If there is one nineties movie that was screaming out for the Arrow Video treatment, it is Cronenberg’s finest work, Crash. Now, you might think that movie outrage is a thing of the fifties when people just didn’t understand this new technology. Not so, Alexander Walker wrote a piece on this Ballard adaptation and all hell broke loose. Suddenly a film that I had been waiting for after adoring the original book found itself on the cover of the tabloids and an Orwellian tsunami followed, wherein it became very difficult to see the film legally. In 1996. This country. If you’re looking at the Blu cover and thinking ‘outrageous! how dare they!’, then I once again respond with the classic Richey Manic quote – “Some people can’t read American Psycho. I can’t watch sport.”
This is not a Controversy-for-the-sake-of-it film, it is a masterpiece of darkness, sexuality and longing which just happens to be set in the world of car crash appreciation. The crashes in the film are not like the ones you are used to seeing in big Hollywood epics, in fact during one of the interviews, Cronenberg talks about people complaining that the crashes didn’t look real – because they are instant, no camera angles, no slo-mo, no tragic soundtrack. They are, quite simply astounding. You will be catching your breath regularly as you follow the excellent James Spader in his quest to find MORE, the irony of the only way to feel more alive being to get close to death.
The film has never looked this good and the sound is astounding too, every sound of the roads, the metal of surgical appliances, the quick shotgun blast of the crash. Fantastic. Nearly 25 years later, Crash can still take your breath away and Arrow has done exceptionally well to resurrect my favourite Cronenberg film. The 1080p 4K restoration is the uncut NC-17 version (in America, most of our 18 certificate films are given an R, meaning those under age can go if accompanied by an adult. It is very rare for a big movie to get an NC-17 and not kowtow to the censors to get an R. Cronenberg does not kowtow and his film is all the stronger for it), supervised for this edition by the director of photography and approved by Cronenberg himself.
Extras? Naturally, given the coming together of two of the most controversial and original talents in the world, JG Ballard and David Cronenberg, there is plenty to get your teeth into here. The brand new audio commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin is entertaining and informative as are the brand new interviews shot for this special edition.
My favourite extra is a 1996 Q and A between Ballard and Cronenberg, a near 2 hour celebration of two icons of the page and screen. Brilliant. There’s also a Q and A with Viggo Mortensen from later in 1999. Another piece of gold is the short film Crash! from 1971, which starred Ballard himself, was shown on the BBC and was based on another of his classic novels The Atrocity Exhibition. There are also two rarely seen Cronenberg short films and a new video essay on the use of architecture and location in the film, which is very interesting and will send you back to watch it again, but from another enlightening perspective.
There’s also a sixty page booklet with very interesting new pieces on the film as well as a reprint from the essential Cronenberg On Cronenberg collection. The collection also has new artwork by Gilles Vranckx, which also is ready for framing with the included poster, that also features the original Hunter/Spader film art.
Crash is a top fifty of all time film for me and this edition certainly treats it with the import it deserves. Perhaps some TV articles or newspaper pieces on the controversy could have been added, but I’m basically talking about the world’s biggest cake and asking for more icing. Arrow Video has done it again and I suggest you fasten your seatbelt (or…don’t, Ballard might prefer that, the character, not the writer) and hit the road with this Cronenberg classic once again. Essential.