CineMathematics or CinemaThematics. Your choice

Thursday, August 09, 2007

I Feel the Need. The Need to Feed . . . On Blood

It's hard to accurately describe Cronos. I found myself reminded, at various points, of David Cronenberg, Terry Gilliam, and The Maltese Falcon. That's fairly lofty company for the third film from suddenly "it" director Guillermo del Toro. Does the film deserve it? Yes and no.

One of del Toro's strong suits (as he showed last year with Pan's Labyrinth) is his ability to work with children. This is a rare skill, and I might venture to say that he is the best director of children this side of Gilliam or Spielberg. Even though Tamara Shanath doesn't speak a word until the final scene, she conveys her emotions perfectly, and she gives a portrait of a young girl entering a world that seems unbearable. Of course, she has adapted to this harsh world enough to save her grandfather in the final scene, her innocence yet another casualty of this cruel world. In this way, the story is reminiscent of Kafka's "The Metamorphosis." I am of the belief that the true transformation in that story is that of Grete, Gregor Samsa's sister, from caring to cruel, and that is echoed in Cronos. Though Jesus Gris (I'll get out the subtlety hammer) undergoes the literal change from the Cronos device, the story's true arc follows Aurora's initiation into the adult world.

There's more to the story than just a young girl's entrance to a strange world. Cronos puts a unique spin on the vampire genre. In fact, Jesus never actually attacks anyone out of bloodlust. He merely tries to find loose blood wherever he can, including a Christmas party. The look in his eyes when he does see the blood recalls not Dracula, but a lowly junkie in a drug movie. Like in David Cronenberg's Rabid, the story's main focus is on someone who, for reasons beyond their control, feel a compulsive hunger for blood. Though Rabid reaches for more storylines (to great success), Cronos barely leaves Jesus. We watch him suffer as he attempts to maintain his composure in society, barely able to keep from licking the blood off a man's broken nose. Instead we watch him degrade himself as he licks blood off the floor. For all that it matters at this point in the story, he might as well have been snorting cocaine off the lip of the toilet. It's the same level of degradation, and it has the same harmful impact on his family.

The first time he uses the Cronos device deliberately, we are given the point of view of Aurora, watching from the stairs above him. What we see is as foreign to us as heroin would appear to Aurora. Though Aurora never prepares the Cronos device, she remains as complacent as Jeliza-Rose in Tideland with her grandfather's use of this dangerous drug. After that first time, when she tries to hide the syringe, er I mean Cronos device, from Jesus, she hides the Cronos device for him, unaware of anything except that it makes him feel good.

This film is far more fun than this plot lets on. All the somberness of the drug addiction and maturation is lightened by an amusing subplot featuring a wonderfully over-the-top performance from Ron Perlman. Perlman plays the nephew of the only man who knows the secrets of the Cronos device. Dieter de la Guardia, as played by Claudio Brook, is like an uncharismatic, terminally ill Kasper Gutman, lusting after the Black Bird, I mean Cronos device. Perlman's character, Angel, is alternately charming and vicious. He is a man who, despite his light colored suits and sensitive demeanor when dealing with Jesus and Aurora, shows the capability to do terrible things. Angel's desire for a nosejob, in retrospect seems to exist for the sole purpose of a late punchline (expected but still funny), but it also adds a dimension to the character that was desperately needed. This desire shows a weakness in the character, and it serves to underline his self-loathing. Angel hates his life, serving his uncle's wishes, and he hates his appearance. It his his hope to escape from both and achieve a fresh start. Of course, since he is an underling, he fate was sealed from his first moment on screen.

Therein lies the main problem with Cronos. It is a very good rehash of genre characters and cliches, but it still relies on those cliches too often. It lacks any siginficant originality that would separate it from the designation of second tier Cronenberg. The idea of combining the insect world with the Catholic world is would be worth fleshing out (pardon the expression), but del Toro sees little use for it outside of a deep thought to throw in with the vampirism and addiction. Cronos is a very good genre film. It doesn't aspire to be much more than that. Unfortunately, this sort of genre film has already been done, and better.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

For me 'cronos' movie is one of the good quality movie that people need to watch.

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8:57 AM


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