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But, Insanity Used To Be So Cool!

Writ. Patrick McGrath
Dir. David Cronenberg
Str. Ralph Feinnes, Miranda Richardson, Gabriel Byrne
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At first you are blown away by the carefulness of every shot, and the depth which Felines sinks to achieve his character. He loses himself completely in the titular role and you forget who you're looking at. Likewise Cronenberg delivers (for him at least) a very subdued movie, where normally he would throw phones at us made out of decomposing limbs or turn poor Julian Sands into an house-boy eating insect, he turns the craziness inwards and lets it all shine out through the character of Spider and the dark alleyways he haunts. At first it's really quite amazing. But Feinnes' Spider spends the entire film hunched over stumbling around his childhood streets piecing together a deeply troubling past; he is so remote, so out of it, that the audience doesn't get to experience his insanity, it's more like we're some random rubber-nekcer following this guy around town. The movie lets us in on very little and we are left up to our own opinions of what's going on.

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Film Archive


Laurel Canyon

Ordinary Sinner
Dark Blue
The Quiet American


Hell House
Good Housekeeping
Roger Dodger
Spirited Away
Punch-Drunk Love
Bowling For Columbine
Scarlet Diva
Full Frontal
Sex and Lucia
The Powerpuff Girls Movie
Read My Lips (Sur Mes Levres)
The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Human Nature
Shot in the Heart
Jim Brown: All American
Stolen Summer
Ram Dass: Fierce Grace

At first I was like "Wow! this guy is so damn crazy. And the streets are so damned dingy. It reminds me of when I was a teenager and I hated everything. It's like Heathers only with more dirt and lots of prostitutes. Woo Hoo! Bring it on!" But then, much like with adolescent angst, I got really tired of it. I think the problem here is that it's all a little too real. I think that if I actually met someone who was as totally daft as Spider, I would probably not like him all that much. I would probably get as far away from him as I could. As much as you want to feel sorry for the coot, as much as you know you should pity him, he is so completely cut off from the world and from the film (I think he says maybe two words that are actually in comprehendible English) that you can't really empathize with him at all. He is too far gone to ask for sympathy. And then the darkness of the movie starts to really get to you. It begins to feel pointlessly depressing.

The acting is what keeps the movie afloat. Miranda Richardson is one of my favorite, and one of the most underrated, British actors, Gabriel Byrne is quite comfortable and adept at playing Spider's Father, and Felines is so lost in his role, he's not even Ralph Felines anymore. These three wander around the painfully ugly sets and manage to bring a little breath of life to the movie. But only a little, and it's not nearly enough.

The Ratings

One poorly knotted rope

I hate giving anything away, even in a movie as tepid as Spider, but there's a twist at the end of the movie that you will so totally see coming. And unlike Ordinary Sinners, you see it coming from about 45 minutes away, and it takes so damn long to get to the end you will actually feel like killing yourself. Which is exactly what Cronenberg was going for, I think. Very clever.

Two slugs, goo and all

The story of Spider is slow, it's virtually at a stand still, inching along methodically and deliberately, and ploddingly. And after the movie is over you feel weighed down with it, heavy and wet from what you've just sat through.

Two seriously delusional way messed up hipsters

In the end Spider is needlessly dark. The real problem is it doesn't drag you down into the darkness, rather forcing you to watch these poor souls suffer from so far away that you just stop caring about them. However the acting is quite good from Richardson, Byrne and Feinnes, which makes it worth seeing if you're into any of those three.

--B.C. Edwards
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[email protected] | March 2003 | Issue 36
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