eXistenZ: A review in 1 part

This movie is weird, not like King Kong “oh my god there is no such thing as a giant monkey”* weird, no eXistenZ is a balls to the wall strange ass movie. Like 12 minutes in and Jude Law (A.I., Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow) is pulling a tooth out of a gunshot wound in Jennifer Jason Leigh’s arm (Hey Arnold! the movie, an episode of Frasier) fucked up weird.

eXistenZ (emphasis Cronenberg’s) plays like a pseudo-sequel to Videodrome complete with the recycling of the classic “death to…” line. They are similar in that they both deal with the idea of entertainment medium fusing with and blurring the reality of human society, Videodrome being about the then burgeoning home video market and eXistenZ dealing with video games.

They do some interesting things with accents in this film. Jude Law, who normally speaks with a British accent uses a Canadian accent, Christopher Eccleston has a short cameo where he uses what must be a purposefully bad American accent, Ian Holm (the Robert Duvall of Science Fiction films) uses this outrageous Eastern-European accent, then at the end (without giving too much away) they all revert back to there natural accents, it’s cool and yet another way Cronenberg mucks with your mind.

Speaking of cameos Willem Dafoe knocks it out of the park as Gas who is, believe it or not, a gas station attendant. Dafoe has made a career out of being eerie and weird but never has he freaked me out like he did here, let’s just say the man should never be allowed to hold a shotgun and leave it at that.

I’m pretty sure it has been said but as a huge Philip K. Dick fan I must say that eXistenZ is cribbing a lot of ideas and themes from all of his works, mostly Three Stigmata and Flow My Tears. The intersection of reality and self and the confusion between the two is a very PKD kind of idea (I believe all of his novels touch on that at least a little). It also follows a similar narrative structure to Dick’s writing, in that it is extremely disjointed, seeming to randomly skip from scene to scene and in the end only sort of giving you answers.

Okay so this is being paragraph is being written as I watch the movie and I have paused it in order to say that Cronenberg is now the king of unconventional gunshot wounds, a character just got shot by a tooth across the face severing his ear, then again in the cheek, none of that hollywood directly between the eyes malarkey, this is real down and dirty violence (except for the teeth thing and the flesh and bone gun). Mr. Cronenberg you the best.

As I was watching eXistenZ I realized something about the year it was released. 1998 and 1999 saw the release of three very good science fiction films all dealing with the idea of reality and human existance, Dark City, The Matrix, and eXistenZ. All three are well made films that are excellent additions to the science fiction canon. Then I realized that at the end of the 00’s three amazing science fiction films were released all dealing with similar ideas to each other, Moon, District 9, and Avatar, all to some extent have to do with isolation and separation for who you are or who you should be. Now I was between 8 and 9 when eXistenZ and the others were released but at the turn of the decade and the millenium I think it would be safe to say that people were wrestling with the idea of human reality and what it really meant, and I can also say that at the end of this past decade people were dealing with this idea of personal and national separation and loneliness (for the sake of space and so I don’t sound like a pretentious psuedo-intellectual I will refrain from extrapolating). So I guess what I’m trying to say is that culturally science fiction is way more important than whatever stupid shit the mainstream people enjoy.

To repeat eXistenZ is weird, possibly the weirdest film I’ve seen since Naked Lunch. It’s not as weird as Naked Lunch because Cronenberg keeps his head on straight with eXistenZ and decides to tell some semblance of a story. That being said I enjoy both films.

*Something someone actually said to me once


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