It took me a comically long time to realize that David Cronenberg’s movies had a BDSM thing going on. I think it has to do with the order I watched them in: My first was Naked Lunch, which is about internalized homophobia and thus has a lot of sinister talking buttholes in it. My second was Existenz, which is about Jude Law’s fear of taking it up the ass. “It” is a video game console, and technically it goes into a “portal” located a few inches north on the spine, but, come on. Don’t toy with me, David. That’s a butt.
I didn’t see Videodrome until last year. Somehow, I could just never get my hands on a copy. A college boyfriend played me Crash, trying to gross me out; we got as far as fucking the leg wound, and I said the movie seemed kind of sexy, at which point he got grossed out and ejected it from the VCR. I knew there was bondage in Dead Ringers, but I thought it was a metaphor for medical misogyny, and I saw the spanking in A Dangerous Method, but I figured that was also a metaphor for medical misogyny, in this case specifically Sigmund Freud’s.
Like I say: I missed the boat. Repeatedly. But somewhere between Crimes of the Future, where people have sex by cutting each other open with scalpels, and Videodrome, where Debby Harry just plain asks her boyfriend to take a knife to her while they watch films of people being whipped in a dungeon, I was like, oh, right, this is a kink thing. And now I know.
I do kind of miss my Cronenberg: The one whose movies were about a generalized, Catholic fear of the body, and also a specific fear that your own body might be gay. I also know that my Cronenberg was a projection of my issues. Maybe we all have personal Cronenbergs, stashed away somewhere in some hidden drawer of the psyche. Maybe something about a guy letting his weirdness out in public necessarily invites you to admit your own.
Maybe. One person who definitely has a Cronenberg, though, is Brandon Cronenberg, David Cronenberg’s son. His movies read as a direct genetic descendant of his father’s: The same thing, just one step down the line.
It would be insulting, opening a discussion of a young director with several hundred words about his famous parent, if Brandon Cronenberg’s work didn’t directly beg the comparison. It would be rude to dismiss him as a nepo baby, if the fear of being some useless nepo baby wasn’t exactly what Infinity Pool is about. Infinity Pool is also about kink, in a very direct, overt, somebody-saw-the-first-act-of-Crash kind of way, but it casts a new gaze on it. Infinity Pool is not appalled or shocked or self-loathing about its kinkiness. It’s just bored.