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Crash (1996) Review

Updated on August 28, 2017

Director: David Cronenberg

Starring: James Spader (James Ballard), Holly Hunter (Dr. Helen Remington), Elias Koteaz (Vaughan), Deborah Kara Unger (Catherine Ballard), Rosanna Arquette (Gabriella)

In the western world, NC-17 movies are often given a bad reputation. This is largely due to two issues. First, once a movie is given an NC-17 rating, it severely reduces the amount of theaters said film can be shown in. Second, the most famous NC-17 movie in the west is also the most notorious critical disaster of the 90s (that being Show Girls). However, several movies I’ve seen recently have shown to me that this perception isn’t necessarily an accurate one. Previous examples include Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution and Park Chan-wook’s the Handmaiden. As of today, David Cronenberg’s highly controversial movie joins that list--itself based on the equally controversial J.G. Ballard novel.

The film begins with the Ballards in an open marriage, having more interesting sex in their affairs than in the sex between the two. Things get more interesting when the husband is involved in a violent car crash with Dr. Helen Remington, her husband being killed in the crash. This leads them into being involved in a cult that fetishizes car crashes. Then, throughout the rest of the film, the overall plot is used as a philisophical study of society and the way it fetishizes moments of tragedy. This doesn’t necessarily mean everyone gets turned on by the sight of a car crash (or something else), but that our morbid curiosity makes the tragic more interesting.

This movie isn’t one that many people are likely to enjoy, but I felt it was brilliant. Yes, there is lots of sex. There is lots of nudity. But that doesn’t mean the movie is your typical poorly acted porn, completely devoid of an interesting plot. Nothing like that. And I’m not just talking about the interesting circumstances revolving around the sex, I’m talking about the intellectual nature of it all. This movie is designed to make you think, much like many of Cronenberg’s other films. Unfortunately, for many people, the sex tends to interfere with people’s perception of the film. The nature of the sex does even moreso.

And that’s too bad, because while this may not be my favorite Cronenberg, I definitely feel this may be one of his most underrated.

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