2012 brought us two whacked-out limousine-set films from auteurs bearing all the markings of future cult classics. But while Leos Carax's Holy Motors received universal critical praise, David Cronenberg's Robert Pattinson-starring Cosmopolis left critics a little more divided, although how anyone could dislike a film featuring an R-Pattz prostate exam is one of life's great mysteries.
Movieline spoke with Cronenberg, a man who at this point seems physically incapable of tolerating bullshit, about his career, Oscar hopes and realities, and new advances like the High Frame Rate Peter Jackson used on The Hobbit. Along the way he riffed hypothetical on what he'd do for awards season glory, assessed the comfortable niche he's carved out for himself on the fringes of the studio system, and revealed what he really thinks about... cats.
Happy New Year!
The Blu-ray release of Cosmopolis is coming out in the heart of Oscar-campaign season. I get the sense it doesn't bug you too much that this film isn't being discussed more as a contender.
Yes. Every year I try to be as disconnected as possible. This year it's been very easy because we haven't been nominated for any awards. It's not sour grapes, it's not compensation; it's a relief. It's very easy to get caught up in it if you are nominated. The people who are releasing the movie get excited, they want you to do more, and you understand it because the awards can maybe get more people to see the film. This, on its face, is a good thing. However, it is all bullshit, it is all annoying and it is all very problematical. But it gives people stuff to write about, gives structure, we understand. But I won't be watching any of the awards shows.
It's not just showing up that night, there's months of campaigning.
Oh, yes. I've talked with several people, one of whom was Denys Arcand, a French Canadian director who won the Best Foreign Language Oscar for The Barbarian Invasions — I know him well. He said he would never, ever do it again. He said it was a year, an incredibly intense year, and ultimately rather boring. Because he's not doing anything creative at all, just selling.
For a guy like Denys Arcand, though, does an award affect his bottom line? Does it affect his career? Will he be able to buy a new house after winning?
No, not really. On the contrary, it's caused him to retreat. He's decided he doesn't want to be involved in anything remotely Hollywood. He wants to make Quebecois films. He attempted to make some movies in English with emerging stars and it was a disaster — it's not his sensibility.
For an actor, though, perhaps it's a different story. Viggo Mortensen was nominated for some of your films, Keira Knightley was discussed for A Dangerous Method. But let's say she had won — would that have elevated her, and gotten her roles she wouldn't have gotten otherwise?
I don't think so. She's incredibly sought after — despite the fact that the British critics are often on her, but they like to eat their own, let's face it. She's too smart and beautiful and too talented, it drives them crazy. I don't see [an award] doing anything for her.
End of the year lists, though — Cosmopolis did end up placing second in Cahiers du Cinema's top ten of the year.
Yes and on Sight and Sound's list, as well.
So the snooty-pants Euros are digging the movie. And, it'll no doubt end up somewhere on my top 20, I think. [Note: it came in at #12.]
If I gave you money would you put it higher?
Depends how much money. C'mon, let's talk. A hundred grand goes a long way.
Would you give me a hundred grand to write that Cosmopolis is the best movie of the year?
No! [Laughs.] But it's a thought.
Let's be honest — at this stage in your career, let's say you met the most reputable critic in the world, you met him at a bar and he said, “Oh, man, I'm in a real money crunch right now, I will make Cosmopolis my #1 of the year for X amount of dollars,” do you consider it for a second?
No. But that's because I'm too cheap. But... fact is, I have been on those lists, New York Times has been very positive on my last few movies, we got three great reviews from three critics at the New York Times for A Dangerous Method. But we still didn't get...[laughs]...it didn't...
Still nobody in the States sees your damn movies, it's Europeans only!
That's right. It doesn't do much. But, listen, you like the validation, especially when they are intelligent people who write beautifully and when they applaud your movie it is terrific and gratifying. Pragmatically, it doesn't do much. Better to get good reviews over bad, obviously, but we all know terrible movies that got terrible reviews that made a lot of money. There's no one to one relationship. You just have to get very '60s... just go with the flow.