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The Jewish Cronenberg: A Cinema of Therapeutic Disintegration

Macmahon Ball Theatre
Old Arts

Parkville

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T: (03) 8344 3409

wlhaslem@unimelb.edu.au

What is to be done with David Cronenberg? Although widely considered one of world cinema’s most original and significant contemporary directors (and perhaps Canada’s most famous), many critics have a difficult time describing just what sort of filmmaker he actually is. This talk by Macgeorge Fellow Professor Adam Lowenstein, argues that Cronenberg’s cinema is a philosophical reflection on and cinematic enactment of the desire for a therapy that works – both its necessity and its inevitable failure. Lowenstein's exploration of this discourse of “therapeutic disintegration” in Cronenberg’s films will touch on psychoanalysis (his A Dangerous Method [2011] deals with Freud and Jung explicitly), but will also address a recent “Jewish turn” in Cronenberg’s cinema.

To theorise this turn, he will engage strands of Jewish philosophical thought most famously associated with the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas as well as the Weimar-era debate between film theorist Siegfried Kracauer and the religious thinker Martin Buber. If therapy often connotes “talking heads,” then Cronenberg’s early visions of exploding heads have sought to restore the body to this territory of the mind. Lowenstein's contention is that even though his images of exploding heads have disappeared in his later films, Cronenberg is still “blowing our minds” by refiguring cinema’s relation to what therapy might mean in contemporary culture.

Adam Lowenstein is Professor of English and Film Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Dreaming of Cinema: Spectatorship, Surrealism, and the Age of Digital Media (Columbia University Press, 2015) and Shocking Representation: Historical Trauma, National Cinema, and the Modern Horror Film (Columbia University Press, 2005). Supported by the Macgeorge Bequest

Image: "Scanners" directed by David Cronenberg

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