Film Commentary [5-31-99]
Videodrome Part II - - eXistenZ
Genre: Science Fiction/Mystery/Thriller


David Cronenburg is back at it again. Canada's most inventive and influential director has brought a story that is by far the most bizzare since his 1983 film Videodrome. Where Videodrome dealt with cable television and even a form of virtual reality before the term actually existed, eXistenZ deals with a combination of computer games and vitual reality in the mind. Rather than using electronics, the game is contained in a living biotechnological organism and is transferred into the human brain using a "bioport" in the lower back through a living umbilical cord type line. The players then enter into a virtual reality world in their own brains to play the game.

Many of the elements of the film cannot be properly described with words; they must be seen to be fully appreciated (unless you describe a hand-gun made from mutant bone and flesh that fires teeth for bullets). The story cannot easily be summarized in a small review without spoiling the movie completely, so you'll have to see it for yourself.

The film stars Jennifer Jason Leigh as Allegra Gellar (you wonder if she was named after the allergy medicine), the inventor of eXistenZ, and Jude Law, both of whom plug in and out of the game throughout the movie, and what is actually the real world become less clear as the movie goes on. The violence and carnage, which Cronenberg has become famous for, certainly catches you off guard at times. In fact, some scenes will make you feel quezy. The film also contains performances by a number of widely known actors. For example, Willem Dafoe is excellent as a country gas station attendant who also implants bioports on the side.

eXistenZ is the most unusual Cronenberg film in years, and that is saying something when comparing it to his earlier movies like Shivers, Scanners, and Videodrome. Original storyline aside,the next best thing about the film is the great visual effects, this one actually makes you feel sick at times and I have seen some sick films. Cronenberg hasn't made a better film since Videodrome and some of his past efforts have been dismal failures(i.e. Crash) but this is a return to the Cronenberg we all know and love for his off the wall concepts. The reason for the film's superiority is that it is more intelligent than most films. It is filled with the usual Cronenberg sexual symbolism. It's a relief to see that he has gone back to writing his own original screenplays and it's good to see that he's gone back to his roots of science fiction. This a film that is sure to become a cult classic. Be sure the check out the eXistenZ web site.

Grade = A-


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