on May 5, 2002
Unlike many, I had never heard of 'Crash' before I taped it one night from TV. At the time of its release it was deemed disgusting and degrading, although I figured that with an actress of high calibre such as Holly Hunter, it couldn't be completely iredeemable.
Rather than a story this plays more like a cautionary tale. Spader plays a man who, along with his girlfriend, is bored with sex. After finding himself in a head-on car crash with Holly Hunter he discovers a whole world of people that find such crashes sexually satisfying. Cronenberg's message of the cold effect that technology is having on us is certainly intriguing and well evoked - the characters are all pretty cold. However, despite liking to think that I could never be disgusted by something on screen, I found myself having to turn away at several scenes here. One scene in particular, involving a rape, is very graphic and despite getting its message of brutality over, is still something that a modern audience isn't quite ready for.
Obviously the message of the film is interesting but that's all it is. The lack of a real story means that there is no cohesive thread between the characters other than their bizarre fascination with car collisions. This is certainly an oddity but it seems to lurch too readily between gruesomely explicit scenes and boredom.
on March 26, 2001
Crash has been derided for gratuitous sexuality and the lack of a conventional story arc. But beneath the "repelling" qualities is a compelling movie that sadly suffers from a few artistic excesses that hurt the experience. I'm a casual fan of Cronenberg's work, but Crash is definitely unusual and weirdly fascinating (and certainly disturbing at times). The amort color scheme (think noirish and dreamy) augments the passionless nature of the characters, who are deliberately acted with a lack of emotion, with sparse dialogue. The gloomy soundtrack is good as well. These qualities are all effective, as they accentuates the unhappy nature of the characters.
This is a strange, sad flick about a group of people who cannot experience pleasure, and find ways to vicariously heighten their zest by enjoying a unique fetish revolving around bloody car accidents. These neurotic people try and rationalize their woeful lives, but by the film's end it becomes clear that they cannot be truly liberated from their distressed condition. Note how the (many) sex scenes are not remotely titillating, because the characters engage them in such a torpid manner. Even the car accidents are calm little smashes. Thematically, the film asks what gives us pleasure, and where is the line between pleasure and pain?
While it's interesting to ponder, in the end I was left with more of a love-hate feeling. The film waxes the artsy elements a too much and feels boring and redundant. Beating a dead horse is no fun, and there's many scenes that just seem to repeat each other. About half of it is genuinely effective, but the rest is plodding. I know that's the point, but I think some more attentive work could have made it more effective in the end.
on December 27, 2000
Okay, living in one of the more conservative sections of the world, I've only had the chance to see the "Blockbuster Cut" of "Crash," which is shorn of 10 minutes of footage. I have a feeling if I saw the NC-17 cut my view would change, because this version just feels incomplete. In an interview Cronenberg said: "[the R-rated cut] will probably run an hour and make no sense", and he's pretty much on target there.
In my eyes, David Cronenberg is one of the most talented directors in the industry because of his unique, uncompromising visions and the ability to give his films a dreamlike logic. But with "Crash," he's ultimately too grounded in 'reality' to show us anything overly shocking (or thought-provoking). This movie has the same icy characters, sparse dialogue, and blatant extremity that puts it closer to David Lynch misfires like "Wild at Heart" and "Lost Highway."
In the R-rated cut, scenes seem to bump into each other rather than flow. For example, after James Spader and Holly Hunter do the nasty in a car for the first time, we then flash to Spader having sex with his wife, and so forth. There isn't a whole lot of substance to absorb here.
But that's not to say "Crash" doesn't have its moments. There is a brilliant scene between Spader and Elias Koteas (as a creepy freak who gets his jollies from car wrecks) where Spader says, after looking at some B&W photos of crashes, "It's all very satisfying...I don't know why." And for a second you can remember the Cronenberg of "Videodrome" and "Naked Lunch." Also, the musical score by Howard Shore is excellent. As for the rest of this movie, there isn't much to stimulate the intellect. I'd call "Crash" a noble failure, seeing how Crone would redeem himself with 1999's "eXistenZ."
on May 26, 2000
If ANYONE could make J.G. Ballard's novel about "sex and car crashes" halfway convincing, it would be Cronenberg, who is a director par excellence when it comes to exploring the detritus lurking beneath bodies and souls. Not to be TOO literate, but when I heard that a movie was being made from this novel, I read it and decided that there was no way the details of this weird world could be effectively translated to the screen (and Ballard's book is even no masterpiece, though it is compelling in a very specific way) and sure enough the movie is lacking; where the novel takes some pains to go into meaning behind this odd perversion and its descriptions of worship and devotion to scars, carnage, and chaos, a movie can't detail that literary quality unless you put it in the mouths of the characters; too much of that and you don't have a very interesting movie. So what it boils down to is just a kinky movie where people have these strange, unfathomable desires (and didn't the studio essentially distill this movie down that way in its advertisements?). I'm not one of those people who need everything explained, but given the subject matter, the mind tries to make sense of it somehow, and there's nothing there, really. It's kind of a numbing experience, and very didactic and serious (I didn't find it very humorous, even in a black way). If you're into that, I guess this is the movie for you. The director's "Naked Lunch" suffers from the same weight of "greatness." I have no problem with the actors, and the film looks absolutely fantastic, but it's a long haul, especially you rent it just for the sex (which is not bad, considering...); other movies don't include philosophy lessons! But, by this time, why watch Cronenberg films if you're not ready for his literacy and erudition? Count me as a fan, but this is a misstep. Proceed to "eXistenZ"; it's a much better-integrated mixture of similar themes (and humor!), with no intimidating novel hanging above its head.
on December 29, 1999
this movie didn't physically disturb me as it did some peoplebecause i've seen sex on the big screen for ages, but i did find themovie lacking. what was lacking you ask? how about a real reason for all the sex and car crashes. i understand that people have fetishes but how many men are going to run their wives off the highway and then go down and have sex with her in the open where everyone can see? though i have to say, the acting was believable... i totally believed that James Spader was a sexually repressed man trying anything to get his rocks off after a terribly car accident! the only reason i gave this movie a 2 star rating instead of a 1 is because Holly Hunter was in it and i watched this shortly after seeing her give a dynamic performance in Copycat. but even her performance left me wanting to know what her character's angle is suppose to be... and i have to wonder if Holly Hunter even knew what the angle on her character was suppose to be. if you are a Holly Hunter fan, this is not her at her best.
on December 21, 1999
In Crash, director David Cronenberg's idea of foreplay includes vicious car wrecks a la Jayne Mansfield. If this kind of highway carnage doesn't get your motor revving, don't worry: there are plenty of others in the cerebral filmmaker's latest descent into the maelstrom.
There's something undeniably alluring about the automobile: the chrome, the sheen, the rich Corinthian leather. All Crash is missing is Ricardo Montalban. Actually, there's something a wee bit Freudian in the movie's come-on; but for all of its psychobabble and metaphor, its still about a bunch of sexed-up blank slates doing the nasty in the front seat, the back seat; in a car wash, in a parking garage; guy on girl, guy on guy, girl on girl.
It's hard to like Crash. More dry dissertation than moving movie experience, it makes you numb. Maybe that's the point.
on May 10, 2004
i wont say this is smut, i WONT disagree that this is art (or meant to be art), but its not very good art. I would normally say (to sound more neutral) that getting off on car crashes doesn't shock me, but actually, i had never heard of that before this movie, so obviously it was pretty amazing to me. I cant even really explain why i didn't like this movie, it was just boring to me, and any straight guy would say (any straight guy ive ever met) "how can alot of nudity and sex be boring". it can, i watched the first 20 minutes of the movie, by myself, and got bored, and me and a friend watched the rest later. He didn't think it was that bad, but i'll say i got nothing out of the movie, except recognition of another of the many "crazy" fetishes, that many people have. Yea, this review didn't help you much probably, but dont lie to yourself, this movie was a disappointment, at least compared to other movies by the director. Naked lunch was better (not perfect, but better), and definitely not boring (or AT LEAST not as boring), or the fly (not scanners). David C. (note: i didn't try to spell his last name, because you might hold that against me) makes SOME good movies, and i respect him alot, but this movie was a disappointment. See the fly or naked lunch.
on October 9, 2003
Even during the most extreme of my liberal moments, I can't give "Crash" any better than two stars, although I will give credit to Cronenberg for being just about the only director with the balls to take on this project.
J.G. Ballard's "Crash", like Henry Miller's "Tropic Of Cancer", was not written for the big screen, and no amount of star power could have helped it in the slightest. I see where they're going with it, but there are almost no redemptive moments in this film. With the exception of the "James Dean" re-enaction, which was a moment of exceptionally brilliant irreverence.
Unfortunately the film never really gets off the ground. The sex initially tittilates, then repels, then bores. Of course it doesn't help when the screenplay is as spare as this one, but then again, that's the cornerstone of Canadian cinema. James Spader in particular should have thought twice about doing this movie and going the route of Jeremy Irons or Julian Sands, both of whom are stuck on typecast boulevard.
Starring in a movie like "Crash" won't end your career, but it'll sure help!
on July 13, 2003
I am not turned off by the premise of this film. Nor am I turned off by the vividly grotesque immagery of the film. Its just that it doesn't work like it should. Like its supposed to. Rather than revealing this world of kinky sex to us in a cohearant manner, we are forced to watch strange immages of celebrities doing bizzare things to eachother with very little explination of what is going on inside them, in their lives, that has driven them to these extremes. The story itself (taken from the novel of the same name) is intrugueing to say the least but we are only given video clips pieced together to try and shock us. In this area the film succeeds. Certainly the vast majority of viewers are going to be shocked. However shock is only an accomplishment when it is balanced by reason. After watching the film several times it is apparent that deep within the film somewhere there is some kind of motive given to these characters, but a film like this is rarely going to be viewed more than once.
As a Cronenberg fan I must say visually the film is stunning, and the actors, while not neccicarily at their best, certainly put it all on the line to make this film happen. The standout is Elias Koteas who puts in the performance of his career as the insane car crash reinactment driver.
I reccomend this film to anyone with an open mind, strong stomach, and a sense of sexual curiosity.
on April 22, 2001
I did not find Crash shocking or challenging. I did find it sad and depressing. If that was Cronenberg's intent, he succeeded admirably.
What I could not find in the movie was any human motivation anywhere in these characters. Their joyless couplings become repetitive and are meant to express....what? That they are so alienated and jaded that only by the severest forms of sensation (car crashes, injury, mutilation) can they become sexually arroused? Well, that was conveyed in the first 30 minutes. And then is repeated ad nauseum until the final scene, with neither growth or any further insight for the characters or the audience.
We live in an age where people do disfigure themselves, often in some sort of sexual expression. And that our car culture has sexual undertones is no new revelation (just look at the advertising). But this movie neither explains nor offers any insight into any of that. It just observes their motiveless self-destructive behavior, turning the audience into voyeurs.
I like many of Cronenberg's other efforts. I admire the cast, though I would love to hear them explain what they think these people are doing and why.
At some point observation of alienation and depravity crosses the line and becomes that alienation and depravity. This comes uncomfortably close to that. Maybe I'm just weary of this kind of new age existential despair. If your worldview is this bleak, I pity you.
At any rate, I give it 2 stars because it is well-made and a curiosity piece. It obviously will stimulate some thought. But, it is empty, cold and heartless at it's core and offers no great insight into the human condition. Matter of fact, there isn't a recognizable human being anywhere in sight.