I had a brief sitdown last Friday afternoon with A Dangerous Method director David Cronenberg. We had about twelve minutes, if that. Our last interview was, I think, 29 or 30 years ago to talk about Scanners. I still remember the intensity of that discussion and saying to myself as Cronenberg delivered his points, “Whoa, this guy doesn’t fool around…no digressions, no bullshit.” Here‘s the mp3.
A Dangerous Method opens tomorrow (Wednesday, 11.23).
There’s always some kind of twisted perversity in Cronenberg’s films. Which is what most of us, I gather, look forward to when a new one is about to be shown. It’s there in A Dangerous Method, for sure, but in a spotty, paint-dabby fashion. Keira Knightley brings it in those shrieking, belt-whipping scenes with Michael Fassbender, but the film, it must be said, is somewhat dryer and more cerebral than anything Cronenberg had made before, and this requires, I feel, an adjustment of expectations.
A Dangerous Method is “well-acted but extremely cool, aloof, studied and intellectually driven to a fare-thee-well,” as I noted in early September. You just have to be ready for that, and saying this is not a criticism. As I wrote on 10.20, “the talkiness plays better the second time. You go in knowing what it is and accepting that, and you settle into Christopher Hampton‘s script like an easy chair.”
My strongest feelings are still about about Knightley’s “highly agitated, face-twitching performance. “It’s fascinating but hard to roll with at times,” I wrote from the Telluride Film Festival, “particularly during the first 20 minutes to half-hour. Cronenberg told her to go for it in terms of facial tics and flaring nostrils and body spasms, etc. She does a jaw-jutting thing that hasn’t been seen since John Barrymore played Dr. Jekyll in the 1920 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. At the same time Knightley brings a thrilling sexual intensity to the all-too-brief fucking and belt-whipping scenes with Fassbender.
“All in all Knightley is quite a handful — she throws you and pulls you in at the same time. It’s a high-wire, risk-taking thing, and Method really needs to be seen for this alone.”