I’ll start off by admitting I don’t consider myself a true Cronenberg “fan”. I don’t dislike the gentleman’s work but I’m not an avid follower either. Images stick out from growing up, like the head blowing up in Scanners, the cool (and gross) modern update of The Fly, a tip of the hat to Burroughs with the adaptation of Naked Lunch and the fetishism/outright weirdness of Crash. But let’s face it, while staying Canadian-based, the man has quietly put together a respected oeuvre, directing over 20 feature films over the past 40+ years along with a wide variety of short, television, writing and acting work.
So when I found myself near the TIFF Bell Lightbox with a chance to check out David Cronenberg: Evolution and some time to kill, I thought, “why not?” I enjoyed the Burton and Bond retrospectives I caught there before and admission to their exhibitions is reasonably priced, actually cheaper than some of the big local galleries & museums.
Two hours later, I left impressed at the quality of such a great exhibition and amazed at how unappreciated a film-maker David Cronenberg is in his own backyard. Informative and well laid out for both the casual pass through or those who like to take their time and get a little more in-depth, there’s plenty to read and see. For fans of extras, there are at least four scenes that didn’t make their respective film’s final cuts, along with his work, going as far back as his days right out of film school (if you could ever imagine him being that young). A bonus at the end of the exhibition shows some short films Cronenberg has made for Cannes and other festivals in recent years. There’s all sorts of props and ephemera to check out in all their disturbing detail, but for me the highlight was an entire room devoted to Naked Lunch.
There’s partial recreations of sets from that film’s Interzone scenes and models of the morphed cockroach typewriter and the infamous sex blob. If you want, there’s also a life-sized mugwump replica at the bar for internet photo ops. As a bonus, there’s an extension of the exhibition in the fourth floor gallery (which I never even previously knew about, let alone had been to). Developed by Cronenberg in conjunction with TIFF, you enter a pseudo-lab that looks like it was taken directly from one of his 1980’s pieces and a lab tech “guide” explains an on-line process you can participate in (bodymindchange.ca). It results in you creating via a 3-D printer a fist-sized creature called a “pod” that reflects your psyche and is actually yours to keep if you pick it up/get it shipped. I’ve only done stage 1 of 3 so far but it’s creepy, immersive and intriguing; definitely worth checking out on its’ own. Oh yeah – for those interested or on the fence, all of this fourth floor business is free, no admission required – a final reason to like this exhibition even more.
So what perplexed me was why, on the first Friday night of this exhibition, it was dead, almost empty? No love for the hometown boy, yet long line-ups for those other shows I mentioned. What gives?! Let’s review: a quality, fun & interesting show for hard-core fans and film goers but easy to follow and informative for new Cronenberg initiates; with additional free and at-home components? Whaaat are you still doing here reading this?! If you’re a true geek and have the opportunity, you owe it to yourself to check this one out before it’s gone.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!