• Wed
  • Jul 30, 2014
  • Updated: 11:40am

DEVIL'S ADVOCATE

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 January, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 January, 1997, 12:00am

Would you go and see Crash? YES Let me ask you this: have you ever had sex in a car? A taxi? Did you enjoy it? Would you like to do it again? Just cast your mind back to what it was like. The illicit nature of the act, the steamed windows, the thrill of perhaps getting caught, the awkward shape of the car forcing you into strange and new positions. Car sex is one of those unusual experiences like trying a cigarette that practically everyone has done if only once. Car sex is one of life's rites of passage.


Now let me ask you, have you ever slowed down on the motorway to get a better look at an accident. I have and I'll wager you have too. Fascinating, wasn't it? We are all voyeurs of the macabre deep down, even though we may not like to admit it.


Crash is about people who find sex in cars during car accidents a turn-on. It is not about real people but is rather an allegory of those peculiar quirks in human nature than make us enjoy the unfamiliarity of car sex and force us to gaze at crash victims. The film is not about sex and cars but human nature and its oddities.


So, do you possess the courage to face up to a few things about your nature that you would rather repress? Patently, the Devilette opposite would rather repress these urges than deal with them. Do you really want to be like her? The cinema can easily entertain us, but it is much more rare to come across a film that challenges our view of ourselves - and this is what Crash does. You may not like it, but it will at least provide you with some questions. As such, it is definitely worth seeing. But for me there is another more pressing reason to go and see it. I have rarely plucked up the courage to be a regular porn-goer, but I am an ardent admirer of what I like to call thinking man's porn.


These are films that purport to be art but are, in fact, porn. You know the things I'm talking about. The characters spend about five minutes having a bizarre and fascinating conversation and then they get it on.


Welcome to the world of thinking man's porn - intellectually stimulating film-making interspersed with liberal doses of coital activity. Now that's what I call an afternoon's entertainment. I mean, when's the last time you spent any time with your partner that was intellectually stimulating and involved plenty of coital activity? Do you follow me now? NO Ten years ago, a friend handed me a copy of Crash, which, before it became a notorious film by David Cronenberg, was a notorious book by J.G. Ballard. He thought I'd find it interesting but after about half an hour, I decided I didn't need to read any more. As you probably know, the plot focusses on people who are sexually stimulated by car crashes. It is, to put it mildly, deeply disturbing. The first editor at Ballard's publishers who read it wrote: 'The author of this book is beyond psychiatric help'. If you'd asked me at the time, I'd have said that it was absolutely unfilmable.


Well, Cronenberg has proved otherwise. Part of the screenplay was published in one of the British broadsheets with an introduction by Martin Amis who remarked that, 'you come out of the cinema feeling interestingly frail'. Actually, in the UK, you don't, because the film has now been banned, but it has sidled into Hong Kong with remarkably little comment. I haven't done a recce on the physical strength of those leaving the cinema afterwards but I don't want to spend $60 in order to stagger around on the pavement afterwards feeling sick.


What truly irritates me is this: all I've read about Crash suggests that it's repulsive, yet there's been so much pretentious analysis about its artistic content, about how it stretches the barriers of cinema and how it issues a challenge to our inner selves that I, as a liberal, democracy-loving journalist, end up feeling faintly fascist for crying out, at the top of my voice 'But it's disgusting!'.


The same thing happened a few weeks ago when a plan was mooted to turn the lives of Frederick and Rosemary West - torturers, paedophiles and murderers - into a film. It isn't going to happen but the disgruntled screenwriter wrote a piece about how we all needed to confront our inner darkness (he, too, talked about repression, that deadliest insult of the let-it-all-hang-out 1990s) and how the barriers of cinema would be stretched, etc. Isn't it strange how remarkably elastic those barriers become when kinky sex is involved? I loathe those trendy whingers who complain about right-wing hypocrites failing to appreciate what Cronenberg is trying to do. He's making pornography, that's what he's doing (as my dear colleague has only too amply illustrated). The real hypocrisy is claiming it's art. And yes, I'm repressed. So are you. That's how society keeps sex and violence within vaguely endurable limits.


Anyway, I have an idea for a film. A man in southern Sudan has no food. The camera focuses on his last day's agony. Or how about this? An elderly woman in a housing estate passes 24 hours of loneliness - any 24 hours will do. No sex, of course, and no Hollywood names, but I think we could confront our inner selves somewhere along the way, don't you?

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