Welcome to Cosmopolis, David Cronenberg’s thesis on how ridiculously abstract money is as a concept in the digital age.

Cosmopolitan: free from local, provincial, or national ideas, prejudices, or attachments; at home all over the world.

 

Metropolis: the mother city or parent state of a colony

Financial wunderkind Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) wants to travel across the breadth of New York for a haircut. Standing in his way is a mob of protesters, a Presidential visit, a pop star’s funeral, the ensuing throngs of people and an assassination attempt.

I want to preface immediately that most viewers will detest this film. The pacing crawls like constant traffic, the narrative is flimsy sinew between structured (and potentially pretentious) philosophising and the callow, wasteful, sleazy protagonist doesn’t warm you to his plight. In fact I would say that he’s an alienating prick. However, all these elements are necessary ammunition to amplify this hypothesis.

Packer (Pattinson) is the height of irresponsibly and ‘uber’ wealth. He’s in a world where everything can be bought, where money is intangible and the people that he encounters are bought to serve him.

Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis happens in allegory more than traditional narrative. Appropriating the philosophical musings from the novel of the same name, it essays how our society is governed by money without a physical representation of what money ‘is’. It’s no longer a mineral that defines wealth – it’s a series of swirling numeric and graphic representations that can be toyed with and gambled away without consequence. The monetary system is a veritable palimpsest of complicated patterns feeding off of each other – until those willing to gamble will the fragile systems into corruption. In this world everything is commodity.

The geographical and physical setting is paramount. New York City runs on public transport. The labyrinthine subway system provides the perfect efficient people movement around the city. However, elitist oligarchs choose the impracticality and inefficiency of limousines to maintain their elitist station and cultivate a separatist disassociation between them and ‘the people’. Cronenberg uses this flawed isolation as a foundation argument of the hypocrisy of Packer. Packer operates his life in perpetual slow motion and yet pays countless funds to have his every whim serviced en route. These ‘servant’ interactions serve as different vignettes of theory and philosophy that gradually tear down Packer’s world.

The more established the actors supporting– the more accomplished and mesmerising they were giving meaning to the didactic dialogue. The ethereal Samantha Moreton plays Vija Kinsky who tutors and implores with Packer about different ways to look at the systems. The sexy and worldly Juliette Binoche plays escort Didi Fancher who services Packer and attempts to enlighten him about the ways of the world. And Paul Giamatti demonstrated that great actors can transform dense dialogue into something genuinely moving and affective.

Cosmopolis doesn’t adhere to narrative conventions, affronts you with an unlikeable and hypocritical protagonist living to waste living in an amoral, inhumane world. It’s meant to intrigue, to incite to infuriate and I was engaged and interested throughout. Just as ‘Waking Life’ (Linklater, 2001) projected impressionist dreams to wax philosophical about consciousness – Cosmopolis uses Packer to trivialise money, dismisses the struggling poor and reveals those in the throes of money for the sociopaths that they are. 

[rating=3] and a half

Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to the audio review on That Movie Show 2UE here.

Directed by: David Cronenberg

Written by: David Cronenberg (screenplay), Don DeLillo (novel)

Starring: Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche and Sarah Gadon

Cosmopolis is released on Thursday 2nd of August 2012 in Australia.

BLAKE HOWARD IS A FILM CRITIC & THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF/CO-FOUNDER OF AUSTRALIAN FILM BLOG GRAFFITI WITH PUNCTUATION . BLAKE IS THE HOST OF THE ONE HEAT MINUTE PODCAST. BLAKE IS ALSO A MEMBER OF THE PRESTIGIOUS ONLINE FILM CRITIC SOCIETY (AND A MEMBER OF THE GOVERNING COMMITTEE), IS A CO-HOST OF GAGGLE OF GEEKS ON SYDNEY'S 2SER COMMUNITY RADIO, A COLUMNIST AT THE AUSTRALIAN ONLINE INSTITUTION DARK HORIZONS AND SWAYS THE TOMATO METER WITH ROTTEN TOMATOES APPROVED REVIEWS.