It’s important to note that at no point during Cronenberg’s new film do you see Michael Fassbender’s penis. At no point. It’s a disappointing omission in a film that looks the part but lacks any warmth or drama. It’s Keira Knightley’s chin’s film really – Keira’s chin being mad, Keira’s chin being rogered, Keira’s chin being spanked… In fact the only way Keira’s chin could have been outclassed here is if Jung and Freud had been played by Jimmy Hill and Bruce Forsyth. If only there was an Oscar for best performance by a chin she’d be a shoo in.
Knightley’s chin plays Sabina Spielrein, a young Russian (though you would be hard pushed to guess from the accent) who is sent to hospital in Zurich to be treated for excessive gurning by Carl Jung (Fassbender). He is experimenting with an early form of psychoanalysis, as recommended by Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) which is what brings the two men together. The two actors are reliably solid but both come over terribly po-faced and you long to get a sense of something going on beneath their stiff waistcoats. The sex scenes in particular are quite sterile – nothing here is actually very dangerous despite Spielrein’s pleas for ferocity. Passion does arrive in the shape of Vincent Cassel as horny Otto Gross and the scenes he’s in are the best of the film, it’s the one time it seems to have a bit of life – sadly he disappears over the wall too soon.
Towards the end I found myself nodding off a bit, there wasn’t anything much going on apart from some tediously long conversations which never really catch fire. Lets’s face it, listening to someone talk about their dreams is no more interesting on the big screen than it is in real life.
So all in all, if you like chins and gurning then go for it – otherwise see Fassbender in Shame instead. He gets his cock out in that one I promise.
Hottest ticket of the LFF this one – and rightly so, this is another assured film from Steve McQueen which cements him as one of the most original directors out there. His not so secret weapon of course is Michael Fassbender who is perfectly cast as Brandon, a man whose penis drives him – from the embarrassing discovery of his download collection on the office pc to the random pick ups he manages quite easily thanks to that ten zillion watt shark like stare he’s perfected. Pants off at 30 paces, basically.
We never find out exactly what’s behind the addiction but we do get a fair idea once Brandon’s sister arrives – Carey Mulligan isn’t my favourite actress, but she’s great here and her central performance of New York New York is genuinely moving. The secrets in their past aren’t revealed, but they are there, and they are dark. These are siblings that are tied together with damage.
McQueen’s direction is immaculate, New York has never looked so beautifully dangerous, and I could have watched Fassbender running through the streets at night for hours. Should have won the LFF’s best film by a mile. Probably not one to watch with the family at Christmas though.