The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Surrealistic flesh lives for long

with 26 comments

Long live the new flesh!

If you’ve ever seen David Cronenberg’s Videodrome, you’re familiar with the battle cry.

To be honest I’m not sure of what it means. But it sounds good, doesn’t it? It sticks.

I bet there are those who think this film is easy enough to interpret.

There is this guy Max who runs a TV channel and always is looking for new sex videos, preferably spiced up with some kinky stuff, to attract more viewers. When he comes across a mysterious underground production named “Videodrome”, more hardcore than he’s ever seen before, he starts to see and experience strange and frightening things happening to himself and the people around him. He’s losing control, of his body, soul, mind and life.

So what is this, if not a precautionary story and a warning to upcoming generations about the dangers of excessive media consumption, putting it in the same category as Haneke’s Benny’s Video?

But I think it would be to make it a disservice and diminish it to a much simpler film than it is.

I’d rather put Videodrome in the same category as David Lynch’s Twin Peaks in the way it’s dancing on the borderline between reality, nightmares and surrealistic hallucinations.

What is real, what isn’t? There is some kind of conspiracy going on, but what is it about and who is in charge?  What are those twisted minds getting at? Can you trust anyone? What is it all about?

We don’t know and we don’t need to know anymore than we demand Salvador Dalí to explain the exact meaning of his paintings. You can equally enjoy them and feel sickened by them anyway.

Muffled sound
You could expect that a movie relying quite a bit on special effects from 1983 would have aged badly. I can’t tell, since I didn’t see it when it came out originally.

What makes the movie feel a bit old to me is the muffled sound. I’ve noticed that this often is the case with movies from the early 80s, for a reason I’m not certain about. Are the film originals deteriorating, the same way that old buildings turn into ruins and old books fall apart? Or have my expectations on the sound quality in movies increased over the years, at the same pace as the standard has developed?

Regardless of which, it does feel a bit aged in the sound quality and cinematography.

But it’s easy to forgive, since the special effects, involving various body parts, which I don’t want to go into detail about in order not to spoil anything, hold up so well. They are surprisingly realistic and creepy almost 30 years after the premier.

If someone got the idea to remake this movie I assume they would replace the videotapes with blue-ray records. But there is no need to do it. No need at all.

The flesh is still new. It’s the kind that lives for long.

Videodrome (David Cronenberg, CA, 1983) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

June 19, 2012 at 1:00 am

Posted in Videodrome

26 Responses

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  1. For me, this is Cronenberg’s best film. I always say if there’s a place to start with when it comes to Cronenberg. It’s this film. It’s freaky, it’s provocative, and is willing to be uncompromising.

    Steven Flores

    June 19, 2012 at 1:43 am

    • Then it seems as if I’m starting in a good place! I haven’t seen much Croneneberg tbh. I watched The Fly I think but don’t remember a thing of it. I saw A Dangarous Method last year, which I didn’t care for a bit.

      But this one grabbed my interest and I should proceed.

      Jessica

      June 19, 2012 at 7:26 am

  2. There was a time when this was my favorite movie. I watched it darn near all the time. I still don’t know what it means.

    Dave Enkosky

    June 19, 2012 at 3:40 am

    • I bet it would have become one of my absolute favorites if I had watched it for the first time when I was younger. But who knows, if I return to it and dig a bit deeper into it maybe it will grow into a 5/5.

      Jessica

      June 19, 2012 at 7:27 am

  3. Glad you enjoyed it. This is also my favorite Cronenberg film, and would probably make it to my top 10 overall. It was the first Cronenberg I ever saw, at way too early of an age, and that potent combination of body horror and sci-fi has stuck with me ever since.

    Some of the details might seem dated now, but the ideas I think are still very relevant.

    I suggest trying eXistenZ next. I don’t think it’s as good, but it’s almost a companion piece which explores some of the same themes in Videodrome.

    Bonjour Tristesse

    June 19, 2012 at 4:58 am

    • I can imagine what an impression it must have made. It’s probably not to make the film justice to watch for the first time after all those years and not in a proper cinema, but on my tiny TV screen at home. Still: I found it very good, though not in my top 10 of all movies.

      Thank you for the suggestion of where to head next. I’d surely love to! I’ll see if I can dig it up somewhere.

      Jessica

      June 19, 2012 at 7:29 am

  4. I haven’t seen it, and even though your review is positive, I don’t think I would enjoy it…. hmmm

    Thanks Jessica

    • Haha…. you don’t know until you’ve tried, do you? I think you should give it a shot, if nothing else since it’s a bit of a modern classic – a part of a well rounded movie education if you ask me.

      Jessica

      June 19, 2012 at 9:50 am

  5. Great comparision to Twin Peaks – in Videodrome it is also almost impossible to say what’s real at times. Along with The Fly and Existenz definetly my favorite movie by Cronenberg.

    sati

    June 19, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    • I like the strangeness of it. A lot of people don’t care much for the second season of Twin Peaks, but I never had any problem with that. The log lady, the dancing dwarf and whatnot…. weirdness, dreamy world, a mystery that you can feel uncomfortable about without knowing the answers. It could very well be so that the author doesn’t know either. But it works.

      Jessica

      June 19, 2012 at 1:46 pm

      • I really liked second season of Twin Peaks except for near the end when Lynch wasn’t directing and the show lost its feel and atmosphere for several episodes. But in the end, it totally got it back with the finale.

        sati

        June 20, 2012 at 3:46 pm

        • Indeed. The very final scene. Such an ending to it all! It’s still very strong in my memory.

          Jessica

          June 20, 2012 at 10:49 pm

  6. I’ve just watched it as you reminded me of the movie, been wanting to watch it for a while.

    And well, it’s a typical Cronenberg movie, trying to dissolve the barriers between reality and fiction. Unsurprisingly, the movie it made me think of most is another Cronenberg movie, Exsistenz..

    I wasn’t bothered by the age of the movie, the special effects still looked good enough to me. And as for music, it was none of that synthesizer pop you hear all the time in 80’s movies so I’m happy enough.

    As for favorite Cronenberg movie, that has to be the recent Eastern Promises. I loved it when I saw it a few months ago.

    carrandas

    June 20, 2012 at 12:04 am

    • Yes, the special effects were fine. I don’t think it’s just the music that makes it feel a bit old, it’s more about the mumblecore. The sound in the rooms, in the dialogue. I don’t know. I feel it’s often a bit clearer nowadays?

      I need to watch more Cronenberg. Thanks for the tips. I didn’t like A Dangerous Method, but he’s made so much more back in the days.

      Jessica

      June 20, 2012 at 12:18 am

  7. Jessica,

    I don’t think it will surprise you that Cronenberg is one of my all time favorite directors. Videodrome is one of his best. But I would suggest to start at the beginning, instead of hopping around his filmography.The breadth of thought and intelligence just magnifies itself with each successive film.

    Videodrome is the end of Cronenberg’s first “age” if you will. I strongly suggest going backwards- first to “The Brood”, then to “Shivers”- if you can stomach that film. (It is “Shivers” that made my co-writer hate his films for ages)….and yet, this will give you a better idea where he came from and why he went where he did.

    I would then suggest “The Dead Zone” and “The Fly”. After that….”Naked Lunch”, “Existenz”, “Spider” and “Crash”- then onto his more recent films-“History of Violence” and “Eastern Promises:…

    Cronenberg begins with the revolt of the body, then onto the revolt of the mind, then onto the question of “who are we?- what we believe we are or what we forget that we are……

    Did you know that Cronenberg was attached to direct the 90’s version of “Total Recall”? He submitted his script and was told it was too close to Philip K. Dick’s original vision…..Imagine that film in your mind!!

    And yes, I can’t WAIT for “Cosmopolis”!!!

    Karl Kaefer

    June 20, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    • That’s a very interesting way to describe his career – from the revolt of the body to the revolt of the mind into the question of who we are… The way you present it… I’m tempted.

      My only issue is as always availability; I don’t have access to any online services and don’t do pirating. But I will definitely look out for his movies; perhaps they have some at my library. And I’ll try to dive into them in the order you suggest.

      I can definitely imagine that Cronenberg and Dick would be a fine matchup.

      As of Cosmopolis, I’m afraid I’ve heard nothing but bad about it from critics as well as bloggers. But they’re not always right you know… it remains to see.

      Jessica

      June 20, 2012 at 10:52 pm

  8. Just out of curiosity, how did you watch this? I never noticed any sound quality issues on the Criterion Blu-Ray

    AndyWatchesMovies

    June 20, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    • It was a DVD edition, not Criterion or anything. Very standard.

      Jessica

      June 20, 2012 at 10:47 pm

      • Could be worth finding a copy if you would be interested in seeing it. I’m a big fan of Criterion mastering.

        AndyWatchesMovies

        June 21, 2012 at 3:27 pm

        • Believe it or not, but I don’t even have Blue-Ray… My facilities for moviewatching at home are abmyssal. On the other hand I try to see as much as I can in proper cinemas.

          Jessica

          June 21, 2012 at 3:29 pm

  9. Great review, Jessica! I’ve always been sort of on the fence with this one but you’ve convinced me to give it a shot.

    fernandorafael

    June 20, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    • Thanks Fernando! I think you should watch it; it’s a modern classic, isn’t it?

      Jessica

      June 20, 2012 at 10:48 pm

  10. Glad you checked this one out. It certainly has that weird blurring between reality and fantasy. I think it’s endemic of a lot of Cronenberg films that end up falling into themselves in the last act. It makes for some bold and memorable endings. Hope you check out more of his stuff. He’s quite the filmmaker.

    • I will definitely check him out. I didn’t like A Dangerous Method, but there are a number of his earlier works that I think can be up my alley.

      Jessica

      June 28, 2012 at 10:31 am


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