Certain things occurred to me whilst rewatching Videodrome, Cronenberg’s 1983 grotesque, Sci-Fi weirdo-masterpiece. These things made want to write something about it, not necessarily a review but a collection of ponderances I suppose. Regardless of the classification of the following words, they can, as usual, be found below the jump.
Firstly it’s use of two, highly recognisable faces in James woods and Debbie Harry and their dichotomous relation to the surrounding cast, a treasure trove of unknown faces, something that struck me as somehow important.
Secondly, as we here at (Y) continue to push our values as highly humanist, socially conscious equalitarians, I began to wonder about films like Videodrome that seemingly have a message, just not one that chimes with ours. It is certainly not a film without substance but it a film that has not got a message that resonates with our brand and our M.O. and I wanted to delve into that a little further.
Videodrome definitely speaks to the dangers of television consumption to the extent that it’s lead is convinced to seek out and murder his partners at the television station they run after being specifically targeted to view a suggestive, hallucinogenic television show. But unlike us, where I think it is specific facets of the media and certain shows/stations/practitioners we are out to demonise, the film is seemingly critical of television as a medium unto itself. An ostensibly hypocritical viewpoint in itself coming from a motion picture.
What interested me most was that it’s themes tackle things that are no doubt important but ones that we have not yet focused on as a group ourselves. It speaks on the nature of reality itself, on the nature of what being human truly is comprised of and our obsession with “the flesh”. It takes topics far more cosmic, metaphysical and though less grounded in reality than our goals, they are topics that are much more grandiose and no less important.
Can we then criticise the film for not wanting to move things forward in the same way we want to? We’d like to see poverty gone, wars ended, petty drug laws squashed, perceptions on gender, race, sexual orientation and mental health altered for the positive.
To educate and proselytise in order to increase general human happiness and to quell the latent amount of ignorance found within the world is all we seek. Videodrome concerns itself with none of these topics but it also has a very definable, intelligent set of queries, it definitely questions a lot of things in our world and thus asks (Y)? much in the same way we do, it just targets much more esoteric, existential quandaries.
It’s a film that I find hard to grasp, after two viewings vastly separated by time I haven’t even began to scratch the surface of all it’s themes. But I do know I like the film and in a very visceral way can understand what it’s attempting to say, even if I cannot express that fully yet. I know it’s intelligent even though I can’t put all it’s pieces together yet and I definitely would not dismiss it as both a piece of art and as a purveyor of some very heady topics. So how does (Y) compartmentalise these films that most certainly aren’t enemies of our goals, yet can only be considered allies in a not tenuous but abstract sense as opposed to in a literal, biometric sense? That is yet to be seen I suppose, hopefully we’ll reach a level where we cn comment on that from more of an insiders perspective.
Now the bit about casting choices comes as an afterthought really, it just struck me that watching all these people whom I had never seen before (and after a brief glance at their respective IMDb’s it is clear why) that it was somewhat easier to believe them in their respective roles. I had no knowledge of them or any previous performance of theirs before so for all I knew they were those people they were portraying. I know this is probably symptomatic of the fact that Cronenberg was a small time director operating out of of Toronto no less and that most likely his budget was put upon by the casting of Woods and Harry but I commend him anyway. It’s so much easier to be able to commit yourself to the reality of a persons performance when you aren’t privy to how many Oscars they have or what usual style they go for or any of that other baggage we deal with in this age of information. Unknown seems to work for me, maybe the time of the star should come to end, I know it works as a sign of quality and that studios love to be assured but as we’ve stated a million times previously, we’re looking to create art outside of the box, outside of their rules.
Just a few thoughts…
– Oliver Drew.