Trailer of the Week: Cronenberg’s Sexy, Grotesque Crimes of the Future

If you’re one of those Cronenberg cinephiles who associates the Canadian director’s name with weirdness and body humor that can be by turns sly and sexy, his upcoming Crimes of the Future looks certain to satisfy. The Redband Trailer that dropped Friday features the film’s trio of leads—Kristen Stewart, Viggo Mortensen, and Léa Seydoux—in various stages of a scientific experiment that looks like Frankenstein meets Videodrome with a little 9-1/2 Weeks to sex things up.

Set in a dark, dank laboratory, the trailer opens with Seydoux’s character examining Mortensen’s, poking an instrument into his stomach. “I can feel you pulling things around in there,” he says, to which she replies, without any trace of alarm, “It’s a brand new organ, never before seen.” So there’s that—and more!

The film’s official description tells us that Mortensen plays performance artist Saul Tenser, whose work showcases the metamorphosis of his organs; Seydoux is apparently his partner, Caprice, who monitors his mutating body as it adapts to the synthetic environment they have developed, apparently some kind of water-borne crustacean cocoon. “We’ve all felt the body was empty, empty of meaning, and we’ve all wanted to confirm that so we could fill it with meaning,” she continues. She and Tenser lay together naked in the cocoon, their bodies pocked with flesh wounds.

And there the fun begins: it’s clear in Cronenbergian body horror—heck, it was clear in James Whales’ and Mary Shelley’s Frankensteins and in the myths of Prometheus and Pygmalion before that—that not all will go according to plan. Images of experiments gone awry flash across the screen, the most memorable of them a dancing naked elf-man with at least a half-dozen ears crossing his shaved skull.

“Surgery is the new sex,” declares Kristen Stewart’s character to Tenser as Seydoux watches in a Blue-Is-the-Warmest-Color-worthy gaze, and both female leads do a lot of heavy breathing throughout. Though the fleeting images suggest more painful experimentation, an investigation, and a murder, the trailer is not without humor: “Sorry,” deadpans Tenser, having been apparently a little too rough with one injection.

As the final images of the trailer flicker quickly across screen, the motif of impenetration, linked to surgery and sex, becomes more apparent, even so far as to include a gaping maw in Tenser’s stomach (recalling James Woods’ in Videodrome) that Caprice can hardly resist. “Let us create a map that will guide us into the Heart of Darkness,” she breathily exclaims, before leaning in to within inches of it with her open mouth. Woah. The trailer concludes with Tenser fully ensconced in his cocoon, opening his eyes to the new future he faces.

Scheduled to debut at Cannes next month, where it will compete for the Palme d’Or, Crimes of the Future concludes a long wait for Cronenberg’s body-horror and science fiction fans: it will be his first work in the genre since his 1999 eXistenZ. Will its map guide us to the Heart of Darkness, as Seydoux’s Caprice exhorts? Its bizarre imagery, body horror, and breathy sexuality all seem to suggest so.

Poster of Crimes of the Future

Written by J Paul Johnson

J Paul Johnson is Publisher of Film Obsessive. A professor emeritus of film studies and an avid cinephile, collector, and curator, his interests range from classical Hollywood melodrama and genre films to world and independent cinemas and documentary.

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