All's Fair in Guts and Gore

You don’t get branded the Baron of Blood—or the King of Venereal Horror, for that matter—for nothing.

When it comes to David Cronenberg, for all his high-mindedness, for all his arty chops as a cinema auteur, for all his taboo excursions into the badlands of human psychology, one of the biggest appeals of the Canadian director remains the gore. The exquisite, disturbing, mostly 80s-era gore. The exploding head in Scanners. The scars and mutilations of car-wreck sex fetishists in Crash. The bizarre S&M snuff channel of Videodrome. Even Dead Ringers, the “tamer” Cronenberg flick about an unscrupulous pair of identical twin gynecologists, drops heavy notes of luridness, especially when the doctors operate in frightfully cult-like blood-red scrubs.

In other words, Cronenberg, at the end of the day, is a horror director. Which is helpful to remember on the eve of his latest premier, a film adaptation of Don DeLillo’s excellent, ice-cold novella Cosmopolis. (Reviewers so far seem stuck on the boring premise—the book is ostensibly about a billionaire suck in traffic—and tend to miss the story’s chilling glimpse at a capitalist apocalypse.)

In a wonderful reminder of the director’s power to disturb, the Film Society has paired up with the Guthrie Theatre (of all places) to bring us a Cronenberg mini-series. It is the first go at a new partnership wherein the Film Society screens film series inspired by the Guthrie’s 2012-2013 season. Hence, the Cronenberg fest kicked off last Sunday with M Butterfly, which the Guthrie produced in 2010. It will end September 23 and 24 with A Dangerous Method, a story of the Jung-Freud rivalry, whose screenplay was penned by the Guthrie’s fall director in residence, Christopher Hampton.

In between, we get a morbid bouquet of perv-y Cronenberg deliciousness. This Sunday, it’s The Fly, the Jeff Goldbloom man-turned-insect cult classic (see the delightful photo above if you’ve never seen the flick. Pleasant, no?). The following week, we get Videodrome, one of the most influential films of the 80s, a paranoid hallucination about the evils of reality television (also noted for the erotic nude ear-piercing scene with Deborah Harry). Then it’s Dead Ringers, a parable of emotional codependency, starring place-swapping gynecologists, both played by Jeremy Irons, and A Dangerous Method.

If you’ve always been curious about Cronenberg, now’s your chance to learn the score. Just maybe leave the kids at home.

David Cronenberg: The Baron of Blood
Sundays and Mondays now through September 24
St. Anthony Main Theatre, 115 SE Main St., Mpls.

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