I read J.G. Ballard's novel "Crash" just a couple of years ago, so it was
fairly fresh in my mind as Cronenberg's adaptation unspooled, capturing the
book's menacing weirdness while leaving out some of the thematic emphases
that I'd thought Ballard was most interested in. These include a detailed
fascination with prosthetic devices (represented in the film mainly by
Rosanna Arquette's scenes) and the notion of car accidents as "marriages" in
which fleshly and mechanical beings become "one flesh" in a kind of
What's most interesting and problematic about the
movie, as with the slightly earlier "Naked Lunch," is that the more sick and
outrageous Cronenberg's material becomes, the more conventional and
conservative is the cinematic style he uses to explore it.
major-league kinky in its obsession with the erotics of automotive violence
and destruction, but as a movie it's a series of painstakingly correct shots
and countershots that develop little aesthetic interest, much less
adventurousness, despite the morbid goofiness of their narrative content.
Cronenberg may feel it's necessary to temper explosive content with
conspicuously tame style lest he lose any hope of a popular audience;
whatever his motivation, though, I find his recent movies more compelling in
conception than execution.
In any case, James Spader is good as the
hero--it's a nice touch to carry Ballard's reflexivity an additional step
forward by casting the character named Ballard with an actor named James--and
Holly Hunter is unexpectedly strong as the accident aficionado he falls in
love with. Ditto for Elias Koteas as the demolition-derby guru whose dream is
to recreate Jayne Mansfield's last moments for the entertainment and
edification of the loosely knit cult he presides over.
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