Apr 5, 2009


Videodrome can be simply defined as one of those "must-see" films of that generation. A History of Violence aside, Videodrome also happens to be Cronenberg's defining production of his unnatural delineation that's seated well within fans as a subclassification of cult/sci-fi. Videodrome has the clever strategy of incorporating stark and gruesome images into its set that have found its way around the Internet as an ever popular image; James Woods holding a mutated handgun to his head - "Long live the new flesh," he echoes monotonously in choice scenes nearing the climax. The addition of polished dialogue is assertively the resonating point of emotional entry. With my long overdue first viewing of Videodrome, a film hasn't revealed its marvelous true form in such a bloody and lucid style as of this tale of Max Renn and his prescription of Videodrome.

David Cronenberg had already established himself as a competent auteur by Videodrome's release. For the sake of variety, Cronenberg has crafted the contemporary horror, science fiction, drama, and thriller, all into marvelous and definitive pieces of the genre at hand. The accessibility of all his films whether it be Scanners or Videodrome itself, these staples of pseudo-science horror presentation will feature recurring themes of "body horror" that are oh so prevalent in most of his works. If you've seen any Cronenberg film (Sit down, Fast Company), you've no doubt witnessed these fleshy pods bubble and pus while flesh and machine (organic or not) become infused with madness. What Cronenberg is so acclaimed for is his effective and practical surreal violence and effects that spread on an even keel across his wide modicum of hits: e.g. the head explosion scene in Scanners, the pistol mutation in Videodrome (aforementioned), and Seth Brundle's painful transformation into an insect. Dictated by my own pleasure via overstimulation, Videodrome happened to be one of few contemporary, abstract masterpieces that you never, in my case, get around to watching until well past the deadline.

Max Renn is an early and perfect example of the pathetic not quite-alpha male and the swift manipulation by feminist mind frame as Max, a low quality of lifer and a disgusting male of nature, finds himself fulfilling the perverted fetishism with a radio personality played by Deborah Harry. The inscribed sex scene appears to be of no pleasure to himself as he bows to her every whim eventually hallucinating himself on Videodrome. The fleshy pink walls reflect just how out of the BDSM loop he really is. Nicki Brand is no longer with him. No one wonders why. The opening scene of the omnipresent television set alerting Max to wake up to his painfully boring life is the kind of established scenario most films with self-deprecating leads should adhere to using. This is the kind of loser that walks, eyes ahead, on a busy sidewalk. Judging by the lengthy coat, you would never guess he's a prime example of that lame soul; the one that passes out watching late night television and starts the next day with a stomach churning combination of coffee and old pizza crusts. From this average day, his first visit into the static-clouded Videodrome emerges as the first conflict for Max Renn other than his pugnacious style of life. After revealing Nicki Brand to Videodrome in an effort to peak her sexual climate, she becomes strangely aroused by the tape and seduces an unsure James Woods into emitting pain and pleasure, although the two become confused by scenes end.

When the time comes for Videodrome to sink into psyches and initiate abnormal growth while subliminally annihilating lucid eroticism, the perspective of Max Renn is severely damaged and left in non-working order. From these all-seeing eyes, he's been converted to an assassin for Videodrome while Nicki Brand, who was also infected, became a seductive symbiote of Videodrome. Her eventual transcendence to digitized flesh is left to the viewers mind to possibly piece together a plot to tell of Max's implied techno-enlightenment. Only then will some answers be solved and many more will be asked. To be perfectly blunt and obtrusive, the philosophy of life prioritized on television is soul sapping and Videodrome's showcasing of technology depleting humanity came before the reality show boom of the 90s and 00s. As charted with the last sentence, the reasoning of Videodrome is more or less prophetic past the further use of an idea called "reality."

Depending on the mindset of the viewer at hand, Videodrome may shock/offend you, intimidate you, excite you, and trample you down with the eclectic bevy of forbidden titillation. There's a reason that Videodrome is never explained to those who haven't experienced such a far out film as itself. The experience itself is something of a pinnacle in retrofuturism and the clandestine approach to disputing manipulation in both sexes. If often reverberates ideas of a gender war, all stemming from sexual confusion and assertive hypnosis. "At the end, he was convinced that public life on television...was more than private life in the flesh. He wasn't afraid to let his body die." With these words, It becomes ever apparent that Max Renn is an abasement of flesh and he must be purged. Videodrome is the future of video technology in its own reality and in ours. It might be David Cronenberg's single masterwork and his most frightening experiment.



eggs, bacon, chips, sausage, tomatoes, beans, mushrooms said...

videodrome is cronenbergs masterwork of that there is no question (although the brood runs it a close second, because of cindy, obviously) and again i was stunned by the unmittigated genius of your reveiw, but i was just thinking what a strange world the canadian film industry is, i mean the way its populated with weird individuals like cronenberg himself and others like don mckellar, sandra oh, gosia dobrawolska, guy maddin, atom egoyan, patricia rozema, and sarah polley, (oh...what a little darlin` she was in road to avonlea) just very strange people, the american film industry is fantastic and brilliant, the british film industry is (as you know) a giant pool of diarrhoea (freshly piddled), but the canadian film industry is just a bunch of weird, odd people making very odd, strange films.

Keith said...

Great writeup. I love this film. It's amazing. It'd definitely a classic by Cronenberg. I haven't seen it in years though. I might have to try to watch it again soon.

bianca oblivion said...

with regards to the comment left by "eggs, bacon, chips, sausage, tomatoes, beans, mushrooms" (strange name, although it did make me feel hungry while i was reading it) how about a nice nostalgic, sentimental reveiw of patricia rozema`s now almost completely forgotten 1987 cult item "i`ve heard the mermaids singing" i dont know if its a good film or not but i was always rather smitten by the title. I agree about "videodrome" being cronenbergs masterwork its one of the few films from the twentieth century that they might still be watching 100 years from now.

Phantom of Pulp said...

Scintillating autopsy of Cronenberg's brilliant work.

It was a first in so many ways, and so far ahead of its time that it flopped like a bullet-ridden corpse at the box office.

I always loved the concept of TV BEING reality -- just another input into the synapses.

I saw it originally in Hawaii, and I was alone in the cinema (on opening day).

To me, Cronenberg is probably the most consistent of all filmmakers.

i am also in love with his careful framing and grand establishing shots.

I watched "History of Violence" again last week and like it more every time.

Certainly my favorites after "VD"(!) are "The Brood", "Shivers", "Dead Ringers", and "Rabid".

eggs, bacon, etc. makes a good point about Canadians. We get very interesting perspectives from there. To me it feels like a Euro/North American synthesis.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic review! To me, this is not only Cronenberg's best film, but one of my personal favorites. For the longest time, I considered this my number one favorite above all others. Most people seem to prefer The Fly or Scanners, I presume, simply, because those are his most successful (mainstream-wise) pictures and thus the most widely seen, but Videodrome stands head and shoulders above the rest in my eyes. Kudos, my man! Kudos!

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Recently when i watch this film i`ve been having the fantasy that i am the James Woods character and Debbie Harry is Heather O`Rourke, the rush of surrealism is quite astonishing and absolutely magnificent.