Videodrome (David Cronenberg, 1983, Canada)

               Videodrome is one of Cronenberg’s masterpieces. I’ve watched the film several times now, and despite having a general familiarity with the events of the film, its hallucinatory nature makes each watch a new revelation. The film, released in 1983 – before the widespread advent of the Internet – managed to presage so many phenomena about modern life, in particular Baudrillard’s idea of hyperreality in the mass media age, as well as the fusion of the screens into our daily lives. The motto of Max Renn’s Channel 83 – “The one you take to bed with you” – could just as easily apply to all of our cell phones. Likewise, the film seemed to presage the idea of every person having an “Internet self” or avatar with the character of Brian O’Blivion – a professor whose entire existence is revealed to be comprised of pre-recorded tapes.
               The real success of Videodrome is that it is a rare film that manages to tackle big ideas without being entirely beholden to those ideas. The film stands alone as a conspiratorial paranoiac thriller, or a surreal nightmare. This is due not only to the film’s iconic imagery and special effects scenes, which are imprinted on my memory forever, but also due to the strong casting. James Wood gives one of the performances of his career as Max Renn, whose transformation from a cynical cable TV producer into a paranoid maniac lends the film a real gravity.
               The film is also eminently quotable. Cronenberg reportedly made this film on the fly, without a truly finished script. It is remarkable he managed to churn out so many quotable gems. From “television is the retina of the mind’s eye” to “I just can’t cope with the freaky stuff” to “See you in Pittsburgh” and “long live the new flesh!”, the film is a collection of memorable quotes. The enduring influence of Videodrome can’t be understated.



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