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Jun242012

#8 - Top 100 Canadian Films

In the lead up to the 7th Canadian Film Festival in Australia (August 2012), join us as we countdown the Top 100 Canadian Films of the past 30 years. We'll be posting one film a day leading up to Canada Day on July 1st 2012. Do you agree with our team favourites? Let us know your thoughts!

#8 - Videodrome

Not all classics stand the test of time with ease. That is to say, it's not a foregone conclusion that works of seeming brilliance today won't appear naive, or even twee, in the future.

Twenty-nine years since its first release, David Cronenberg's grunge sci-fi Videodrome remains a film of disturbingly adroit insight not only into our present day but also to our possible future. And as a piece of what-the-fuck cinema, it's a benchmark that genre filmmakers still aspire to.
The melding of sex, violence, addiction and technology is all-pervasive in typical Cronenbergian fashion, as he dabbles in a subtle alter-present (circa 1983) in which the cult of television has brought real decay to the streets and homes of his native Toronto.

James Woods plays sleazy Civic TV exec Max Renn, on the hunt for new depravity of the pornographic variety when he discovers a sadomasochistic, underground broadcast called 'Videodrome'. This find is accompanied by the onset of hallucinations and an unfolding conspiracy involving reclusive professor Brian O'Blivion and malevolent multinational Spectacular Optical.
Renn shacks up with a kinky TV pundit (played by Debbie Harry) who, not content with human ashtray experimentation, decides to audition for 'Videodrome', embracing her slavery to stimulation. Things get really weird when Renn grows a giant vagina - Cronenberg's favourite human orifice - on his torso before fisting said gash whilst holding a gun.

Later we find Renn's receptacle is Betamax compatible too.

Cronenberg obliterates the notional demarcation lines between fantasy and reality, technology and flesh, dead and alive, as he sends us spiraling into the surreal with mesmerising, chaotic brilliance. Perhaps this is why his early genre films worked so well in spite of reeking surrealism; Cronenberg is nothing if not playful in his subversion. With James Woods he also had the perfect front man, an actor willing to do anything in service of the auteur filmmaker's vision.
Videodrome was one of the earliest examples of cyberpunk cinema and remains one of the best. The shaping of the post-human world has been one of Cronenberg's greatest concerns; loss of freedom, individuality and mass media are wrapped into a deep-rooted paranoia. What makes his films special is the unique voice through which he projects his ideas. And while subtlety is not always Cronenberg's greatest strength, the depth of layers is always such that Videodrome lends itself readily to multiple readings.
Revisiting in 2012, Videodrome's intelligence hasn't been diluted one iota. Formats and methods of media delivery may have evolved, but all that has done is move us closer to the fusion of mind, body and technology Cronenberg envisioned.
Death to Videodrome, long live the new flesh!
- Scott Henderson


"Simultaneously sleazy and cerebral, it's a film whose surrealist setpieces burn a brand on the brain." SFX Magazine



To see the other films in the countdown so far, click here

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