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Crash (1999)
Director: David Cronenberg

review by Steven Hampton

Based on J.G. Ballard's cult novel, this is about a mixed group of accident victims who become obsessed with car crashes. Nominal leader, Vaughan (Elias Koteas, from Exotica and, bizarrely, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), goes so far as to recreate the fatal wrecks that killed movie celebrities like James Dean and Jane Mansfield. Crash survivor, James Ballard (James Spader, perfectly cast), is drawn into Vaughan's shiny but shadowy world, which gives new meaning to the term autoeroticism.
   Metal bodywork has fetishistic appeal here, and road rage is an acceptable form of foreplay. Ballard has sex in cars with the doctor (Holly Hunter) whose car he hit. Vaughan's pet stunt driver is killed in a horrific pileup. Jaded thrill seeker Ballard blithely watches his wife Catherine (Deborah Kara Unger) screw Vaughan in a carwash. There are lots of medical support appliances to match the dented bumpers, as Cronenberg's view of motorised danger attempts to bridge the distance between broken bones and damaged chassis, cracked psyches and bald tyres. There are nipples on steel, tattoos on thighs. There's a brilliantly staged car chase without seatbelts or airbags. There's cold passion and scar tissue but (thankfully?) almost no blood in this film. None of the characters are actually likeable, yet when today's statistics for traffic tragedies are taken into account, it becomes clear that we all share - if only a little - in Vaughan's acute psychosis, and Ballard's fascination for death as a turn-on, so audience identification with the wannabe corpses is a certainty, if not a very welcome one.
   Highly recommended - but for mature adults only.
previously published in VideoVista #15
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