Crash (1996)

Much has been made about J.G. Ballard’s Crash. You don’t even need to have read it, because the mere idea of its central premise – which concerned a group of people who become sexually aroused by staging car crashes – tells you what you need to know about why it was controversial. Naturally, you’d think that a film adaptation wouldn’t be as flaccid as what David Cronenberg’s adaptation turned out to be, but sadly I was disappointed. It takes a volatile premise of car crash fetishism and somehow turns it into a dull and boring sex fest that twists in the wind so slowly you won’t even pay attention.

The plot of the film focuses on film producer James Ballard and his wife Catherine, who are in an open marriage in which they engage in infidelities with other people, but have a lethargic love life. One night James survives a car crash and shortly begins an affair with Dr. Helen Remington, with whom he shares a bizarre sexual fetish derived from the sensation of a car crash, which James uses to rejuvenate his sex life with his wife. To understand their newfound fetish, they become followers of an underground cult of fetishists, the leader of whom believes that there is a strong connection between the violence of a car crash and the passion of sex.

As bizarre and as sultry as that sounds, it’s actually quite boring. In his own decidedly more positive review, the late Roger Ebert likened the film to “a porno movie made by a computer”, and called it “a dissection of the mechanics of pornography”. He wouldn’t have been wrong. The film certainly had this mechanical feel to it, and that might have been one of the biggest problems with the film. There’s no passion whatsoever, and whatever semblance of passion just seems artificial. Another problem is that the film isn’t exactly coherent in terms of storytelling, and the pacing is quite slow.

The acting is quite lifeless too. I’m sure James Spader has been in better films than this, because I don’t think Mr. Cronenberg got a very good performance out of him, nor out of any of the other actors. Elias Koteas was quite decent, but he wasn’t that great. The characters to me seemed quite dry and stale, and colder than snowmen, but with dormant hints of the animalistic passion that should have been at the fore in the film.

The presentation was okay, but it looked mediocre. I’d say the musical score was the best part of the movie, if mainly because it has a nice, sombre ambience that complements the film’s approach, along with the sparse, atmospheric use of electric guitars. Other than that, Crash was one boring film. Shockingly boring in fact. I’m actually quite surprised by how boring this was, but given the mechanical nature of the film, that should not of been a surprise. This glacial treatment of J.G. Ballard was perhaps a bold attempt, and was certainly controversial during its release, but you’re not missing much.

  • Score: 54%
  • Grade: D
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