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Crash (1996)Canada 1996
Directed by David Cronenberg
Running time 100 minutes
The only reason one would sit through this film about a group of people who get sexually-aroused by car accidents is Cronenberg’s name as an auteur director. With any ordinary Joe at the helm it would simply dismissed as either exploitational or downright immature.
Despite Cronenberg and his regular team giving it a shiny finish and all the film theory gibberish lavished on it, Crash never amounts to much. Whatever the original novel by J.G. Ballard might have been getting at, as adapted by Cronenberg, the film goes nowhere with its grotesque concept and whilst at very least boring, understandably many people will also find its claim that the car accident is either a “liberation of sexual energy” or a “work of art” offensive, and find it impossible to bracket it as a metaphor for modern urban civilization, which presumably it is (it is in many ways a re-working of the director's 1983 film, Videodrome).
Cars and sex of course have a long and varied history and the danger of the car is an integral part of the combination. Whether there are people who get sexually-aroused by car accidents is another matter. Certainly one feels here that this is a fancy of the film rather than any reality as any such fantasy would be part of a broader psychological make-up, nothing of which we see in any of the characters.
James Spader manages to get in a lot of simulated sex with the provocatively-pouting Deborah Kara Unger and the considerably less-alluring Holly Hunter and Rosanna Arquette, seriously constrained by metal body supports whilst as a sicko Elias Koteas eggs them on to explore their depravity. There no doubt will be those who persist in maintaining that Cronenberg’s film is art but they may well be the same people who would claim that a car wreck is a work of art. Either way the film will be a far from satisfying experience for most viewers.
FYI: Fellow Canadian Atom Egoyan was a member of the Cannes jury that awarded Crash a special jury prize. If you’ve seen that director’s films you’ll not be surprised. Clearly there's something about Canada.