Crash: A Review

Originally printed in Batteries Not Included

I wrapped my eyeballs around an art-house erotic nightmare of a film called Crash not long ago. It rocked my world, let me be the first to say. It's not hard-core, which is probably for the best. Considering it's subject, if it were hard-core it's be banned in several countries.

Bear in mind, it's a David Cronenberg film. This is your first clue that you're going to be dealing with something that's not even remotely healthy. It's based on a slender novel by J.G. Ballard. I haven't read it yet, but I've got it on order. I've got the script, though, which Cronenberg adapted. Did I mention that it rocked my world?

The main theme here is erotic power of car crashes. That's right. We're dealing with people who literally get off on car wrecks. I really enjoy watching things about people kinkier than I am. It gives me this incredible feeling of wellness. After this film, I feel like the poster child of sexual health.

James Spader is in it: playing James, a jaded film producer of car safety films. He and his wife Catherine, are erotic thrill seekers. Within the first five minutes of film, they're both doing the passion tussle with others; which they share together. They're a strange, cool couple. Catherine, in particular, is so perfect in appearance that she resembles a china doll, or a strange blonde geisha from an old Japanese painting. The sex between them is hot and fierce, but there's no emotional warmth between them. Both my husband and I had to notice their wedding bands before we could even tell that they're married.

James world gets turned upside down when he's in a head-on car collision with a Doctor (Holly Hunter) and her husband. It's a brutal wreck, shown with the same sharp explicitness as the sex is. The husband flies through James' windshield to die beside him. As he stares over to the Doctor in passenger seat of her own car, she jerks spasmodically and tears open her blouse, letting him discover more than he probably expected without being on a first name basis.

David Cronenberg loves things in his films to be symbolic of other things. So we get a lot of close ups of wounds and scars that are symbolically evocative of penetration, vaginas, and such as that. The steel brace for James' leg is one of these. It's rather disturbing looking, like a shiny torture device. However, Cronenberg makes the best use of it as a way to introduce our lynch pin character, Vaughn.

Vaughn is an incredible character. He is the primal force of this movie. He's the source of attraction and repulsion. He's the mentor, the Chiron for James into this bizarre world. From the first meeting, when he kneels before James and looks on James' leg brace with an expression of pure, white, sexual bliss on his face, we know that we've found the core element.

What's interesting to me is that Vaughn in many ways is the embodiment of the stereotype of bisexual men. Which is completely inaccurate. To call Vaughn a bisexual is misleading and misguided. Vaughn is simply sexual. He's a man that is driven by completely by his desires to the extent that he's reshaped his world to only reflect those desires. He's a primal creature, without niceties, hungry and driven. It would be so easy to make him to be a villain, and use this story to re-enforce the triumph of the civilized over the corrupt. Thank goodness, this is Cronenberg, so we get to escape that simplistic bullshit. Therefore, we end up with something far, far, far more disturbing.

James' journey into this world is subtle and consuming. We can see him and also his wife waking up, breaking through their icy passion cages. There's surrender here, to an animalistic hunger. We see it as a progression. From the two of them laying together, making love madly while Catherine fantasizes about James taking Vaughn sexually, to the aftermath of a brutal car crash that fills Catherine with such desire in response to Vaughn that she takes him in the back seat while James drives. The more James goes in the more he and Vaughn become equals. The sexual tension between them is genuine, and completely, animalistically male. When they finally consummate their hunger, it's so incredibly erotic that it's well worth the cost of tape rental and the late fee.

The hungers, the needs here will ultimately only be satisfied by death. The characters are pushing themselves to the point of ultimate release. In the end, James becomes Vaughn, echoing his world. Catherine is pushing herself completely over, waiting for that ultimate experience to shatter her completely.

This is a movie not about heroes and villains, but hungers and desires that drive us. It's too, amazing cool. It's also incredibly violent and not for the faint of heart.

The endless chain in my life is still active. The day after I watched Crash for the first time, I got a package from Dick full of paperbacks. (Thank you, sweetie.) The first one that fell out was Eros ex machina, Eroticizing the Mechanical, edited by M. Christian. Nobody say coincidence. This is my life, and I promise, this stuff happens all the time. I've only read the first two stories so far, which involve a man romancing a bank computer and a woman in love with a leg press. I've enjoyed them both immensely. So I'll keep you posted.

Drive safely.