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Now Playing: Cosmopolis

Cosmopolis
dir. David Cronenberg, 2012, Canada/France

Rating: 8.9

The bottom line: long live the new New Flesh!

Now playing at Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema is Cosmopolis, David Cronenberg’s film adaptation of the acclaimed 2003 novel by Don DeLillo. Cosmopolis premiered to mixed reviews at the Cannes Film Festival in May, proving even more divisive than Cronenberg’s previous movie, 2011’s superb A Dangerous Method, which had premiered to mixed reviews at the Venice International Film Festival last fall. Both films have been derided by critics for being too “talky” and “static,” and for failing to successfully translate their literary source material to the screen (A Dangerous Method was based on a play by Christopher Hampton). These criticisms however are incredibly misguided; Cosmopolis, like A Dangerous Method, is a profoundly cinematic film that just so happens to be about language. Where Cronenberg’s previous film illustrated the therapeutic possibilities of the act of talking itself (via Sigmund Freud’s revolutionary “talking cure” in the early twentieth century), the new film shows how language can be wielded as a dangerous weapon in the modern day world of international high finance. Cosmopolis also simultaneously and gratifyingly harks back to Cronenberg’s pioneering early work in the “body horror” genre, especially Videodrome, in its depiction of a world where human beings seem capable of merging with, and are thus ultimately in danger of being replaced by, technology. As Pete Townshend might say, “Meet the new New Flesh / Same as the old New Flesh.”

Cosmopolis is also both the simplest and the most complex movie that David Cronenberg has ever made. The plot can be described in one sentence: A billionaire takes a limo ride from one end of Manhattan to the other in order to get a haircut. But, like the Jean-Luc Godard of Weekend (the ultimate traffic jam-as-metaphor film), Cronenberg believes that the journey is more important than the destination, and I’m not giving anything away by saying that Eric Packer, the film’s 28-year old protagonist and the limousine’s owner/chief passenger, does succeed in his goal of getting a trim. What’s more important to Cronenberg (and DeLillo) is using this basic scenario to comment upon the increasingly abstract nature of life in the 21st century. Eric Packer, played with chilling effectiveness by the blandly handsome teen-heartthrob Robert Pattinson, conducts business meetings, has sexual relations and even receives a medical exam (and the lines between these activities occasionally become provocatively blurred), all within the confines of the white stretch limo that serves as the film’s principal set. One gets the feeling that Packer could live his entire life inside of this car. Like the Alfred Hitchcock of Lifeboat, Rope and Rear Window, Cronenberg has set himself the challenge of making a movie mostly within a single confined space, a challenge that he overcomes through the technical virtuosity of his mise-en-scene. As the limo becomes deadlocked in traffic, Packer observes, on various touch screen devices, the dramatic appreciation of the Chinese yuan whose immediate fortunes he has bet against. The limo, soundproofed and sporting tinted windows, can be seen as both a cocoon shielding Packer from the outside world as well as an extension of the character’s own mind, and Cronenberg wrings a surprising amount of visual interest out of this location from his myriad camera setups. (The director has also said that one of the reasons he cast Pattinson was that he needed an actor whose face was conducive to being photographed from an infinite number of angles.)

One of the most common generic criticisms I hear about movies from my students (and this is particularly true after I screen New Hollywood films of the 1970s that center on anti-heroes such as McCabe and Mrs. Miller or Days of Heaven) is that they found it impossible to “care about” or “root for” the characters. This criticism has become so commonplace that I’ve developed stock replies of, “If you want to care about somebody, spend time with your family or friends” and “If you want to root for someone, watch a sporting event.” Then, coming down from my snarky high-horse, I more logically argue that it shouldn’t be necessary to like a movie’s characters in order to like a movie. In the final analysis, shouldn’t it just be enough to find the characters interesting? If it were a universal prerequisite to like a film’s protagonist in order to be able to enjoy a film, then absolutely everyone would hate Cosmpopolis because Eric Packer is the single most unlikable protagonist I’ve seen in a movie this year (and, remember, I’ve seen Killer Joe). Packer is impossibly wealthy, moves in the most rarified social circles, has access to technology and resources that 99% of movie audiences cannot conceive of, and also speaks a tech-heavy slang that nobody really understands. He is a man who has everything but is also dead inside. (I suspect many viewers will find the extreme stupidity of Joaquin Phoenix’s Freddie Quell to also be a stumbling block in appreciating Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, which opens in Chicago next month. Freddie is the polar opposite of the genius Eric Packer; he’s the dumbest lead character I can recall seeing in a dramatic Hollywood movie, even dumber than Raging Bull‘s Jake LaMotta.)

The soullessness of Packer, of course, is precisely Cronenberg’s point. The specifics of Packer’s business, how exactly he’s “bet against” the yuan, don’t matter. Cosmopolis is ultimately a portrait of the alienating effects of wealth and technology. The most instructive way for Cronenberg to show this is to focus on a member of the 1%: a man who lives in a bubble, stares endlessly at computer screens and never sees any physical results of the kind of work he does. Appropriately, the film’s brilliant dialogue, written by Cronenberg but recycling a lot of the text of DeLillo’s novel verbatim, isn’t meant to be “understood” in the conventional sense. What matters is the emotion lying underneath all of the curiously cadenced technobabble. (For those in tune with what Cronenberg is up to, the climactic scene between Packer and a disgruntled employee portrayed by Paul Giamatti is going to come across as a particularly impressive high-wire act of writing/directing/acting.) A more naturalistic rendering of one billionaire’s personal financial crisis, even if it may coincide with the current financial crisis, would probably be deadly dull to watch. In the dream-like world of Cosmopolis, however, finance itself is only a Macguffin in much the same fashion as the “spy stuff” in a Hitchcock movie that nobody really cares about or remembers afterwards. As the always-articulate Cronenberg himself put it in a recent interview, “I think of (Cosmopolis) like a sci-fi movie where the intergalactic pilot is explaining the way his spaceship works. You don’t need to know what he’s talking about, you just need to believe that he knows what he’s talking about. Eric Packer understands when his Chief of Theory is explaining how the future connects with capitalism. It excites him, and that’s all you need to know.”

Cosmopolis is not a film for everyone, although it will definitely satisfy a certain type of adventurous viewer (you know who you are). I think of it as the inverse of the last film I saw at the Landmark, and the most overrated movie of the year, Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild. Both films are literal and figurative odysseys that reference real world socio-economic turbulence (the Occupy movement in Cosmopolis, the fallout of Hurricane Katrina in Beasts) but remain a step removed from reality in order to better reinforce each filmmaker’s philosophical point-of-view. The crucial difference between them is the difference between abstraction and vagueness. Cronenberg is deliberately abstract on a superficial level in order to reach greater psychological truths about modern living whereas Zeitlin is deliberately vague when it should matter most in order to better sweep the viewer along in a sea of feel-good emotion. While Beasts uses its adorable moppet-heroine as a floating signifier to rewrite the tragedy of Katrina and charm audiences with a fictional interracial utopia, Cosmopolis intentionally disturbs viewers in its depiction of a chaotic world where a man with no soul hurtles inexorably toward an uncertain future with terrifying velocity. In spite of its surface topicality, Beasts could have, and probably should have, been made forty years ago. Cosmopolis, by contrast, is a film every bit as coolly alluring and unsettling as the twenty-first century it chronicles.

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About michaelgloversmith

Filmmaker, author and Film Studies instructor. View all posts by michaelgloversmith

43 responses to “Now Playing: Cosmopolis

  • Trev Gibb

    Good review Michael. Looking forward to seeing it. Read the book a few years ago on a train to Scotland, always thought it would make a good film. Delillo is like Baudrillard and Ballard in terms of perfectly describing the abstract life of the late 20th/early 21st century. Haven’t seen A Dangerous Method just yet. On a similar note.. have you seen any of Adam Curtis’ documentaries? The Century of Self, Machines of Loving Grace, Pandora’s Box?

    • michaelgloversmith

      Thanks, Trev. I tried to keep it “spoiler-free.” I actually haven’t read Cosmpopolis (though I’ve flipped through it) but I greatly admire White Noise and Mao II, both of which, as you say, accurately describe the modern world.

      I thought A Dangerous Method was grossly misunderstood.

      Haven’t seen anything by Adam Curtis but I will look into him.

  • Bherz

    Great review. Looking forward to it, though I may have to wait till I’m angry at “the Man” and need some empathy. Although, who wouldn’t race out to see a “blandly handsome Robert Pattinson”. Really interesting thoughts.

    • michaelgloversmith

      Ben, this movie’s really weird. I have a feeling it’s going to alienate a lot of people, including those who normally dig Cronenberg. I have a feeling that you in particular would really like it though. BTW, I guess you could say I’m now officially Team Edward!

  • david

    WoW,another high ratings you gave here! This is a film I tried to avoid because Robert Pattinson is in it,so how’s his performance?

    Looking forward to your The Master review!

    • michaelgloversmith

      Pattinson’s performance is excellent. I think he’s got a bright future as an adult actor. I’m surprised that you would avoid a movie because of its lead actor though – even if it was made by a great director. You should know to trust Cronenberg; nobody ever gives a bad performance in his movies!

      I’m working on my review for The Master now, which will have an even higher rating than Cosmopolis. Should be up in a couple weeks (before its general release). That’s a tough movie to write about, especially after only one viewing.

      • david

        You are right,I should always trust director’s taste on his casts especially it’s Cronenberg,but will Pattinson rises like Dicaprio? We’ll see.

  • Rebecca Retondo (@RebeccaRetondo)

    I really want to see this movie now even more after reading this! I always thought Robert Pattinson was a good actor…the millions of screaming tweens could not bring down his talent. And if it’s as weird as you say, even better! Those always seem to make the best kinds of movies.

  • Victor De Leon

    Fantastic review. Very detailed and I love your viewpoint and angle. I agree that you don’t need to love a character or “root” for them in order to enjoy the movie. I, as well, like when Cronenberg takes us and a “figurative odyssey” like you claim. Keep up the great work. I’m looking forward to this one.

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  • Phyllis Jones

    I saw Cosmopolis on 8/24/12, and again on 8/31/12. I also read the book twice. This is one of the best movies I have seen in the last five years. This movie makes you think about it long after you have left the theater. Its not a movie for everyone, but it for those who like to think outside of the box. Excellent review write-up. I look forward to purchasing the DVD. Robert Pattinson owns Eric Packer.

  • BuckyW (@cosmopolis_blog writer)

    Superb review, as I noted on twitter when retweeting the link and select quotes yesterday. We’ve been writing on this film since it was first greenlit in Jan. ’11, blogging on DeLillo’s novel, themes, the production, the cast and the Cronenberg’s work. We’ve think we’ve read every review out there, and your stands out, in our opinion, for really “getting” the source material and film, providing useful analysis for someone contemplating seeing it, and making observations and points that many reviewers have not. I plan to post your review on our site- a portion with link to full here (generally we include excerpts and links.)

  • BuckyW (@cosmopolis_blog writer)

    I would just add something for people who are unfamiliar with Pattinson’s work prior to “Cosmopolis” (outside of Twilight) and may wish to explore some of his indie work as Cronenberg did before casting him. Cronenberg noted being impressed with him in “Little Ashes” and “Remember Me.” “Little Ashes” Cronenberg noted for his ability to handle the accent (young Salvador Dali), and willingness to take on the very difficult role of playing a “character of ambiguous sexuality and eccentricities” (and he was only 20 then, with not many films under his belt). “Remember Me” was a fine film directed by Allen Coulter, of “Hollywood Land” and “The Sopranos” fame.

    • michaelgloversmith

      Bucky, thanks for the support and thanks for the recommendations of the other movies. Somehow I missed hearing about Remember Me completely but I will definitely check it out. Hollywoodland is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated Hollywood films of the past decade.

      The more I think about Pattinson’s performance in Cosmopolis, the more I realize how truly excellent it is. What I especially like about it is its effortlessness. Most young actors make the mistake of always trying to ratchet up the intensity and thus make the viewer keenly aware of just how hard they’re working. Everyone from Leo DiCaprio (whom I admire) to Shia LeBoeuf (whom I do not) is guilty of this. Pattinson just spits out his lines simply and directly with a kind of contemptible smirk on his face that is perfectly appropriate to the character. But then he also subtly reveals more layers to Eric Packer as the film progresses. The acting and the dialogue seem outrageously stylized in the beginning but become less so as the film progresses. The acting in the barber shop scene and in the final scene in Levin’s apartment, in particular, is surprisingly naturalistic and moving. When Pattinson sheds a tear right on cue several minutes into a single long take at the end, I was almost ready to cry with him. And then I had to ask myself, did Cronenberg and Pattinson intend for this dreamlike world to become more real or am I just getting more used to it? I think it’s the former. I hope those two team up again like Cronenberg and Mortensen did.

  • BuckyW (@cosmopolis_blog writer)

    For anyone interested, site is cosmopolis-film.com. Saw it didn’t post. Again, great review, hope it encourages readers to check out the film in theaters or DVD. It should.

    • michaelgloversmith

      Bucky, I just checked out your terrific site. I love your piece on why Packer wants to get a haircut, which really gets to the heart of his character. Packer may be disconnected from reality and the little boy he once was but he’s also acutely aware of this, which makes his plight exceedingly poignant. The barber shop is Packer’s “rosebud,” reminding him of a simpler time, perhaps the only truly happy time in his life, before he became corrupted by wealth.

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  • alleyandthemovies

    Great review! This is the only positive rating I’ve seen on the Internet for this movie, so I’m glad to see it has some fans. And, I would like to applaud you for this quote: ” I more logically argue that it shouldn’t be necessary to like a movie’s characters in order to like a movie. In the final analysis, shouldn’t it just be enough to find the characters interesting?”

  • Zach Olmstead

    I finally found a theatre near me that was playing Cosmopolis, but I arrived late the first time due to misunderstood directions and missed the first few minutes. Feeling very out of touch, I left and came back a week later and saw the whole thing. It’s definitely one of Cronenberg’s more interesting films and I liked how the style was more reminiscient of his earlier works. However, I don’t think it was quite as good as A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, and A Dangerous Method. I’m actually writing a review right now for my college paper.

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  • Krista P

    Cosmopolis

    Erics firsts words in this film are, “I need a haircut.” His goal is to get a haircut and Cronenberg makes that very clear. I think Erics hair should have longer and a messy, but for a billionaire that wouldn’t be suitable.
    Erics limo was his home, literally. His restroom, his doctors office, he even has sex in his limo cheating on his wife! The only thing he doesn’t do in the limo is eat. He meets his gorgeous wife to eat his meals, which I found funny. He is a very lonely man, self-destructive to say the least! In this one scene he is having sex with on of his employees and he asks her to shoot him with the tazzor (sp) gun. To me that says a lot about his personality and how he hates himself. He wants to feel pain, because pain does make you feel alive. He is a sick, demented man, and as the film continued it all made sense.
    Eric slowly starts to crash and crumble, his looks, his outfit and I and when he meets Benno I think this is where he becomes humble. Benno AKA Richard is my favorite character. He is so dramatic. I loved the towel he kept putting on his head! His acting was out of this world! I really felt for Benno, I just wanted to give him a hug! I know what anxiety feels like, however, I never hid under a towel! The acting was brilliant!!! In this scene I feel that Eric has a real conversation with someone. They are both holding two guns, and Eric has no fear. Why? I think because he doesn’t care if he lives or dies. He doesn’t have much to live for anyway. He just shot his employee, he hates himself, his wife wants nothing to do with him, he is just miserable.
    The last scene was my favorite, when he finally gets his haircut. Or did he? I don’t want to spoil it for the people who haven’t seen it yet. I believe that Eric went to this barber, his father’s barber, for comfort. It was a hole in the wall, and he could have gone anywhere to get a haircut. Eric had such a long, traumatic day, seeing someone he knew probably made him feel good. I loved the scenery of the barbershop. Very old school, the cross, Mother Mary and very dingy looking. That set the mood for what just happened moments before.

  • Adrian

    Cosmopolis

    In many countries there is a crab bucket phenomenon that insist that we do whatever it takes to be successful. Our perceptions of accomplishment often mutate according to the persistent imagery of the media and world around us. The poor seem to fight be the wealthy and the rich seem to struggle for the simplicities of the poor. Cosmopolis, directed by David Cronenberg in 2012, is a film that demonstrates the transformative states people undergo in the pursuit of happiness within capitalism.

    Cronenberg takes his audience on a limousine ride that they will never forget. The film cast the main character, a 28-year-old asset manager, Robert Pattinson (Eric Packer) while featuring the likes of Paul Giamatti and Juliette Binoche. The beginning kicks off with the insane notion of Eric wanting to get a haircut stubbornly at the barbershop he and his father have always gone to although the president is in town and his iconic rapper friend’s funeral is taking place. The interesting thing is the way he lives his world in his limousine from his employees giving him data, sexual encounters, and doctor visits with rectal examinations while his employee gives him information. Eventually we start to understand that this closed in world has caused him a sense of disconnect that Eric just can’t be content with and from there we start to see this character transform in a way that Cronenberg’s direction is known for.

    Much like in the film Certified Copy, directed by Abbas Kiarostami, we embark on a captivating yet strange mutation of the characters in the film demonstrating the emptiness one feels even when it seems that all is together. An example of this is the way that in both films, the pursuit of feeling accomplished caused them to have to reflect on themselves in the end. Also the film Life Without Principle, directed by Johnnie To, contrast with this film in the way of displaying the lengths people will go to earn their place in a capitalistic society. An example would be such as when Eric Parker shot his bodyguard with his own gun to free himself of the same safety his limousine provided. These distracted him from understanding his wife, art, and the simplicity of the less fortunate, which in turn sent him on a self-mutating spree of violence and freedom.

    In the end, we witness Eric go to his barbershop only to get half of a cut done matching is uneven prostate from his exam earlier. This shows the imbalance in his life and Eric letting go of “perfection” due to it not giving him everything he thought it could. Finally he encounters Paul, a former employee, which seems to be distraught and wants to kill the capitalistic minded Eric who shoots his own hand just to feel something new. Here is where we see the unfortunate and the “fortunate” have so much in common. They are both miserable in the grand finale. The crazy back and forth insist that they both want what they yet to have or understand leaving them to need each other in that moment in time however the outcome.

    The director used shots that would make the limousine seem larger to express Eric’s world he made for himself. Cronenberg paints the confinement of wealth and robotic thinking. He also illustrates the outside world of anger and frustration from the bottom of a capitalist society through depictions of rats possibly insisting on the “rat race”. Through this all, the director displays the changes we endure to find our role in society through Cinematography (making his world seem bigger than outside of the limo) and lots of purposeful and meaningless dialogue.

  • brad

    Cosmopolis is a story about, Eric Packer, a 28 old year self-made billionaire that is attempting to make a killing shorting the Chinese yuan. He is on his way to get his hair cut somewhere in Manhattan. On his way to the barbershop, Eric is also conducting all kinds of other personal business in the back seat of his mobile office—a sleek fully equipped stretch limo. He comically alternates between having philosophical conversations with a variety of weird financial advisors, sex with several very attractive prostitutes and has his daily prostrate examination prior to running into his wife for breakfast on his way to a barbershop appointment across town.
    What is really strange about Eric is that he somehow realizes that he will lose everything in the market, and he takes no pleasure in being part of the upper one percent of American society. He states that “All wealth has become wealth for its own sake.” Eric wants to see someone from the past, someone who actually performs a service for real people, someone that he can talk to, and someone who has always been part of his life—his barber! Eric realizes that his world is going up in flames, and he is obsessed about not being on top when it does. Eric wants to talk to the man who has always been there for him before he dies. Eric Patterson represents the true meaning of what 21st century capitalist society is all about—things rather than people.
    As the limo moves slowly through the streets of Manhattan, Packer fears that he is going to die very soon. Eric sees anarchy in the streets as he envisions himself being murdered in a violent revolution. He feels that he needs more time to enjoy the remainder of his short life. Eric appears as a shady character in tightly framed close-ups wearing black and white clothing and dark sun glasses. His sleek white limo resembles a bubble that may soon be about to burst. Eric envisions his life in shades of black and white. He sees nothing beautiful about life. The markets only go up and down. Eric is smart enough to know that eventfully he is going to lose everything. He believes, “The rat will become our new currency.” Eric Packer represents the top one percent of contemporary American society.

  • darcy

    While watching Cosmopolis, I couldn’t help but to compare and contrast it to Taxi Driver, another film about an insane main character who travels through New York City by vehicle. However, these are pretty much where the similarities end, as Scorsese and Cronenberg took completely different approaches at telling their story. If Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver was supposed to be viewed as a strangely sympathetic character who represented the people on the bottom, then Cosmopolis’s Eric Packer would be his counterpart: a cold-hearted, opulent 28-year old man who represents the 1% that everyone envies.

    In Taxi Driver, the cinematography was used to make New York City appear vivacious and beautiful through the eyes of Travis, from the rich color palette to the dozens of cars and people roaming in the night. Even if you’ve never been to New York, you could instantly get a feel for what New York City was like based on the cinematography. In Cosmopolis, despite its name, I hardly got to see New York City, or much of anything for that matter. If I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the city it was a fake looking set, however, as the film went on, the set appeared more and more real, which I think symbolized how his world was expanding after he interacted with more and more people (even though most of them were from the upper 1% as well). Cosmopolis also didn’t have much of a score compared to Taxi Driver, which I think was another technique at alienating the audience from the beginning, leaving me feeling cold and isolated.

    I think one of the reasons why Travis came across as more sympathetic than Eric was because the audience was allowed to see more of his life from his perspective, a small portion of it was actually in a taxi, and the people he was interacting with displayed loneliness and helpless, despite their composed demeanor. In Cosmopolis, even though there were scenes of Eric feeling alienated from the crowd, such as when he was in a nightclub, the camera focused on Eric’s face, and even in a place as vivacious as a club, the focus was still on him. To Eric, he was the most important part of the city, and there was nothing else that was worth his time (except getting his haircut, which was his goal throughout the entire film, and he wasn’t going to let anything stand in his way).

  • Alina

    Cosmopolis is a confusing look into the life of billionaire Eric Parker. Parker’s sheer wealth has led him to lead a bizarre life inside a private bubble. Most of the film takes place in his limousine, where has almost everything he needs in life. He is so privileged that he has a doctor’s appointment everyday inside the limo. His perception of reality is quite skewed and strange. He feels entitled to the world and as though money can buy him it. One could say he believes it’s his world and we are living it. When speaking about buying something his agent says it belongs to the world. Parker comes back with, “It’s mine if I buy it.”
    Eric Parker is extremely narcissistic. When he hears about the death of his favorite musician he says, “How can he be dead? I have his music.” Even when speaking of the death of another person, one of the most powerful events, he sees it based on himself. When he cried a few minutes later it is surely because he wont get any more music, not because the artist has died.
    His wealth makes him powerful and makes him believe he can have anything he wants. Even though he is married, he sleeps with any woman he chooses and many at that. He is so dissociated that when he brings his wife to dinner he points out what she is wearing. When she gets upset he says that he’s noticing what she wears as if that’s what husbands are supposed to do. There is no emotional intimacy between them, and their marriage seems cold and distant. Parker himself is cold and evil. He just chooses to murder his bodyguard like its nothing. He is obviously unraveling and destroying his own life, but murder is evil and it takes no second thought for him. Cosmopolis is thought provoking, strange, and twisted look into money, greed, and evil.

  • Torrance McWhorter

    The movie Cosmopolis was an interesting movie. It was a movie that keeps you entertained throughout the movie. Eric Packer is one of the main characters in the movie. He is a billionaire that does the majority of his work out of his limo. He seems not to have a main office that he works at. He conducts all of his business out of his limo including a doctor appointment and a meeting with his accountant.
    This movie shows you by having all the money in the world you can still destroy you. What I noticed in this film what kept Eric level headed was his wife. It seems as if he only saw her throughout the day only for meal times. She was also rich and had a feeling that he was cheating on her which he was. She used to tell him that he smelled like sex however he would lie to her and tell her that he was not. He would have sex with the ladies in his limo.
    One of the woman that he had sex with was one of his body guards. That was supposed to protect him. It just shows you that when you have money people will do anything for a person with money. All of Eric’s choices comes back and back fires on him. Later in the movie when his wife tells him she wants to file for a devoice. This is what sends him over the edge.
    He runs into a guy that wants to kill him because of the way that Eric treated him. The guy shots at him twice but misses him both times. Eric runs into the building were the guy was shooting to comfort him. At this point in the movie I was not sure if the guy that was doing the shooting at him was a real person of a made up person because at the end of the movie Eric shots himself in his hand before the guy shots him in his head.
    This movie was pretty good however the dialog and the speaking parts were hard to keep up with, but I would recommend this movie to a friend.

  • Nicole Ochal

    Cosmopolis

    The movie Cosmopolis gives us an inside look of a billionaire life. The main character is Eric Packer, and he is a young, wealthy, and powerful man. His life consists of doing whatever he wants to do that day, and as a billionaire, the possibilities are endless. We see a side of his life that only he sees and we get to be apart of the life he was made to live. He is a young guy who can get whatever he wants and that he does. He has a new wife who refuses to sleep with him because she sees his true colors, as the movie goes on we see that he sleeps with many girls and that he really has a life only he could live.
    He lives a life of a man that is lonely and is missing something in his life. But what can we expect, he is a young billionaire who has always had money, who simply has lost touch in what it is really like to be just a human being. I think that being that extremely rich doesn’t do a person any good in life, when you have all those cars to drive who do you turn to to go for a ride and just treat you like a normal person. Billionaires hang out with other billionaires because of the security, people with that much money cant be hanging out with people that don’t because they don’t have as many opportunities or have the means to be.
    Eric Packer is a typical rich snob, the words, money can buy anything really ring true to him, because he has such an endless supply of money, money to him now is just so material and something that he doesn’t think twice about. As the movie goes on we start to see more and more of his true self come out and really see his true colors, although hes a raging asshole, he really does see the world around him and realize that the life that he is living isn’t something relatable for many people, and he notices a lack of presence in people. The reason why he wanted to sleep with his wife so bad was because she kept denying him, she had more money then he did, the only draw was that he couldn’t have it. Which is something most of us can relate to, we always want what we cant have and for him it really burns inside of him, while he tries to fill the missing pieces of his life and put them together only to realize that at the end of the day if someone has their gun pointed at your face none of the things that were important seem so important anymore.
    In the ending scene where he meets with his shooter I think what the main message was that he was by himself, talking face to face with this man that wasn’t trying to impress him or try to say something he would like, he was just there as a normal person too with no body guards or anyone standing in the way of chaos! I truly think that at the end of the movie Eric did enjoy the visit with that man because you can tell that he was really taking his guard down and trying to be on earth and understand something that he has lost touch with for so many years.
    Great film!

  • LuLu

    Cosmopolis is a French film that first premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. The film was not only directed by David Cronenberg, but he also wrote and produced it. It was also a Canadian and French co-production. Cronenberg is known for creating the horror sub-genre, body horror, which is a type of filmmaking style. Body horror explores intellectual ideas on the fear of dying, body decay, and body transformation with technology. Cronenberg worked with this filmmaking style throughout the 80s. His recent films explore similar themes presented in different concepts and ways.
    On the surface Cosmopolis has a very unique and simple storyline. When I first heard the plot in class as, “A billionaire takes a limo ride from one end of the city to the other in order to get a haircut.” I thought to myself, “Okay that doesn’t sound too complicated” and wondered why someone would do a film on this. I was also looking forward to seeing Robert Pattinson (Go team edward lol) on screen again since I was a huge “Twi-hard” when the Twilight Saga came out. After watching this film, Cosmopolis was not as simple as I thought it was going to be. The film was definitely unique and was complicated to understand at times, especially the word exchange between the characters. However Pattison did a really great job of portraying his character. I like how the director was looking for someone who could be captured from many different angles. Pattinson was definitely the right choice.
    In class Professor Smith talked about how after watching a movie we tend to find ways to identify with the character or try to tie the film back to us. In Cosmopolis it was hard to do this, because the main character Eric Packer (Pattison) seemed to be literally living in his limo. This limo literally protected him from the outside world, it was his cocoon. I felt that his personality was to self-destruct and he had to go through extreme measures to feel something. I agree with my classmates on the limo being a mirror of himself. As he starts to self-destruct throughout the film the limo is becoming more beat up on the outside. I can see how the story itself was irrelevant to what the film was doing. The plot was an excuse to help get points across on 21st century Global Capitalism.
    “Life is too contemporary,” was a line that stood out to me during the film. I really like what we talked about in class that films are always trying to make technology more futuristic than it is in real life. I have never thought about in that way. Technology can definitely be seen in this film especially inside the limo. The glow of the screens equals the glow of capitalism and how it never slows down. The movie mentioned how cyber-capital is making up the future. I think one of Cronenberg’s main points was that we live in a society where the present is sucked out to make room for the future. It’s interesting to see it from this perspective on how we’re always planning ahead.
    Overall Cosmopolis was very different to the films that I would go out and see. It was cool to see Robert Pattison on screen again in a very different role. It was interesting to see what the director was trying to do with this film.

  • Marguerite Yang

    The film, Cosmopolis, 2012, directed by David Cronenberg was a film that focuses more on its theme than on any storyline. The storyline was that a man, Eric, was driven across New York City to get a haircut at a specific barbershop. Due to unusually heavy traffic, the trip takes all day. During that day, several people meet with Eric in the car (a limousine) one at a time. He also gets out of the car several times during the day long trip. The film does make a comment on the evils of severe capitalism – but that is not the main storyline or theme.

    The theme of the film appeared to be that Eric wanted what he could not have, and his self-destruction as he tried to get what he could not have. The director portrays this want and this self-destruction in several ways throughout the film. The following discusses a few examples.

    Eric wants to have sex with his blond haired perfect looking wife, but she repeatedly refused. His self-destruction was in his having sex with other women, which his wife noticed and then commented on his smelling like he had sex. Her knowing about his sex with others appeared to make her even more emphatic in her refusal to have sex with him.

    Eric wanted a chapel full of paintings instead of the one painting his art dealer found for him. When the art dealer told him he could not have the chapel paintings because the current owners wanted the paintings available to the public, his response was an even more forceful demand that he be able to buy the paintings. He finished his demand with the statement that the public would not see the paintings when he buys them and that he could do that because he was buying them. The argument ended in a stalemate because Eric was told by his art dealer that his money could not buy the paintings especially because Eric would not let them be seen by the public after purchase. Eric did not do what he could do (buy the one painting) and instead pushed for what he could not have. And in the process, his arguments with his art dealer damaged his friendly relationship with his art dealer and he ended up with no paintings.

    The ultimate example of Eric wanting what he could not have, and the cause for his self-destruction, occurred in the barbershop he had been traveling too all day. The barbershop was staged like a never modernized barbershop with decades-old customer chairs and fixtures. The scene starts with Eric arriving at the shop too late – the shop was closed. The Barber obviously recognized Eric and let him into the shop. There was a child’s chair shaped like a decades-old automobile, which the director had the barber reminisce about Eric actually using when Eric was a child. Eric appeared to be sad during the barber’s reminiscing over happy trips to that shop by Eric and his father when Eric was a child young enough to sit in the child’s chair. This is the first scene in the film that Eric appeared sad. Previously in the movie Eric showed an array of emotions including anger, depression and frustration, but not sadness. The director clearly showed that Eric’s day long trip to this shop was a try at going back to what Eric had had when he was young – and that Eric could not go back to those happier times. The ending proof of this inability to go back was when Eric left the shop with only half of his hair cut.

    The director portrays Eric initially as a man who has everything, including personal safety. This safety was evidenced by his driving around in an armored limousine and his ever present diligent armed body guard. The director had depicted the limousine as a safe haven from the craziness outside (for example, protestors with rats, extreme poverty, and person threatening his life). Those that entered the limousine became used by Eric, and then thrown out of the limousine. But Eric’s self-destructive actions lost him that personal security. These actions included his leaving the limousine several times during that day and Eric killing his own body guard. In the last scenes, which take place outside of the limousine, Eric confronts bullets aimed at him, and then the stranger trying to kill him. Though Eric has a gun, he does not shoot the stranger, ironically, Eric shoots himself.

    The stranger in the last scene describes the theme of the movie well. The stranger tells Eric that “Icarus fell,” “you did it to yourself.” Icarus is a classical myth about a person who had wings of wax that gave him the fantastic ability to fly. Icarus wanted more, and his ego got the best of him and he flew too close to the sun, which melted his wings and caused him to crash. Eric, like Icarus, had thought too much of himself and his ego caused him to be unhappy and self-destruct.

    I would recommend to others to see this film if they have an interest in stories of self-destruction.

  • Tamara Fleysh

    David Cronenberg in the movie “Cosmopolis” portrays one day from the life of Eric Parker, a billionaire and asset manager. In the beginning of the movie we saw how Eric Parker is out of touch with reality: when he is on mission to get a haircut, he does not understand how traffic could be so bad when in reality at the same time the president of the United States was visiting the city and there is the funeral of famous rap star, Eric’s favorite musician. Eric acts as though he is from another planet, spending all his of his time in his tinted glass stretch limousine with cork insolation for soundproofing. His limousine look more like a spaceship than a car or an office.
    In the movie Parker thinks of himself as a very important person. He says, “we need a haircut” or “we don’t care”. He believes that money allows to do whatever he wants ( buy the Chapel with fourteen or fifteen painting, get a very wealthy wife who is a poet).
    During the day Eric Parker met many people. He did not have an emotional connection with a single one. Not his wife who a stranger to him or women he had sex with (the art dealer or a security guard) understood him.
    He was fascinated by protesters who were burning themselves to give a massage to people and make people think.
    In the beginning of the movie Eric Parker was a successful asset manager in fancy suit, well groomed in shiny stretchy limousine. However, gradually everything began to fall apart: he lost company money from betting against the Chinese Yuan, he lost his tie and jacket, his limousine was trashed and painted by protesters, his wife announced she would divorced him, he was diagnosed with an asymmetrical prostate, he got a crooked haircut, and a protester threw food in his face.
    On one side Eric Parker was scared of death (getting checkup every day and worried that he is not youngest person in the business), on another side he wanted something that he had never known before (he asked the security guard to use a Taser on him and later he shot his own hand). Losing money and having threat on his life allowed him to feel free because it allows him to feel emotions he had never felt before.
    I think when Eric Parker started his day he had known he would die that night. This is reason why he wanted to go on another side of the city in the dangerous area to get a haircut by barber who cut his hair and his father hair. He killed his chief of security and thrown a gun because he does not want to take any precautions and protect himself. He went in to the house, where he knows somebody prepared to kill him. I think on some level he doe not want to die. However, he does not do anything to stop Benno, his potential killer. I think he made this decision because he did not see a purpose of his life (he did not help anybody, he did not do any charity, he did not have a family or friends, he ruined his marriage, he cannot safe Benno).

  • Alex Rey

    Eric Packer is a man who represents all the wealth that is in this country, otherwise known as the one percent. We see this man has everything from a limo you can live in, to a staff that follows his every command. Although this man seemingly has everything, he always wants what he can’t have. Eric’s wife is willing to spend time with him, but she never lays in bed with him like a married couple. When she rejects him we learn an important part of Eric’s personality, that he will still go after what he wants. After the first time his wife rejects him he has sex with his art dealer, who also informs him he can’t have everything he wants no matter how rich he is, and later with his head of security after lunch with his wife.
    The limo in this movie symbolizes the bubble that the rich live in. While he is inside learning of the stock market and how to get even more money, everyone else is on the outside working a job or rioting in the streets because of the uneven distribution of wealth. Over the course of the movie we see Eric’s life slowly fall apart, and eventually how he acts when his protection is gone.
    During his daily check up with a doctor he learns he is completely healthy, except for an asymmetrical prostate. He asks what this means but we hear no answer from the doctor. This question, along with where do the limos go at night, is on his mind for the rest of the movie but none of his expert staff can give him answers. Later we learn that Eric bet wrong on the fate of the currency of another country and begins to lose millions of dollars. After he learns how much money he is losing, we see his wife for the third and final time because she leaves him. Now he is truly spiraling out of control.
    Before he gets his haircut, which is what he wanted this whole movie, we see him kill his security guard and then throw away the gun, even though earlier it was stated by that guard that there was a credible threat to his life. When he is in the barber shop he takes the barbers food even though he has already had breakfast, lunch and dinner. Also dessert if you count the pie in the face. Half way through the hair cut he gets up because he realizes he wants something else, but before he leaves the barber gives him his gun so he can be safe. He gets back into the limo but sits in the front as opposed to the luxurious back. At the end of the ride he learns where the limo goes from his driver. Soon after the limo goes into the garage shots are fired at Eric Parker. When he runs in the building and gets to the door he mutters “Nancy Babbich” which was the code for the gun he used to shoot his security guard. It’s as if he was giving himself permission to kill.
    The man who shot at Eric is clearly mentally unstable, as we hear him talk about how the fungus between his toes tells him to kill Eric. During the conversation we learn that this man also has an asymmetrical prostate and tells Eric that it means nothing. The only people to be able to provide Packer with the answers he needs are normal people. The movie ends with a gun pointed to the back of Eric’s head, as we have seen him fall from the top death is a fitting ending to this film.

  • Danny

    “Money does not buy happiness but it calms the nerve.” A statement from Joe E. Lewis regarding how money can’t buy you everything you mentally have ever wanted, it also couldn’t be any truer of the main character, Eric Packer, in the movie Cosmopolis. Eric, (played by Robert Pattinson) is a self-made billionaire at only twenty-eight years old. Because of his wealth, many people want to be around him and do things with him. But they are in fact using him because of his fame and money. Eric is not a happy soul as his world is only about making money. He isn’t a nice or a down-to-earth person. He doesn’t have any true friends, acquaintances, or even one good relationship, even with his wife. He only married so he could get her into bed. His wife is the one person who sees through him and his macho man attitude of just wanting sex. He can only attempt at faking a “normal” conversation with her whenever they eat (“these are the kinds of things I’m supposed to ask, right?”) By the end of the movie, even this relationship is no more and she wants a divorce. 

    Eric doesn’t understand what it is like to be a normal person and is always in his self-absorbed world. Throughout the movie, Eric is seen in his limo which seems to be able to withstand anything that hits it. He also has body guards around the car at all time ready to protect him at any point if there’s even a mild threat of any sort (a doctor who Eric scheduled to check on him is assaulted and interrogated before Eric gives the guard the clear that he’s okay). This seems like a metaphor for wanting to protect and insulate himself from the real world where he might actually feel something and become a real person.

    However, he attempts to break out of this world by killing his head of security to defend himself, going to his father’s barber to experience a sense of familiarity, and even shooting himself in the hand as a means of finally feeling something since he seems to feel nothing at all.

    Overall, I thought that while I really enjoyed the movie, I thought it was also an interesting character study of one of the most horrible characters ever seen on the silver screen. Unlike his other films (I’m thinking “Twilight” here), Pattinson, himself, does an excellent job of portraying this unlikable character and turns in a hell of a performance. As mentioned in our class, David Cronenberg, the director, wanted an actor who could be filmed from different camera angles and would look different every time. I totally saw that with Pattinson with his slight smirks to the small gestures he makes. He proves that to be evil and ruthless, you don’t have to be yelling and screaming, laughing maniacally, and running crazily around. As a result, he really makes the film incredibly interesting to watch. That said, I can’t recall a moment where his character isn’t in a scene since he seems to do such a great job of stealing all the scenes. Good work Mr. Pattinson!

  • Mia

    Cosmopolis (Cronenberg, Canada/France/Portugal/Italy, 2012)

    Cosmopolis is a film that invites us to take peek inside the mysterious bubble encasing the lives of the 1%. In Cosmopolis, this “bubble” metaphor is translated into a limo. The limo is the bubble that cuts off the rest of the world from the wealthiest 1% of the population. Almost everything that happens to Eric Packer happens in his limo, including his daily doctor appointments. The interesting thing about Eric Packer is that while he is a rich, narcasistic snob, he seems to have an attraction to the not so luxurious outside world that he has been unexposed to. Eric Packer seems to be an unrelatable asshole but you have to understand where this behavior comes from. Just like some people are born into poverty, Eric was born into wealth. The financial circumstances surrounding a person changes the way that person behaves. The funny thing about Eric is that for some reason on this particular day, something changes inside of him. Finally, the feeling of loniless catches up to him and he becomes desperate to feel something real, something human.
    Something I noticed in Cosmopolis that I found interesting was that Eric always took his wife to greasy spoons instead of posh, high end eateries. Whenver they ate at a local diner, there would be people all around them, people belonging to the 99%. At one point, a group of anarchists run into a diner with rats to protest the wealthiest 1% and instead of fear, Eric displays positive interest. He smiles at the people who detest his existence. It wasn’t until dinner time that Eric and his wife decide to go to a restaurant more suitable for their crowd. Thus, they are the only people in the restaurant.

    I think the reason Eric kills his body guard, shoots his own hand, and confronts the man who wants to kill him more than anyone else is because he simply wants to feel something authentic, something that doesn’t just want his money. Everyone around him caters to his needs because of his wealth, not because of Eric, the person. While we all wish we could be rich and we all spend our lives trying to build up wealth, no one really considered why a rich man/woman would want to be poor. The relationships and the harships, the bullshit we put up with, the fights, the love, and even our losses are worth more than all of the money. When you have more money than 99% of the world, you might as well live on another planet. It must be awful to feel like a stranger in your own home, where no one recognizes you, no one sees you, no one understands you. To the rest of the world, you don’t even seem human. While the whole world knows your name, your money, and your worth, no one knows you. In Cosmopolis, Eric just wanted to break free from the luxurious prison which was his entire life. Just like in Citezen Kane, in the end, the only thing a rich man values is what he lost before he gained.

  • Charlie Weil

    Charlie Weil
    Cinema Studies
    6-29-15
    “Cosmopolis” (Cronenberg, England/ 2012)
    By: Charlie Weil
    When viewing “Cosmopolis”, I found the film to have many symbols of cynicism, greed and desire. I found that this film incorporated many of these themes because the world in which the film took place capitalized on greed, materialism, power, and self- destruction. For instance, Robert Pattinson’s character, Eric Packer, was a young man empowered by all of these things. He was a narcissistic, greedy, self- absorbed, misogynistic, selfish, and deeply unhappy man. He felt that if he would let himself be corrupted by all of these things, then he would be a fulfilled, successful and happy person.
    The characterization of Eric Packer was done in such a brilliant way. I honestly believed that Robert Pattinson truly became this character; as opposed to just portraying him. This is a true testament to David Cronenberg’s fearless direction of the film and Robert Pattinson’s hauntingly brilliant performance. “Cosmopolis” was a haunting interpretation of how wealth, privilege, materialism, and entitlement have corrupted today’s generalized society. He did a brilliant job capturing his pure desperation and eagerness to fit into the world’s society, that it made Robert Pattinson all the more intriguing to watch.
    I honestly found the film to be encapsulating and enticing to watch due to the actors’ performances, the searing cinematography, the ambiguous tone of the film, and the character development. The film had a very subtle tone to it; the screenplay did not reveal everything to the audience, but instead, the audience had to make inferences. The development of the characters was really well written and very complex. What were we supposed to think of Robert Pattinson’s character? When we watched the film, we perceived his character to be a vain, misogynistic, materialistic, superficial, and a serial womanizer who played by his own rules, with absolutely no regard for anyone else. The audience was very fascinated by Pattinson’s character and the journey he experienced throughout the course of the film. He had a charming personality that made him enticing to watch, which kept the viewer wanting to know more about him.
    The film also taught the audience how dangerous it is to make ill- conceived perceptions about people. This film was a perfect representation of how a person can allow himself to be completely brainwashed by technology and material possessions that he can forget about who he is, and what his values should be. Eric Packer existed as though he was a part of the limousine. During the film, he was always inside of the limousine. I believe that the limousine was a symbol for his life and what his life had become. The limousine symbolized his loneliness, his isolation from the world, his idealistic values, and his warped sense of reality. His character was so foregone from the world that the limo was the only thing left in his life that still had some significance. Therefore, the limousine was a metaphor of his life, and what the world he lived in had become.
    The film also incorporated themes of capitalism and of savagery. Every single character in this film, specifically Robert Pattinson’s character, was dependent on technology to survive in the world. Throughout the entire film, he tried to go to the barbershop to get his haircut, because the barbershop was a symbol of his childhood. Though Eric allowed himself to be brainwashed by capitalistic things and ideals, he still was desperate to get his haircut at the barbershop. The barbershop symbolized something from his childhood that had not changed. He wanted some familiarity in his life, and wanted more than anything to achieve this safe and comforting feeling again.
    In conclusion, I thought the film was very powerful. I loved the film because David Cronenberg incorporated many themes of cynicism, greed and desire. He did this magnificently in a way where the viewer may not always agree with the choices the protagonist made, but we understood why he made the choices he did. I also thoroughly enjoyed the film because of the unpredictability of the protagonist. The film made it rather unclear whether or not to root for this character or to despise this character because of the many layers of his character. Overall, the film was a psychological, intense and strange thriller that kept the audience enthralled in their uncertainty; and literally on the edge of their seats. It was a brilliantly done film with stellar performances from all of its actors, specifically Robert Pattinson. It was an astonishing feat and one of Cronenberg’s best, and it kept me only wanting more.

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