CANY, France (AP) – David Cronenberg is sitting on a balcony when a roaring seagull flies overhead.
“The bird is full of plastic,” Cronenberg says with a smile.
The 79-year-old Canadian author has long been fascinated by what is in our body and what we invest in it. His latest film, Crimes of the Future, which hits theaters on Friday, is partly due to his interest in the ubiquity of microplastics.
Cronenberg, who gave a recent interview at the Cannes Film Festival, where the premiere of “Crimes of the Future” took place, first wrote the screenplay for the film in 1998. Feeling it had only become more relevant, Cronenberg dug it up for his first film in eight years. and, he says, did not change a word.
It revolves around a pair of performance artists Solo Tensor (Vigo Mortensen) and Caprice (Leo Seydou). In the near future, when plastics have changed human biology, they skillfully remove tumor organs from Tenser in surgical protrusions. It starred Kristen Stewart as a bureaucrat who became a super fan after witnessing the performance.
Art as an organ, carved and shown, is an appropriate metaphor for Cronenberg, whose early films (“Videodrome”, “Fly”) made him a master of horror for the body. At the same time, the director is putting up for auction his recently donated kidney stones. Mortensen, who starred in Cronenberg’s “History of Violence,” “Eastern Promises,” and “Dangerous Method,” calls “Crimes of the Future” Cronenberg’s most autobiographical film.
“Every time I watch one of his films,” says Mortensen, “I see more.”
For Cronenberg, the Crimes of the Future layer was a way to explore both the nature of being an artist and how our increasingly unnatural environment is transforming our bodies – not to mention seagulls. This is an evolution that does not scare, but worries Cronenberg. He wonders how scientists are already working on whether plastics can be made edible – and perhaps even tasty.
“It’s actually happening,” he says. “It’s no longer science fiction.”
AP: As you get older, has your attitude towards your body changed?
KRONENBERG: Well, of course. Usually anxious, but it’s not too bad. This is very interesting. It’s the part of life you’ve been waiting for and reading, and blah, blah, now you’re going through. It wasn’t as bad as it could be, so to speak. I’m 79. I don’t feel that age at all.
AP: Do you take care of yourself?
KRONENBERG: I have been lifting weights since I was 16 years old. Not to be a bodybuilder, but just to keep fit. I do not smoke. I do not drink. Not off any political or sociological agenda. I was just never attracted to these things. Maybe it helps.
AP: So you think about what you invest in your body?
KRONENBERG: Not obsessive.
AP: Much of your work is devoted to the connection or gap between your body and the world around you. Over the years that you’ve been making movies, technology is increasingly penetrating our bodies, even if it’s not a videotape in our torso.
KRONENBERG: Well, I just had cataract surgery. Now that’s weird. In essence, they destroy the lenses in your eyes, suck them out, and then endow you with plastic lenses that unfold and become your eyes. All my career as a director I watched through the lens. And now I wear sunglasses because I have more light in my eyes due to the fact that the cataract has disappeared. It’s getting brighter. The colors are different, completely different. I joked with my director that now that I have other lenses, we’re going to have to repaint the whole movie. It’s pretty intimate. Technology in your eyes. I have hearing aids. I am completely bionic. Many years ago this would have been problematic. My career would have ended much earlier, because if you can’t hear or see, it’s hard to make a movie, you know?
AP: Can you imagine what we can do with our body and what will be found acceptable will only increase over time?
KRONENBERG: Absolutely. We now understand that only drinking water from a plastic bottle deposits microplastic in the blood. Even before that it was assumed that perhaps 80% of the human population has microplastics in their body. In this way, our bodies are different from human bodies ever before in history. It doesn’t go away.
AP: Do you anticipate battles for things like computers implanted in our brains?
KRONENBERG: There is Nobel laureate Gerald Edelman, who said that the brain is not at all like a computer. It’s more like a rainforest because your brain is fighting for dominance with your ever-changing neurons. What people are afraid of with mRNA because it’s a new thing and saying that Bill Gates inserts microchips into our bodies is fantastic! This is such a breakthrough. CRISPR is fantastic. Now, can it be used for evil? Well, like an atomic bomb. But beautiful things are possible from this.
AP: Presenting “Crimes of the Future,” do you feel like you’re exhibiting an organ for show?
KRONENBERG: (Laughs) I present my kidney stones to the audience. I say, “It came from inside my body.” How much more intimate can it be? Yes, I mean, it’s a metaphor. It is a metaphor for the surgical organ in the film, an artist who expresses his most intimate thoughts, feelings, visions and anything else. You are definitely vulnerable. You are incredibly vulnerable.
AP: This is your first film in eight years. How do you feel about how the movie landscape has changed?
KRONENBERG: One of the things that brought me back to filmmaking was Netflix and the idea of broadcasting and streaming. I tried to make one. I thought, well, it’s not exactly a movie, but it’s still a movie. This is a different kind of movie, seriously different. I thought it was a completely different ball game, and yet it’s still a movie. I mean my idea of cinema. I think the theaters are dead. I think they will be a niche thing for superhero movies. I haven’t been to the movies for decades. You know, I just prefer to watch it at home. And the TVs have become so good, the sound system has become so good that I challenge those who say that home cannot be a true cinematic experience. I do not agree at all.
AP: “Crimes of the Future” depends in part on how far Sol Tensor is willing to go in his work. Do you think a lot about death?
KRONENBERG: I always thought about death. I don’t think you can be human without thinking about death. Ever since I was a kid and my pet died, do you think that just happened? Where is that cat? You understand that not only you but your parents will die. I still remember the moment I talked to my parents. So it’s always a question. At my age, I wouldn’t say it’s more of an issue, unless you have a lot of friends who are dying now who are exactly your age. Every time I look in the paper, there is a guy I knew – like William Hurt or Ivan Reitman – and they are younger than me. There is nothing you can do about it except admit that yes, you will die. Other than that, what can you say? I always thought in novels where for a living author it would be written “Born in 1943”. As if a dash is waiting for you. It is waiting for you so that it can be filled. And I say, “(swearing) you, I won’t die. I will not tell you when I die. “
Follow AP writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP