Drink & Watch: The Brood
Since I'm going to be out of town next week on my actual birthday, my wife decided to give me my presents early—two of which were a pair of Canadian cinema classics on Criterion DVD: David Cronenberg's The Brood and Videodrome, respectively. Seeing that I had a nice bottle of Canadian Crown Royal to drink after today's big arrival, I figured I'd sit down and do a little whisky/film pairing—my favorite Monday activity. I have to admit: I'm not a collector in any sense of the word, but I do love owning a few Criterion editions and I'm a big fan of the work they do in bringing brilliant films from the past back to their original brilliance. The restored version of The Brood is truly a thing of beauty. It's really a masterpiece of late 70s cinema and there's something about the fashion and the imagery of Canada at that time that makes the atmosphere all the more creepy. I'm not quite sure how to explain it, but as a child watching these movies it seemed like our neighbor to the north (at least as portrayed in the late 70s/early 80s) was some alternate American reality. Whether I was watching The Brood (shot in outer Ontario), or Videodrome (shot in Toronto), or Scanners (shot in Montreal), or even something like Clive Barker's Nightbreed (shot in Calgary in the late 80s), the urban landscapes were like big, bustling cities that could have been anywhere, but were obviously not New York, San Francisco, Chicago, LA, or other recognizable locales I was used to seeing on film at that time. Those rather nebulous, cold, and unfamiliar settings were—for an American kid like me in the mid-80s—brooding and atmospheric in a way that a Manhattan skyline could never be. In fact, when I was a grad student and forced to work late nights in the old libraries on the university campus, I would sometimes get that same sense of memory—like I was in an old Cronenberg film, sitting in some 70s era, cement and concrete, bureaucratic building full of idiosyncratic paperwork and the smell of stale books. The images of these films are still engrained and rooted deeply in my childhood psyche.
So I sat down to watch The Brood again this afternoon—sipping something that was obviously rye, but yet an entirely unfamiliar rye all the same—and I was overcome with that sensation once again. Whether it's his more modern and accessible films like Eastern Promises and A History of Violence, or here in one of his earlier flicks, the man simply knows how to build towards a shocker. The stories always begin slowly and can often seem rather ordinary at first glance, but there's always a point down the line when Cronenberg jolts the holy hell out of you with some brute imagery or complete lack of innuendo that personally just sends me into a frenzy. Being someone who lacks any sense of subtlety, I really get a kick out of those moments—and The Brood is chalk full of them. If you've never seen it, you're welcome to borrow my DVD when I'm done with my initial screenings. I find that most people are as unfamiliar with Canadian whisky as they are Canadian cinema, and if that's the case you need to grab a bottle of Crown Royal rye and a copy of The Brood, and open your mind to an exciting new world of pleasure (and if you choose to watch Videodrome as well those words will have an entirely different meaning).