Tuesday, March 03, 2015

"Maps to the Stars": Cronenberg's sense of horror, mental illness, and a cynical look at Hollywood values


Maps to the Stars” is David Cronenberg’s most recent film, and it is even darker than “Spider” a decade ago.  In fact, it is quite explicit in spots, rated “just” R but could well have been NC-17.  It makes Ameer’s work (discussed yesterday) seem a bit milder by comparison.
   
And the film is quite slick, gathering momentum with constant character confrontations, toward a violent and tragic end, predicated on Cronenberg’s concern about mental illness.   The motion in this film is self-evident, but perhaps a little more predictable than, say, Ameer’s, which makes a good comparison in storytelling technique with comparable raw material.
   
It starts when Agatha Weiss (Mia Waskilowska), her arms covered to hide scars from previous pyro activity and released from a mental hospital, arrives in LA (from Jupiter, Florida), to be driven around by limo driver Jerome (Robert Pattinson), himself aspiring to become an actor and writer.  She lands a job as an assistant with wealthy has-been actress Havanah (Julianne Moore), who wants to play her mother, now rumored to be a ghost, in a remake of “Stolen Waters”.  In the meantime, she locates family, headed by self-help guru Stafford (John Cusack), wife Christina (Olivia Williams), and gifted but disturbed son (and her younger brother) Benjie, said to be 13, and quite good a trash talk, played by Evan Bird. 
   
The characters come together in confrontations, a little bit as they might in an Altman movie, leading toward increasing spectacle and violence, some of it pretty disturbing.  To be more specific would spoil things now.  After what Benjie does (when under delusion) in a privy on the set, it’s surprised that he gets out of “the hospital” so quickly.
   
The film might seem a bit cynical.  No, I don’t think this is how most of Hollywood behaves.  I am networking a bit with people and, no, I’ve never seen anything like this.
   
   
The official site is here  from Focus International and E-1.
    
I saw this before a small audience Tuesday afternoon at the West End Cinema in Washington DC.  I was not yet aware that it is available from iTunes and Amazon already.
 
When I saw "Spider" at the Landmark Lagoon in Minneapolis in 2002, I did meet Mr. Cronenberg after the QA.  The event the was sponsored by IFPMSP.
     
Although the film was shot around Beverly Hills, it was produced by Canadian and European companies.  

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