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Riding across Manhattan in a stretch limo in order to get a haircut, a 28-year-old billionaire asset manager's day devolves into a odyssey with a cast of characters that start to tear his world apart.
For more about Cosmopolis and the Cosmopolis Blu-ray release, see Cosmopolis Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on January 4, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Sarah Gadon, Mathieu Amalric, Jay Baruchel, Kevin Durand
Director: David Cronenberg
» See full cast & crew
Cosmopolis Blu-ray Review
Ticket to ride.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, January 4, 2013
My vote for Most Surreal Television Moment of 2012 was not Mitt Romney warbling "God Bless America", though it is an image (and sound) I've found hard to shake from my synapses. (I should add that my nomination of Romney's "singing" for this self-created "prize" has absolutely nothing to do with politics and everything to do with musicality, or lack thereof.) Instead, there was a much stranger and maybe even more embarrassing escapade on a show diametrically opposed to everything Romney and Conservatism stand for, namely Jon Stewart's proudly left leaning The Daily Show. In the midst of all the completely silly brouhaha surrounding the absolutely earth shattering announcement of Kristen Stewart's affair with her Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders and her subsequent messy breakup with Robert Pattinson, Stewart had Pattinson on his show, ostensibly to promote Cosmopolis. So here was this huge pop cultural moment, an instant of collective schadenfreude and one which Stewart joked about a little uneasily leading up to the interview with Pattinson, an interview which was prefaced with one amazingly bizarre scene from the David Cronenberg movie (like there being a weird scene from a Cronenberg movie was a big surprise). And then virtually without comment about the completely weird little scene we'd all just witnessed, Stewart just launched into his "but, seriously, are you okay?" routine with Pattinson, replete with a pint of Ben and Jerry's to break the ice, as if the patently outré film clip we'd just seen wasn't worth mentioning. There are two twin ironies about this so-called Surreal Moment. First, there probably was nothing that Stewart could have said, for in many ways Cosmopolis is an incredibly dense and internal piece that almost willfully defies description, and attempting to talk about a 30 second snippet of the film would be like attempting to generate a commentary on one sentence from War and Peace. But second, the really ironic thing is that Cronenberg's film is about a cold, ruthless plutocrat, a billionaire hermetically sealed off from Everyman like a modern day Howard Hughes fearful of catching some dread proletariat disease, and who is thus part of that much discussed "1%" that none other than Mitt Romney also exemplifies.
My brother-in-law is a film editor in Los Angeles, but back in his student days he worked as a valet with none other than Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects ), who even then was passing the time between parking cars by coming up with ideas for films. There must be something to that decision, for author Don DeLillo, the man who wrote the source novel on which Cosmopolis is based, first got interested in writing when he was a parking lot attendant and had to wile away the hours by reading, which in turn sparked his own career path. DeLillo is an author who has repeatedly "raged against the machine" in a variety of works, including White Noise, DeLillo's pungent satire on academia and various threats facing the modern day world. DeLillo's jaded take on our contemporary lifestyle would seem to be a near perfect fit for the often equally caustic if antiseptic David Cronenberg, (In fact White Noise with its underlying themes of fear of death and bodily mutation would seem to be tailor made for a filmmaker of Cronenberg's sensibilities. It should also be mentioned that the Geoffrey Sax film White Noise has absolutely nothing to do with the DeLillo novel of the same name.)
Cosmopolis plays like a modern day Odyssey, only in this case the "hero"'s trek isn't across vast swaths of territory but simply an attempted journey across mid town Manhattan on a day when several intervening events make travel all but impossible. Most of Cosmopolis takes place in the cavernous interior of the impressive white stretch limousine of billionaire Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson). Packer wants to get his hair cut and refuses to utilize close by barber shops or indeed pay to have a barber come to him (something that is obviously within his monetary grasp), and so he sets off on his own voyage, a passage which seems to take place divorced from traditional linear time and indeed almost from reality itself at times. Cosmopolis is a deliberately hypnotic experience, one increased by the fact that Packer himself seems to be sleepwalking through an intentionally placid, emotionally tamped down surface world that only partially masks some roiling tensions simmering just beneath that surface.
Much like Odysseus in Homer's epic tale, Eric Packer drifts from encounter to encounter, although in this particular case, Packer isn't trying to get home, he is home (in his limousine) in a very real way, and the anecdotal characters come to him. There's a temptress (Juliette Binoche, unlike you've ever seen her before), a couple of nerds (Jay Baruchel and Philip Nozuka), Eric's estranged wife (Sarah Gadon), his financial guru (Emily Hampshire) and an apocalyptically minded confidante (Samantha Morton). It becomes apparent that Eric is chasing his own personal apocalypse, both intentionally (he seems almost obsessed with losing his investors' money) and unintentionally (he becomes aware of several threats against him as the film progresses, but doesn't pay them as much heed as perhaps he should, leading to a fascinating 22 minute two character finale with a character played by Paul Giamatti).
Eric's other obsession—getting to a particular barber on a day where a Presidential visit, the death of a rap star, and an "occupy"-esque riot make travel even more difficult than it usually is in Manhattan—turns out to be something rather akin to the iconic Rosebud of Citizen Kane. Eric may indeed be ever more aware of his own mortality (at the tender age of 28), but he's also yearning to return to a more innocent, unfettered time. This film, like Welles' immortal opus, traces the history of an almost unimaginable impresario, though Cronenberg stuffs everything into one day (and for the most part, into one limousine), rather than spreading it out over the detritus of an entire life.
Some may initially be put off by the extremely stylized dialogue, which Cronenberg likens to Harold Pinter but which reminded me personally of a more contemporary Clifford Odets. These are characters who aren't averse to allegory and whose casual conversation can suddenly erupt into brilliant metaphor and other literary devices that gives even commonplace utterances the ring of poetry. In fact Cosmopolis is not a film that engenders a warm audience response on any level. It's a cold, clinical film that may indeed be satire but which is too detached from emotion (appropriately so, given its lead character's dissociative qualities) to ever generate any feeling other than slight disgust toward many if not most of the characters. Still, this is a compelling experience, in some ways one of the most brilliant films of Cronenberg's never predictable career. Perhaps the most surprising thing about Cosmopolis is Pattinson's performance, at least for those who may have consigned the actor to one of the outer rings of their personal hell for having been in the Twilight films. Pattinson's Eric Packer is an indelible achievement, a man who seemingly has everything money can buy, but who has discovered an aching black hole at the center of his being.
Cosmopolis Blu-ray, Video Quality
Cosmopolis is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Entertainment One with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.85:1. My hunch is this is the same transfer that Entertainment One released on their British Blu-ray which my colleague Dr. Svet Atanasov reviewed. While I share Svet's admiration for the overall look of this digitally shot film, I'm just a tad less pleased with some of the shadow detail, especially since so much of the film is so intentionally dark. While this is never a huge issue, I've subtracted half a point for some instances (notably in a club where Packer visits) where some of the background information seems just slightly murkier than it would be in ideal conditions. Otherwise, though, this is indeed a sterling transfer, with Cronenberg's intentional decision to paint the green screen urban landscape of Manhattan drifting by the limousine windows in a slightly unreal way popping really well, and with the interior of the limousine offering abundant fine detail, especially since Cronenberg frames so much of the action in close-ups. Colors are accurate and very well saturated, and contrast remains strong (though it seems to have been intentionally pushed in some scenes, as in the early sequence with Eric and his wife at the diner.
Cosmopolis Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Cosmopolis features a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that is probably going to underwhelm those needing nonstop showy immersion, but which in fact is a very subtle, often quite nuanced, track that delivers an appropriate sense of a confined, muffled space which then suddenly opens up into the various sounds (at times violent sounds) of a throbbing metropolis. Fidelity is excellent throughout this track, with dialogue always crisply presented, and there's a rather surprising amount of dynamic range, including in the aforementioned club scene. A couple of unexpected bursts of LFE may in fact startle the unprepared listener.
Cosmopolis Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Cosmopolis Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Cosmopolis is frankly not an easy film to like, let alone love, but it is an extremely easy film to admire. Its cold, dispassionate take on an unlikable character may not be everyone's (or indeed anyone's) cup of tea, but for those who have the patience to really let this film's hypnotic spell slowly ensnare them, Cosmopolis is unexpectedly rich, a philosophical masterpiece that manages to make a ruthless technocrat somehow impossible to ignore. The film is solidly crafted and is in fact a technical tour de force that should be studied alongside other (more or less) single set wonders like Hitchock's Lifeboat and the two films Cronenberg mentions in his commentary. Video and audio are largely exemplary, and the supplemental package contains an unmissable documentary. Highly recommended.
Cosmopolis: Other Editions
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Cosmopolis Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Exclusive Giveaway: Cosmopolis - January 4, 2013
Blu-ray.com and Entertainment One are offering ten members a chance to win a copy of Cosmopolis. This acclaimed drama stars Robert Pattinson and was directed by David Cronenberg, who also adapted the original novel by Don DeLillo. Cosmopolis streeted on ...
• This Week on Blu-ray: January 1-8 - December 30, 2012
For the week of January 1st, eOne Entertainment brings David Cronenberg's Cosmopolis to Blu-ray. Adapted from Don DeLillo's acclaimed novel, this indictment of the American capitalist system takes the form of an impressionistic character study; the film's hero ...
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