Ian Fastert’s review published on Letterboxd:
the old cronenberg is dead! long live the new david!
watched after consuming both his pre-videodrome genre filmmaking and his post-videodrome dramatic pictures, I don't think there is a film in a director's oeuvre that so cleanly proves itself as an artistic and creative breakthrough as this. A razor sharp blade splitting the man's filmography (and, indeed, the act of creating video art itself) in two, here Cronenberg begins with his most self-deprecating self insert yet-a sleeze ball cynic who thinks he knows exactly what the people want from filmic entertainment-and cracks him wide open, both literally and metaphorically, until a new understanding of the goal of artistic creation, particularly in the overtly capitalist realm of cinema, is achieved. Eisenstein leveled that filmmaking was the most dialectical form of art, a medium where images come together forming multiple theses, antithesis, and synthesises within single minutes of a piece-here, cronenberg puts those parts together in real time, exploring the shock and effects that drew him towards the art form to begin with while delving deeper into his obsession with body and the medium itself. You can feel the script cracking his own artistic barriers in real time, which makes his visual interpretation of it feel even more succinct-he has already cracked the code, and here is the proof. watching this after Nope created a very clear (and on peele's part, probably purposeful) dichotomy between the two-one pushes the power of filmmaking with a sinister touch to it, the underlying cynicism of an industry that cares not for the images it spits out just the money it makes, ending with a declaration of war between those that turned the film system into this; Peele's work argues it may not have been worth it at all, that no "perfect shot" is worth the burn out, emotional and physical distress of a film set. even Cronenberg's idealised "filmmaker against the world" is culpable, which is true! Videodrome too touches on the moral evil that comes with creating a film, the exploitation that built the thing we've all fallen in love with. literal torture! but 40 years ago (SHEEEEESH) he decided that it could all be justified if the product was for the people, if he infiltrated Hollywood and used their evil to reach out to those it had never catered to before; in the present, Peele has put an end to David's hypothesis, responding with a fat "probably not, bro.' the images that cling to their characters show an even clearer ideological divide-cronenberg's lunge into the cult, the divisive image, the dangerous idea it's impossible to look away from, next to peele's reliance on the cowboy, a concept with its own troubled history that yet is vague enough in its specifics to appeal to almost anybody. Cronenberg preaches to the people yet serves himself, where Peele does both.
None of this is pitting their work or them as filmmakers against each other. I'm quite fond of them both! but this distinction between them came up while i was taking this wild, wild ride and I felt it would be an interesting way to talk about this and put some actual words to my Nope thoughts. Filmmaking is at a crossroads right now (as is everything, really-have you heard about video game developer work conditions?), where the slowly shrinking number of self-cannibalizing corporations need for more "content" leads to more unregulated and haphazard productions with more diluted artistic value than ever before. How much longer are we going to make people suffer to create the art they fell in love with, for no reason but to give someone something to scroll by on Netflix? if this is Cronenberg's call to arms, a declaration that we're going to tear it all down, then we need another rallying call for our future troops, because it's only gotten worse out here. Maybe Nope is that cry-it's probably too early to say-but that we're still complaining about the morality of creating after so many years is an indictment on the people who've allowed things to stay this way for so long.
"Your reality is already half video hallucination. If you're not careful, it will become total hallucination..."