A Dangerous Method

I almost spat Coke into my popcorn when I saw the trailer for A Dangerous Method. Biopic? check. Costume drama? Check. “A Film by DAVID CRONENBERG,” huh? I knew Viggo Mortensen’s main man had a new film coming out, but a Knightley-Fassbender period romance was hardly what I expected. It’s not that the subject matter — Freud, Jung, and the birth of psychoanalysis — is a bad match. More like a redundancy. Cronenberg’s body of work can already be partly understood as a compendium of his feelings on Freud and a century of psychoanalytic thought. What’s to be gained from a straight take on material that he’s twisted and transformed, so imaginatively and elegantly, time and again? I know it’s obnoxious for a critic to insist that a movie should be something it isn’t, but I can’t fight the feeling. The English major in me is impressed by the intellectual ambition and writerly craft that went into this careful portrait of Jung, Freud, and their lesser-known sidekick Sabina Spielrein. It catches in the periphery of its gaze the plight of the Jews, the tragedy of the World Wars, and something about the mood of the 20th century. But it’s more educational than compelling. The cinephile in me longs for a real Cronenberg screenplay, which might have made something odd and truly majestic out of this historical triangle.

Continue reading

Duchess of Langeais, The


Jacques Rivette’s latest, a bitterly

romantic adaptation of Honoré de Balzac, is exquisitely

realized, even by Rivette standards. Costume design, art direction

and cinematography all work together in concert: early scenes in

which the titular Duchess is a woman of great mystery and allure are

lit like Caravaggio paintings; a later passage, which takes place

after we see how she’s been wrecked on the inside — she stands on a

Parisian street in buttoned-up clothing, wearing a tall hat and a

lost, wistful expression on her face as autumn leaves swirl around

her feet — has the look of classic Hollywood melodrama, or even

the arch magic of Pressburger-Powell. (I admit, Black Narcissus was

never too far from my mind.)

Continue reading