An acquaintance saw the movie Taxi Driver for the first time a few years ago. Afterwards she said to me: “Sure, it was good, but not as special as people said it would be.” She didn’t consider (or know) that there were no other films quite like it when it was made in 1976.
She would probably react to David Cronenberg’s early films the same way. He was doing stuff late 1970:s and 1980:s in a way that no one else had done before. Then the styles and themes he explored seeped into mainstream where they have been refined with better budgets.
But now that I’m doing a retrospective, re-watching them all in cronenogical order, I find that I still love the rawness of those films. Slick production and modern effects can never replace the earnest excitement of exploring these dark, liminal spaces of the human body/psyche.
The progression in the early films, starting with Shivers (1975) and Rabid (1977), ramping up with The Brood (1979) and Scanners (1981) to (at least in my eyes) culminate in Videodrome (1983), is a beautiful journey. Though they are (mostly) horror films I get really happy when I watch them.
His continued production is also great, Dead Ringers (1988), Existenz (1999) and Spider (2002) to mention a few, and I’m very excited to see his new Crimes of the Future (2022). But, though I’m no nostalgic, the new ones lack one certain aspect of the old ones: the vintage production design.
Because the Canadian late 1970:s is my absolute favorite aesthetics in film ever.