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3.4 out of 5 stars42
3.4 out of 5 stars
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on 19 February 2008
Not to be confused with this years Oscar winning sensation, you can't help but conclude that Crash 2005 must be referencing its older namesake with the opening dialogue... "We're always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much that we crash into each other just so we can feel something." Crash 2005 is a blockbuster on the controversial subject of racial tensions in Los Angeles.
Crash 1996 was just plain... controversial.

A decade ago the British press ran a series of front page appeals for governmental pressure to ban a new film which they'd described as "Beyond the bounds of depravity."
The 1973 J.G Ballard novel, on which the film is based, had long been a favourite of mine but as the controversy raged on throughout the summer of `96' it became apparent that the film may never be shown in the U.K. Crash had already been released in France, so by the time this idiocy hit the point where an audience of paraplegics were invited for a special screening to see if they were offended or not, I had no choice but to leave for Paris where exactly one year later Ballard's `cautionary tale' of car crash celebrity deaths would reach an apotheosis of sorts in an underpass at the Pont D'Alma.

Described by its author as "the first pornographic novel about technology" the book is about a group of car crash survivors who, led by deranged T.V scientist Vaughn, see the car crash as a new form of sexual perversion. Vaughn's ultimate fantasy is to die in a head-on collision with the actress Elizabeth Taylor who, throughout the 60's and 70's was the Princess Diana of her day; constantly hounded by the press and ultimately crucified on the beam of her own celebrity.

The film adaptation, directed by David Cronenberg, avoids the heavy traffic of `serial bride' Liz's potential legititive clout and instead becomes `a futuristic love story set in the present'. James (James Spader) and Catherine (Deborah Kara-Ungar) are a married couple so filled with inertia that they are desperate for some emotional connection by any means necessary. After a series of extramarital encounters they find themselves attracted to a group of disturbed members of a bizarre car-crash sect who enact famous car crashes for kicks. The pair soon find themselves willing accomplices in a tableaux of violence and desire until finally they attain some provisional approximation of actual love.
Kara-Ungar's portrayal of Catherine exemplifies perfectly the icy detachment of a woman who appears to be observing herself from another galaxy. Unfortunately, the film hinges on a moment where the groups leader Vaughn, played by Elias Koteus who explains his philosophy of auto-geddon as a fertilising event rather than a destructive one to his disciple James. Koteus' delivery is addled and Spader (understandably) laughs; blowing the scene and almost the entire film with it.

Nevertheless Crash is, above all, a brave attempt to explore an almost un-bearable subject - the death of affect and our unconscious desire for violence. As we're bombarded with pseudo-events and war entertainment - designed to make us consume in ways that are of optimum benefit to multi-national conglomerates who really (forget governments) walk where the power is - Cronenberg's Crash is as much a road sign warning of our impending emotional bankruptcy as it is to the sexual ambiguity of the highway pile up.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on 20 April 2004
I didn't know what to expect from previous reviews of this film, but I was pleasantly surprised. I was most impressed by the daring of the actors involved. In fact I think fans of James Spader won't be disappointed. This is a typical James Spader movie in which he plays a stereotypical cold and aloof James Spader (but that's why we like him). How many recognizable male Hollywood actors would put their carefully constructed image on the line by engaging in an erotic scene with another male actor? Not many. But fortunatley for us Spader doesn't put commercial limits on the parts he chooses to take.
Bisexuality seems to be a recurrent theme amongst Cronrnberg's most recent movies i.e. 'Dead Ringers', 'Naked Lunch' and 'Madame Butterfly'. It's an acknowledgement of that perennial Cronenberg theme, the dominance of the physical over the mental. The characters give free rein to their desires unburdened of society's restrictive mores and conventions. Their criteria for indulging in these rather eccentric pleasures is whether it excites them or not, society's prejudiced definitions of right and wrong don't enter the equation.
As for the idea that [adult relations] and cars go together, this has always been prevelant in our culture, "fast cars, fast women" as the saying goes. The thrill of stepping on the gas has conveyed an orgasmic high in countless films, books and songs. The auto industry readily endorses it if it can sell more cars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 31 March 2010
I had read several of the books written by JG Ballard. He is a thought provoking author who can be relied upon not to fall into the trap of writing to a formula. Crash is one such novel. I had seen the film some years ago and following reading the novel decided to purchase the DVD. I must confess to enjoying performances by James Spader. His projection of urbanity in the face of situations which would provoke displays of emotion in any other actor, is masterful. The content of the film is designed to invoke interest, disgust or plain fascination, perhaps all three at the same time.
It is not a film for everybody and the subject matter would put some people off. The sex scenes were erotic and without them the story and the film would lose much of the impact. An adult film for adults. A fine example of jaded extremism.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 5 March 2001
Ballard may have been out to explore the "connections between sex and technology", but I have not read the book and would say the film is more concerned with the connection and contrast between sex and death. By risking their bodies and lives in car crashes, the Crash fetishists amplify their vulnerability in order to intensify their pleasure in sex. The film is slow, but this gives the viewer time to become absorbed in the fetish; as one's natural inclination is to dismiss it as repulsive, unlikely and absurd. I would suggest that anyone who is easily disturbed should not watch this film - it is not a "great" film, so why risk upsetting yourself? But if you're up for it, climb aboard for an intellectually stimulating dark ride. The film leaves us to ponder the attraction of such a fetish: facing/embracing death and so life, breaking out from the modern cosseted world, defining ones own reality, exploring vulnaribility...
Incidentally, if you enjoyed Videodrome you will probably enjoy this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 September 2013
David Cronenberg, challenging as always, has made one of the finest films of all time about probably one of the strangest and most inherently repulsive subjects to be depicted on screen; the idea that the trauma of a car accident can be a sexually stimulating, revelatory event. That in itself has to be admired.

There's a lot more to be admired here, the film looks stunning; like a stylish half way house between voyeurism and documentary, the glacial performances and sparse dialogue perfectly suggest the characters' needs for extreme arousal in the otherwise impersonal and isolated world the film depicts and Elias Koteas' stunning performance is the black hole of obsessive but intellectualized sexual energy around which these characters revolve. Rosanna Arquette's character also deserves a special mention for being iconoclastically kinky in such a specific and original way, another special mention should go to Howard Shore for the menacingly angular soundtrack.

You may find it repulsive, you may even find it seductive but this is a film that doesn't leave the option of indifference open.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 7 February 2012
This film is creepy and in some ways both shocking and sanitised. By coincidence, I happened to watch this for the first time during the same week I saw an "X-Files" episode about the aftermath of a car accident. The latter contained more gruesome injuries and more pain. There was also a frightening plot about the afterlife.

Contrast this with James Ballard, the hero/anti-hero of "Crash" (as opposed to the original James Ballard, ie the late J G Ballard, who wrote the original novel). Although Ballard suffers scarring, he still looks good. Okay, he is played by James Spader, so it would be hard for him not to ... but there is a lot they could have done with prosthetics if they had wanted to alarm the audience. Although Ballard's leg injury causes him to limp, the pain from it does not appear to blight his life or diminish his sexual appetite.

And (the fictional) Ballard clearly does not think he is on his way to eternal damnation, however much damage he might cause to other road users. (The initial crash which lands him in hospital was caused by sheer carelessness on his part, and a man is killed.)

The book also contains a great many references to various bodily fluids and the film does not reflect this.

I find it ironic that a lot of the controversy surrounding the film centred on the fact that Rosanna Arquette's character, Gabrielle, had leg injuries but was depicted having sex. Why on Earth was this any more "offensive" than anything else? It is not as if her character is portrayed as suffering any mental impairment which would affect her ability to give consent.

I would have given this four out of 5, but I am taking off a point because of the dog. I don't think they used the corpse of a real dog, but (if this is so), Cronenberg should have stated that in the end credits.

As a rough guide, if you weren't repulsed by "Trainspotting", you should be fine watching this.

Despite all this, I found scenes from the film staying in my memory, and not in an unpleasant way. The music, by Howard Shore, is probably the most undeniably brilliant part of the film. It somehow combines something very organic with a very mechanical sound. It made me think, "This is what the heartbeat of a cyborg would sound like".

At the end of the day, this is a work of fiction. There were many stunt drivers employed (quite possibly more than just those listed in the credits), because the cast didn't actually want to get injured in real life.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Cronenburg always has a serious point to make in his films, and there's no point watching this film unless you are prepared to examine the reasons for making the film.
The film is set in the near future where society has enveloped itself with technology; the characters are made safe from any danger by this, but find themselves almost instinctively bored; they have a jaded attitude towards most things, and they seek refuge from the pervasive torpor that surrounds them by seeking thrills in more and more extreme ways, leading to the now-infamous car crash fetishism scenes; they derive a sense of being alive by experiencing the few seconds of mayhem that occur during the impact of vehicles.
So this film examines the need for danger and excitement in peoples' lives; forget the fuss caused by the censors back when it was released - this film is way above the level of 'pornography', as I believe Alexander Walker of'The Daily Mail' described it.
If you're prepared to make a leap in how you think about things at a basic level, then try this film; it's not perfect, but it's got something to say...
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on 2 May 2012
This is another David Cronenberg classic! As a director he always offers something fresh and original and at the same time has to be weird and unusual and controversial! Crash is no exception and certainly will remain fresh in your mind long after watching it. The story is great and goes in so many strange directions, the casting is brilliant with some good performances from everyone. Certainly worth checking out if you have never seen it. This is a fantastic auto-erotic thriller unlike you have ever seen.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
For me this is a love hate movie.

The hate side is I cannot understand the motivation of the characters who get sexually aroused by car crashes (and not very aroused at that) either watching crashes or being involved.

The love aspect is the high quality of the production, acting and sound track. Whilst totally disbelieving of the story I became thoroughly engaged. The long languorous sex scenes between James Ballard (James Spader) and Helen Remington (Holly Hunter) seem more about explaining what the characters think rather than sex.

Maybe this is an American cultural thing, or alternatively the drama is based on the concept that fear is a powerful aphrodisiac.

Unusual, intriguing, well worth a rental.
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
#1 HALL OF FAMEon 20 January 2002
This is a wonderful film of Ballard's hardcore novel- the book is a speed complementary series of looping sexual acts and recurrent car crashes. Cronenberg, no stranger to impossible books to film (see 'Naked Lunch'), makes a wonderful film of the book- with imagery matching early films like 'Shivers' (very 'High Rise') and 'Scanners'...The camerawork and soundtrack are awesome; o.k., there appears to be just a series of sex-acts. But they are the narrative; sex is not sex as in silly Hollywood films like 'Basic Instinct'. Here it is other; very Baudrillardian...As with 'Requiem for a Dream' and 'Salo', it is a hard film to watch AND a hard film to avert your gaze from. Don't confuse your moral reaction to the film- fiction does not require morals. Moral equilibrium and 'normality' (meaning?) are just not applicable here. This film ought to be seen at least once, with an open mind. You may not want to watch it again- but you have to admire it! Up there with films like 'Weekend', 'Repulsion' and 'Mullholland Drive'. Enjoy!
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