The art of thought provocation |

The art of thought provocation

Shauna Farnell
Special to the Daily The Vail Symposium and the Vilar Center for the Arts presents a David Cronenberg, above, film series this weekend. Films "Dead Ringers," "Spider" and "History of Violence" will air.

BEAVER CREEK – Anyone who knows anything about director David Cronenberg realizes that when they sit down in front of one of his films, they’re not in for light entertainment.Cronenberg shows audiences women in stirrups at the gynecologist’s clinic, someone giving birth to maggots, a son in love with his mother and the world through the eyes of a paranoid schizophrenic. The Vail Symposium will offer three of Cronenberg’s films this weekend at the Vilar Center for the Arts in Beaver Creek. The Canadian’s filmography dates back to the 1970s, but the film series will begin with 1988’s “Dead Ringers,” the story of two drug-addicted twin gynecologists, continue with “Spider,” about a man in a halfway house whose mental illness leads him to reflection on his childhood, and wrap up with his most recently released work, “History of Violence,” last year’s film about a well-liked man in a small American town who unveils a secret side of himself.”These are probably the three of Cronenberg’s films that are the most accessible,” said film critic Walter Chaw (, who will provide insights on the films from his perspective as a long-time fan and also having personally spoken to Cronenberg extensively about several of his films.

“They’re very gory, very sexual,” Chaw said of Cronenberg’s films. “They’re difficult for mainstream audiences to walk into.”Mainstream audiences, however, are not who film series intend to target.”You have the capability to go to movie theaters whenever you like,” said Vail Symposium President Ebby Pinson. “We’re out for community learning and dialogue. These are certainly films that promote that. Some of them are disturbing, but it’s a great way to get people to talk.””Spider,” “Dead Ringers” and “History of Violence” lack the gore of some of Cronenberg’s other work (“The Fly,” “Naked Lunch,” “Crash”), but certainly don’t lack in heavy subject matter.

“There’s really nobody (in North America) making movies like he is,” Chaw said. “Cronenberg deals with self- esteem, self-image and individual perception. He’s always talking about the transformation of the body from man to machine.”Cronenberg, in his extensive body of work, has examined the relationships of the human body and mind, all with highly creative, albeit existential and disturbing theories.”He’s working at a really high level,” Chaw said. “I saw ‘Dead Ringers’ when I was about 15, and not a week goes by that I don’t think about something in that film. Inside every person, there’s someone who wants to be an animal – someone who wants to kill and eat and have sex. That’s the line he want’s to explore. It’s always through this visceral experience.”Those who have read Chaw’s reviews on Film Freak Central know that he’s no easy critic. He’s a hard guy to please, and not one to mince words. When it comes to Cronenberg, however, Chaw doesn’t just throw around favorable remarks, he even spit out the word “genius.”

“He’s one of the few filmmakers that you can learn something from,” Chaw said. “‘Spider,’ ‘Dead Ringers,’ ‘History of Violence,’ they’re all four-star films. They call for a brave audience. But that’s what art is about. It’s what discourse is about.”Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext.14632, or, Colorado

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