His short, similarly though more enthusiastically titled Crash!, has the additional bonus (or novelty, at least) of featuring author J.G. Ballard himself, glowering on screen and ruminating on voiceover.
Ballard’s thoughts on the intersections of technology and desire are front and center, of course, but it’s particularly striking to see how many images Cronenberg draws from here for his later work: hands gently caressing the sleek curves of the vehicles, the impassivity on faces. Hell, there’s even a carwash, though a more chaste one.
Here, however, there’s a greater emphasis on the bloody image, which is, for the most part, curiously absent from Cronenberg’s vision.
As a 17-minute BBC oddity from 1971, Crash! is historically fascinating, but it’s also aesthetically interesting on its own terms, and, given Ballard’s overt participation, unsurprisingly true to The Atrocity Exhibition and Ballardian philoso-weirdness in general.
Highly recommended for fans of Ballard who haven’t seen it yet, as well as Cronenberg enthusiasts and people who just really like cars. One downside: the unrelenting coldness of Ballard’s observations precludes all the fun sexy times, despite the exclamation point! At least we still have Cronenberg to thank for this:
The entirety of the Pioneers of African American Cinema series is still streaming on Netflix, and one of its centerpieces, Oscar Michaux’s Within Our Gates, is available on Amazon Prime.
There’s been a resurgence of interest in Michaux’s socially-minded retort to The Birth of a Nation, which also screened this past week at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, and though no streaming service is a match for watching its complex narrative unfold on the big screen, this is the next best thing.
(Streaming on Amazon Prime)
If you missed this James Baldwin doc in theaters, you’re in luck. The film has proven divisive among my own friends — some of whom, like myself, admired its richoceting poeticism, while others wondered who and what exactly it’s for — but the film is absolutely worth your time.
Baldwin’s words ring far truer than most and have lost none of their power over the years. Unfortunately, the palpable rage behind his analysis of American Blackness remain as relevant as ever.
(Streaming on Amazon Prime)
After reading my Patreon-fan-service write-up of the excellent Kill List, did you think, “I could really watch some more Ben Wheatley!” Well, it’s your lucky day!
Both this surreal, austere, and gorgeous film and the darkly comic Sightseers are available to fill that Wheatley-sized hole in your eyeballs.
(Streaming on Shudder)
One of the great Val Lewton-produced films of the 40s is all psychosexual dread and hints of offscreen terror, which is one of the reasons it survives not just as a kitsch classic but an actual lo-fi masterpiece. Any time American horror generates suspense from little more than shadows and a creeping sense of unease, Lewton’s RKO films lurk in the background.
(Streaming on FilmStruck)