Alien (some of whose elements “are exactly like my very low-budget film Shivers“)
- Paul Verhoeven, Total Recall (a project for which he wrote twelve screenplay drafts, rejected for being “the Philip K. Dick version” rather than “Raiders of the Lost Ark go to Mars”)
- Ken Russell, Altered States (which “combined a strange group of people who, normally, you wouldn’t think would make a science-fiction movie”)
- Abdellatif Kechiche, Blue Is the Warmest Color (“a beautiful, sexy, interesting, intense movie with young actresses who are really very good, and giving everything,” including Crimes of the Future‘s own Léa Seydoux)
- Olivier Assayas, Personal Shopper (“one of the movies that convinced me to ask Kristen Stewart to be in Crimes of the Future“)
- Matthieu Kassovitz, La Haine (his introduction to the “fantastic emotional depth” and “intellect” of Vincent Cassel)
- Julia Ducournau, Titane (a “very dangerous” genre picture that nevertheless won a Palme d’Or)
- Richard Marquand, Return of the Jedi (when asked to direct it, he said, “‘Well, I don’t usually direct other people’s material,’ and they said, ‘Goodbye'”)
- Brandon Cronenberg, Possessor (“my son’s movie,” the product of “a struggle that reminded me of all the difficulties I ever had making a movie”)
- Ed Emshwiller, Relativity (the kind of film that showed him “you didn’t have to go to film school, which I never did, you didn’t have to work in the film industry, you could make a movie yourself just because you wanted to make a movie”)
- Kathryn Bigelow, Strange Days (“one of the movies that convinced me I should work with Ralph Fiennes”)
- Nicolas Roeg, Don’t Look Now (“a very, very strong movie, very strange, very much about death, but at first you’re not aware that that’s really the subject matter”)
As not just a film fan but a filmmaker, Cronenberg has plenty of related stories to tell about his own professional experiences in cinema. Not all of them have to do with the pictures that inspired him when he was coming of age in the nineteen-fifties and nineteen-sixties. In fact, even as he approaches his ninth decade, he clearly continues to find new ideas and collaborators in the work of emerging directors. Perhaps that’s one reason he seems uncannily undiminished here, much like this survivor of a video store whose shelves he browses. Vive JM Vidéo, et vive Cronenberg.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.