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Eastern Promises, David Cronenberg (2007)

Remarkably straightforward little story from Cronenberg, unmarked by any of the body/machine issues that usually drive his films, unless you count tattooing, but that’s really more of a plot point than a raison d’etre here. It’s kind of fun to watch him toy with themes of family, trust, and intimacy (which are of course among the hoariest around, but which are utterly new to him) like a Polynesian in his first snowstorm. But only kind of. Maybe I’m just still scarred by the utterly devastating Lilja 4-ever; it makes me very squeamish to see human trafficking made into a cartoonish MacGuffin.

On the subject of style. How to name the preternatural cleanliness of Cronenberg’s mise en scène? Even the location exteriors look like they’re on a sound stage, and the sound stage scenes look about as realistic as one of those old shots where the character sits behind the wheel of a car “driving” while a film of passing scenery rolls in the background. There’s even a scene just like that in the movie, where Naomi Watts is filmed riding her motorcycle straight at the camera. I’m too ignorant of the technical details to be able to conjecture how Cronenberg does this, but probably that’s not all that important anyway, since what I’d really like to know is how purposeful it is, and what intent lies behind it.

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