Sunday, 30 September 2007

Eastern Promises

"I've said it before and hope to again: David Cronenberg is the most provocative, original, and consistently excellent North American director of his generation. From Videodrome (1983) through A History of Violence (2005), neither Scorsese nor Spielberg, and not even David Lynch, has enjoyed a comparable run.

"A rhapsodic movie directed with considerable formal intelligence and brooding power from an original screenplay by Steve Knight, Eastern Promises is very much a companion to A History of Violence. Both are crime thrillers that allow Viggo Mortensen to play a morally ambiguous and severely divided, if not schizoid, action-hero savior; both are commissioned works that permit hired-gun Cronenberg to make a genre film that is actually something else. As slick as it is, Eastern Promises could, like A History of Violence, almost pass for an exceptionally well-made B-movie."

Still Cronenberg: An accessible narrative belies something much darker, and stranger, in Eastern Promises
J. Hoberman
September 11th, 2007 1:15 PM

"No doubt about it, David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises is a tight, clean, adrenaline rush of a movie. It is 100 minutes of precise filmmaking that delivers one of the best thrillers to hit the screen in a long time. The production is so well done and so taut that I was almost too busy enjoying the ride to think about any deeper meaning other than the brilliant screenwriting, editing, photography and overall technical mastery that left me glued to the screen.

"When the movie ended, I knew I had just seen a really great piece of filmmaking, but when it came time to thinking about what it all meant, I was left kind of blank. I mean, Eastern Promises is a gangster movie, first and foremost, and as such it follows the generic structure of the gangster film and its depiction of organized crime as a family of men that mimics the state and is ingrained with homoerotic/phobic tension. That was all quite obvious, and I wasn’t really sure where to go with it. Then of course, like everyone else who’s seen this movie, I was blown away by the naked fight scene in which Viggo Mortensen’s completely nude body (including swinging balls) battles brutes in a public bathhouse. And in fact, I was pretty much blown away by the hyper-eroticization of Viggo’s body in general, including two other stunning scenes – one in which he sits nude on a chair while he is inspected and interrogated by the Russian mafia and another when he sits naked in a red velvet booth while a man tattoos his body. The latter scene was so painterly that it could have been lifted straight out of a Caravaggio painting."

KDD on Eastern Promises

"David Cronenberg’s latest, Eastern Promises, is a powerful movie, better than nearly anything else (David Lynch aside) being made in the English-speaking world these days. But even though it had a powerful impact, I felt blank afterwards thinking about what could be said about it. This has something to do with Cronenberg’s tightness and closure: like many of his more recent films, Eastern Promises is so tightly organized, and so perfectly self-enclosed, that it doesn’t leave the viewer with any wriggle room. But also, Eastern Promises seems less interesting, somehow, than Cronenberg’s previous excursion into the crime/gangster genre, A History of Violence."

The Pinocchio Theory

"But even when people's bodies undergo terrible things in a Cronenberg film (the exploding heads in Scanners, the transformation into an insect in The Fly), there's a sense of respect for the body itself. Violence in Cronenberg is ineluctable, brutal, and repellent, but it matters. There's none of the blam-pow jokiness of the post-moral, video-game school of filmmaking. Rather, he's interested in the social uses of violence, whether as a tool of the powerful, a rite of initiation, or an erotic game. And even when—here as in A History of Violence—you're not quite sure what his meditations on the subject add up to, you leave his movies feeling unsettled in the best sense. Eastern Promises is only deceptively genre-bound; it's a conventional gangster film that morphs, Jeff Goldblum-style, into something far richer and stranger."

Eastern Promises: The metaphysics of David Cronenberg's violence
By Dana Stevens
Posted Thursday, Sept. 13, 2007, at 5:35 PM ET

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