At first glance, the two films are remarkably similar. They are both shot in silence with the only sound being provided by music and voice-over. Where Stereo was shot in black and white though, Crimes Of The Future moves to colour. Also, where Stereo had a voice-over that lightly satirised the idea of impenetrable medical speak, Crimes Of The Future seems to have a voice-over that is impenetrable for no logical reason.
The story deals with Tripod (Ronald Mlodzik, also star of Stereo), who is director of a dermatological clinic. His mentor, Antoine Rouge, has disappeared after going a bit mental and producing a cosmetic product that has resulted in an epidemic killing all of the sexually mature females. Whilst searching for Rouge, Tripod comes across various people who are coping with the lack of women in a number of increasingly depraved ways.
When I say I didn’t like Crimes of the Future, it’s a massive understatement. It’s not that I don’t get arthouse cinema or that I’m averse to ambiguity in films; I just felt that it was just a pitch for a film that the audience then has to actually produce in their head. Kim Newman once said that Crimes Of The Future was "more fun to read about in synopsis than to watch" and this is actually the perfect review. It should have been on the poster.
Reading about Crimes of The Future, interest is definitely piqued. Coping strategies for how men would live without sexually mature women, culminating in severe sexual depravity. It sounds like material that Cronenberg would be able to turn into a wonderful movie. But unfortunately, none of the intrigue of the premise is transferred into the eventual product.
What I most disliked though was that this feature oozes the arrogance of youth. The whole film is practically goading the viewer for not quite getting what’s going on, as if to assert that it is more intelligent than we could possibly be. It’s a young Cronenberg pointing and laughing at the audience for not possessing his level of intellect and imagination. And that is no way to treat an audience.
Crimes Of The Future is just a series of vignettes, supposedly held together by Ronald Mlodzik’s voice-over. However, what actually happens is that there is no sense of continuity and, because the voice-over seems to be largely unconnected to what’s happening on screen, it’s impossible to follow what’s going on. When I read a few reviews and articles about the film afterwards, I was finally able to connect what I had seen with what I was meant to see. But until then, I didn’t have a clue. It doesn’t help that Mlodzik’s voice is sleep-inducing, like a lullaby.
That said, the lullaby-like voice-over is actually part of what the film does well. With the slightly other-wordly feel Cronenberg creates and the lullaby of the sound, it positions the film as if it is a nightmare: a look at the darker side of humanity. There are moments, such as the haunting ending, that show flickers of the promise that was clear in Stereo and that gestated into genius by the time Videodrome and Crash came around.
But unfortunately, these are only moments and Crimes Of The Future is mostly rather terrible. 70 minutes felt like far too long.
Next: Shivers (1975)