BACK WHEN IFC AND SUNDANCE channels were commercial-free and hence worth tuning into now and then, I caught bits of a lot of different movies that I noted for future follow-up. Alas, television sure has changed a lot in the last ten years. Add IFC and Sundance to the ever-growing heap of corrupted, once-great channels — Bravo having suffered the greatest fall since being purchased by NBC.
So on one of these movie channels, an intense scene with Willem Dafoe made me take note of eXistenZ (1999), and I finally got round to seeing it. Willem Dafoe does not disappoint — his gleeful exuberance is a blast. Only problem is he’s not in the film long enough. The movie, I learned at the outset, is a David Cronenberg production, so it is full of his characteristically grotesque props and visual effects, familiar to anyone who’s seen Videodrome, Dead Ringers, Naked Lunch etc.
Jude Law and Jennifer Jason Leigh
The problem with eXistenZ is that despite the sci-fi parameters, the movie is fundamentally a very basic story of a couple on the run from a world out to get them — one of the most ubiquitous themes in cinema. Nothing wrong with that, but to me the movie felt a little like it was running in slo-mo, especially in the first half. That is to say, I was a little bored with eXistenZ, despite its fantastical physical manifestations. Also, though there were lots of twists toward the end, with the ‘game’ and reality spilling into each-other, it was all a bit ho-hum.
But eXistenZ delivered enough fun weirdness, and good performances from the stars, that on balance I was entertained. A marginal recommendation; naturally make sure the trailer appeals to you. 6/10
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Comparison Notes: Recommended: John Dies at the End, Synecdoche, New York; Not Recommended: Hunger Games, Looper, Inception, Shutter Island