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Critic's Notebook: Finding the Roots of 'Cosmopolis' In Don DeLillo's 'Game 6'

By Vadim Rizov | Indiewire August 17, 2012 at 9:00AM

David Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis" adapts Don DeLillo's 2003 novel, though not exactly for the first time: The plot was originally conceived for "Game 6," a screenplay DeLillo wrote in the early 1990s which sat unfilmed until 2005.
The poster for "Game 6."
The poster for "Game 6."

"Game 6" was shot, recognizably, in Manhattan, on grainy film, in often rough handheld. Eschewing this attempt at imposing vigor, Cronenberg's film is in antiseptic digital and characteristically minute in framing detail. The outside is recognizably not New York; in fact, it's Toronto (often a studio at that). Ever the patriotic Canadian, Cronenberg includes veteran band Metric (which contributed the theme song to Pattinson's "Twilight: Eclipse:) and Somali-Canadian rapper K'Naan on the soundtrack. (Metric's songs, along with longtime collaborator Howard Shore's score, crackles like Trent Reznor's "The Social Network" score, an improvement on Yo La Tengo's affectlessly gauzy soundtrack for "Game 6.") Besides winking to his home, this multicultural stand-in for any global financial mecca gets a further disconnect from plastic-y digital lensing (the passing landscapes sometimes look like the live-action "Speed Racer"). Actual Times Square footage comes as a shock.

Hoffman's film is rooted in a pre-9/11 cheer. "Cosmopolis" the novel was, ominously, set in April 2000, but this film is even more disconcertingly sometime in the present, a film about one man's financial actions potentially destroying entire markets (a scenario broached for real by Chase's recent problems with multi-billion trading losses). As apocalyptic and disconcerting as the violence can be (the bullets, when they come, are deafening), it's more often unexpectedly funny than "Game 6"'s straining.

Cronenberg's total investment towards bringing DeLillo's hivemind voices to life makes sense. The overlap with his work is extensive: not just the snap to violence, but the turning point of finding a gun in a mundane place (see also "eXiStenZ"), the Polanski-esque precision of the alternating two-shots (an improvement on the technical mastery wasted on the turgidly written "A Dangerous Method"), its mock-ominous presentation of cars as harbingers of death (cf. "Crash" and, much earlier, the drag-racing exploitation film "Fast Company"), the spiraling consequences of one person's hubristic actions ("The Fly"), and so on.

If "Game 6" is smart people performing an adaptation task they fear is impossible, "Cosmopolis" is a perfect pairing of of director and author: Cronenberg streamlines DeLillo's increasingly dominant magisterial streak, highlights the jokes better, and spirals through showboating dialogue to a state-of-the-international-economy finale —- an epic refashioning of "Game 6"'s comparatively scrappy shaggy-dog midlife crisis story.

This article is related to: Critic's Notebook, Cosmopolis, David Cronenberg, Robert Pattinson, Game 6

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