Crimes of the Future

Directed by: David Cronenberg
Distributed by: Neon

Written by Taylor Baker

80/100

Cronenberg’s first film in 8 years takes place in a world that has forgotten what pain is. Citizens lucky enough to be invited to public salons can watch performance artists stage public surgeries in between decrepit buildings of a rotting city. “Crimes of the Future” has all the trappings of a Cronenbergian film, hell it even has the same exact name as a film he made in 1970. The interplay of themes and visual stylings from a wide range of his previous releases like “Maps of the Stars” and “Videodrome” is apparent, while its most direct influence seems to be “eXistenZ.” Self-critical, satirical, imbalanced, and gory, Cronenberg again uses Mortensen’s body as the primary vehicle for a film. Building his world out from and around the removal of newly grown and newly discovered organs that grow inside of Mortensen’s Saul Tenser.

Largely uninterested in its own plot points, it spends more time misleading viewers and showing sequences and characters that turn out to be inconsequential than the characters and decisions that largely come to characterize its marrow. These angles are purposeful though. A group of people in the alleyway cutting a woman’s flesh with knives as she writhes in ecstasy is more informative than the black-cloaked Tenser moving along that same alley with the buzz of flies as he shuffles from his large apartment to a bureaucratic agency that according to its employees, doesn’t exist because although they work there, it’s not yet legally permitted. No, its gauzy black noir night shots along the docks of this decrepit city serve as little more than an undergirding trajectory to the machinations of the decay around what is happening to the broad population within the film.

Seydoux’s Caprice along with Tenser are players in a larger, more heady production to Cronenberg, a presentation on the state of society, norms, government, institutions, abuse, neglect, death, and perhaps most importantly pain. Riddled with digs at modern-day plastic surgery, award ceremonies, filters, journalists, vapidness, excess waste, technology ingratiating itself into our lives, and overstimulation are a few of the quick and biting analogies Cronenberg makes within the film. He makes no allusions about who and what purpose his main characters serve, Caprice is capricious, and Tenser is tense. But the values they serve in the equation of Cronenberg’s film are what elevates it. The juxtaposition between them, the film’s many layers, and characters. A murder sequence where a mother kills her child for being unnatural, a father asking a stranger to cut open and display that very son, an institution meant to police and be objective desiring to ingratiate itself with what is popular. Contrasted against a woman having her foot cut open and a large blade scraping audibly against her bone over and over and over again, a man covered head to toe in ears with his mouth and eyes sewn shut dancing for an elite group, installing a zipper on your stomach to easily show off tattooed internal organs that are competing in an organ beauty pageant. It’s an abundance of comparative analysis that is rife with double and triple meanings.

While “Crimes of the Future” does falter in moments, not always able to maintain its mood it never quite loses the reins either. And serves as a high society critique much more effectively than 2019’s “Velvet Buzzsaw” was able to, and joins Peter Strickland’s “Flux Gourmet” in staging performance art films as critiques of modern convention and culture, and perhaps most damningly of those at the top of the art community. Which is a curious super sub-genre to emerge in 2022(though it is lacking the flatulent charm of Strickland’s film). Watching the nude forms of Mortenson and Seydoux pressing into one another as they are lacerated by knife blades will certainly be among the most memorable cinematic moments of the year. Whether or not a broader audience wants to watch the flaying is another matter.

“Crimes of the Future” Trailer

“Crimes of the Future” is in wide theatrical release.

You can follow more of Taylor’s thoughts on film on LetterboxdTwitter, and Rotten Tomatoes.

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