eXistenZ (1999)



Well, Cronenberg is back, and after a couple of misfires like Crash, M. Butterfly, and well, pretty much the last ten years of his oeuvre, he’s got a solid flick with eXistenZ. In fact, I’d say it’s his best work since 1983′s Videodrome.

The story is straight outta modern/near-future pop culture: Using a ‘bioport,’ you can jack your body and mind into an immersive game world–a world served up by a handheld bio-engineered creature called a ‘game pod’ that is essentially a blood-pulsing Nintendo. There are no computers in the film: just the mutated organisms that are Cronenberg’s trademark. And oh does he put them to good use.

Leigh is Allegra, not an allergy medication, but rather the designer of the hottest games on the planet. And eXistenZ stands to be her masterpiece. The object of the game – as is the case with all games that become the centerpiece of movies–is to learn the object of the game. And in this instance, it turns out that some anti-game ‘Realists’ are on Allegra’s tail, so she has to head inside eXistenZ to ensure everything’s kosher, with helpful Jude Law as a sidekick.

Or so we are led to believe. eXistenZ the movie quickly becomes a game within a game within a game within etc…. Not only are we unsure of what’s real and what isn’t, neither are the characters. Unfortunately, this conceit kinda gives away the whole film, making it overly simplistic and cliched for what I’d expect from Cronenberg, who visited this territory before in Videodrome. Frankly, The Matrix did it better.

Still, eXistenZ is a good ride. But eat before you come. The meals on display here are for presentation only.

Leigh wields a pair of deadly chopsticks.