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Videodrome is as far as i am concerned Cronenberg’s masterpiece, and one of my favorite films of all time. It came out in France in May 1984 and i was 14. After having seen Scanners the year before, and having heard about this film which had been released a year prior elsewhere in the world, i was eager. I went to see it the week it came out and boy, did i love it. Again, this was rated “no one under 13 admitted”. I guess France was cool in those days as those films were definite R’s in the States. France was much more permissive for these types of films than elsewhere in the world, and i grew up lapping them up way before i hit 17. You have to realize that in France, VHS was still a rarity till well into 86 or 87, and the Canal+ channel founded in 1984 was the single cable network in France till well into the 90’s. So going to the movies was the main way to consume films.
So, the “funny” story about Videodrome and me… I couldn’t stop talking about it after i watched it. The meaning behind it, the politics, the gore effects, the freaky weirdness of it, the special effects… This is the first truly “not for kids” movie i ever saw and felt like i understood it. Scanners was more of a traditional horror film with lots of blood and guts, but i wouldn’t call it subversive. Videodrome was totally subversive, and i got it the moment i started watching the film for the first time. It sparked an awakening in me. So over the summer, while on vacation, again in that small sea-side town in the south of France, one of 2 theaters there showed it. It was common in France at the time for some theaters in the summer to show second-run movies, i.e., movies that were release over the previous year. For some reason, i thought my Mother could appreciate it. For some reason i am still not sure why, i talked her into coming with me for a showing. This had been my favorite movie of the year so far, one of my favorite movies ever at the time already. I wanted to share the excitement!
So we went. Well, at about 18mn in, my Mother started to express some strong discomfort when James Wood started piercing Debbie Harry’s ear. By minute 23, when Debbie Harry put a lit cigarette on her breast, that was it! Less than 25mn into the movie, my Mother freaked out and we had to leave the theater. She was upset by the movie and tried to have the parental talk about the evils of the world etc.. And i was like: it’s just a movie, subversive for sure, but i got that!
To this day, her reaction informs me about people who don’t get Horror, especially the move provocative and subversive films. They have a hard time separating Art from reality, like people going crazy in the 50’s when Lolita was published. I for one, yearn to experience a unique voice, a unique point of view. Whether it be in Literature, Film or Music, and wherever it leads to light or darkness. I try my best to appreciate the vision, and whether it was well executed. That’s simply it. For example, when i hear about people complaining that Lucio Fulci’s The New York Ripper is too violent and misogynist, i really don’t understand: it’s no more a call to violence towards woman than Lolita was a call to child molestation. But they both explore, in great detail and quality, some very dark corners of human nature.
Videodrome is an A+ film, a masterpiece. It’s an incredibly well executed and unique vision from a master of the genre, the closing chapter in a trilogy that started with The Brood and Scanners. David Cronenberg outdid himself and, imho, did not reach this kind of creative and artistic peak again until Naked Lunch. The soundtrack from Howard Shore is haunting and memorable. The lead performances are top notch. The cinematography and art direction are so freaking precise. The special effect from Rick Baker were ground breaking and still look amazing today. The writing is intelligent and the direction is as effective as a scalpel.
Videodrome is the movie that made me understand how Art could be subversive and how much i enjoyed that. And it was still funded by the Canadian Film Development Corporation.
- Laurent Hasson