Sunday, June 10, 2012

If You Don't Like the Reflection... / Cosmopolis Review

The sensationalist cover of Maclean's magazine anoints Luka Rocco Magnotta as the 'new' face of evil. Perhaps the old face just wasn't pretty enough anymore.

For several weeks now Canada's media, tabloid and otherwise, has been filled with the story of one Luka Rocco Magnotta. The 29-year-old is suspected of murdering Concordia University student Jun Lin.

The media loves this case. The alleged murder is the entry point, but Magnotta's self-constructed world of Internet identities, love of plastic surgery, and possible involvement in kitten killing make it irresistible. A trail of Internet writings, photos, and video interviews with Magnotta suggest superficiality and narcissism. 

In an interview for the plastic surgery themed reality TV series Plastic Makes Perfect, Magnotta says "If I don't have my body, if I don't have my looks, then I don't have any life. My looks and my body are my life."

Maclean's magazine writers Nicholas Kohler and Martin Patriquin go so far as to call Magnotta a, "social media monster." If so, he's a self created monster, a reflection of the worst North American culture (and fantasies of celebrity) has to offer.

An interest in snuff films and the Russian mafia, paired with a desire to be famous, are part of the equation. If fame is indeed what Magnotta wants, he achieved it. Now that the media has thoroughly covered his past, and his alleged crime, it's time to turn off the channel on this sad episode and let his case go through the courts once he is extradited from Germany.

Further coverage of Magnotta and the crime would be so much looking into the abyss (brought to you by Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter) Magnotta himself may have tired of this dark reflection. In his Montreal apartment, police found this written in a closet: 'If you don't like the reflection, don't look in the mirror. I don't care.' 

It's for cultural commentators and authors to determine if the reflection Magnotta saw says anything more about the state of affairs in an empathy lacking, 24/7 digital world than we already know.



David Cronenberg's new film Cosmopolis opened in Canada on June 8. Not a conventional movie by any means, but certainly an intellectual treat if you're in the right kind of mood for discussions of capitalism, time, sex, loneliness and digital commerce, all themes the source material, Don Delillo's 2003 novel of the same name, touches on.

Cosmopolis follows the journey of billionaire trader Eric Packer 'crosstown' to get a haircut from his childhood barber. The journey is a slow one, as the President of the United States is also visiting North America that day, and the funeral procession for a rapper, Brother Fez, is making its' way through the Big Apple.

Toronto does stand in duty for New York once more, but Cronenberg barely disguises T.O., and in many scenes doesn't even bother trying. It feels like a deliberate gesture on Cronenberg's part, and it's wonderful. In the first scene while Packer prepares  to enter his soundproof, bulletproof limousine, his chief of security says, "We will encounter traffic that speaks in quarter inches." 

Packer, played ably by Robert Pattinson, is one cold number. He's the man who has everything external (money, car, sexual partners) and nothing internal. During dinner with his wife Packer remarks, "we're having a conversation," as if unsure of how a conversation is supposed to work. 

Seems that Packer has made a bad stock market bet on the Chinese yuan, and it's bankrupting him. His crosstown odyssey is a journey seeking new sensations, and possibly his own undoing.

The limousine functions as a protective shell, shielding Packer from the world outside, a world that insists on intruding. His chief of security, played smartly by Kevin Durand, is charged with keeping his boss safe from this outside world. At no time does this outside world get closer than during an anti-capitalist protest that has similarities with the riots now happening in Montreal, and the Occupy Movement that sprung from New York.

If you find yourself fidgeting, sit it out until Packer gets his haircut. The conversation that happens during said haircut is the stuff great movie dialogue is made of. 

Cosmopolis is the first movie I've seen in awhile that demands serious thought and contemplation from the audience. Don't go and see this if you just want to sit back and enjoy - see it if you want to engage.

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