14 October 2013

The Insect Who Dreamt He Was A Man



I would say that in general, film remakes are a lazy bag of wank that are made as cash-ins on the fame and success of the superior original. I could rattle off the ones that I hate and why but really, what's the point when we all know which they are and the rage would only result in me rupturing something and shitting blood. However on principal I'm not against the idea of somebody doing a film again so long as there's an actual creative reason for doing it- some Hollywood Executive needing a quick buck to pay off a pimp whose whore they've just murdered is an example of a non-creative reason. However there's surely no denying the fun of something like A Fistful of Dollars which took Yojimbo's idea of a Samaria gang war and then turned into a western starring Clint Eastwood. In fact, ignoring the genre switch, I can't think of a single film that couldn't be improved by having Clint Eastwood simply replace the lead character. Well, not other than Deep Throat, anyway.

However, if A Fistful of Dollars is one of the few morsels of nutrients in a steaming pile of remake shit then there is one film buzzing around it that I probably love even more. The Fly was released in 1986 and was itself a remake of a 1958 film starring Vincent Price. In the original, a scientist swaps heads with a fly after an experiment goes pretty fucking wrong. In the remake, Jeff Goldblum slowly becomes a fly in a transformation that involves his ear and dick dropping off. This is very much an example of creative reasoning for remaking a film. Just in case you've not seen the remake, Goldblum plays an eccentric scientist who believes he has invented a teleportation device that will revolutionise our ability to travel, nullifying concepts of long-distance trains, planes and automobiles. After testing the machine for himself, a freeloading fly gets in with him and as the two are zapped about, their DNA splices and recombines to create a being that is a juicy cocktail of them both. Initially, Goldblum's scientist is empowered by some new found strength and so spends the first half of the film literally fucking his energy away, however as things progress he begins to mutate with his appearance disintegrating at a speed even more rapid than that of Mickey Rourke's real life pork-chop face.

...I think my rash has spread..
In fact, possibly one of the main differences between the original film and the remake is the more recent effort focuses on the horror of a person literally falling apart. Due to its creative effects and intense gore, the film has been labelled as an example of 'body horror' which is a sub-genre pretty much invented by its director David Cronenberg. To quickly explain this term, it's basically exactly what it sounds like with a story depicting a graphic degeneration of our flesh and often as a way of exploring some greater metaphor. I like intelligent films as much as the next person but if we can express big ideas through the use of vomit and a rotten wanking hand then all the better. In the case of The Fly, I suppose the obvious subtext is of the transformation through diseases such as cancer or even everybody’s favourite post-monkey-fuck illness, AIDs. As has been recently pointed out by Cronenberg in an interview, the film is about a man who falls in love and then begins to suffer from a terrible wasting disease. However by wrapping all of that up in sci-fi and horror it becomes more appealing to both producers and a wider audience. I guess from this it can be assumed that on mass we either don't like to be depressed by realism or rather that if we have to watch somebody die then reality just isn't fucking grim enough.

Speaking of interviews, it's interesting to see how much people like Cronenberg have spoken about the love story between Goldblum's turd like scientist and his girfriend Geena Davis. Although it might not initially be the most memorable thing amongst all of the loose limbs and jars of cock, it is, I suppose, the spine of the film. Generally I'm not a fan of romance in movies because it tends to be sappy and unbelievable however here, the relationship is filled with an excess of fucking, unwanted pregnancy, constant fighting and at least one death. I can't relate to any of the saccharin bullshit that Richard Curtis pisses out into cinemas, but all of that bile between a woman and her man-fly does seem depressingly familiar. On which subject it is also worth noting how good Geena Davis's performance here is as she perfectly captures the horror of having a scabby eunuch for a boyfriend.

Introducing the Astonishing Puking Fly-Man!
Also in regards to the DNA of the film, I quite like to think of this as being a kind of deconstruction of the Superhero genre. Like most comic book characters, Goldblum's scientist is involved in a tragic accident but he's sadly not gifted with any powers at all. I mean he does have the ability to dissolve things with his own puke but that shouldn't count because after a heavy night, out so does Lindsey Lohan. The film is sort of like a twisted version of Spiderman but instead of gaining the beneficial ability of climbing walls, Peter Parker grew six more eyes and started shitting out his webs like a sticky net of arse-jizz. The other way to look at The Fly in regards to comic books is that instead of following what could have happened to someone like Spiderman, it's actually following one of the genres villains. People like Doc Ock also have tragic back stories involving scientific fuck ups but in Goldblum's case, the only difference is that there's nobody here to fight him. Well nobody more powerful than some bearded, yuppie twat with a shotgun who wants to fuck his ex anyway.

However, if this was a reaction to the superhero genre then the genius of Cronenberg is that he managed to subvert them about twenty years before they started raping cash at the box office. Although this is probably my favourite of his films, it is a pretty close race with all his work exploring themes of transformation, identity and obsession. I suppose that for me the thing that pushes this above any of his others is the performance from Goldblum as it manages to remain both human and hilarious whilst he continues to grimly rot into a giant, talking scab. Thanks to him there's an unmissable, kafka-esque tragedy to this which is brilliantly depicted during a speech on, “Insect Politics”. But like I say, Cronenberg is one of my favourite directors and I'm almost equally as fond of Videodrome, Crash and Existenz. He's basically the go to guy if you're in the mood for a film about people putting random shit inside their bodies.

So to end on the topic I started on, if a film has to be remade then The Fly demonstrates exactly how it should be done. Whilst maintaining his artistic integrity, Cronenberg has taken a pre-existing movie and updated it for the audience of its time by applying his own iconic sensibilities. I guess in the end, the key to a successful remake is to make sure that the director has a legacy that they just don't want to piss all over. 

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