Being as I am awfully enthusiastic about the mass-consumption cinema (read: superhero movies, fairytale movies, period movies, amazingly-epic-action-remake-of-what-was-once-good movies, various franchises, etc.), still a lot of times I can’t deny myself the pleasure of that mysterious allure of Covent Garden-only releases. If normally I would look at a couple of reviews, IMDB score, full cast and producers before actually committing myself to seeing a film, when it comes to these half-obscure, half-dubious, half-European productions I prefer to shut myself off from any sort of prejudice. I don’t even watch the trailer. Somehow I like it better as a leap of faith, secures me from unnecessary disappointments. Now here’s where my approach has reached its highest efficiency – I went to see Cosmopolis.
There is a reason for this intro to my review: I want to highlight how some pieces of information, or the lack of such, and personal factors that form your frame of mind before you go to see something can influence you into absolutely hating or absolutely enjoying a film like this (a film like this, I mean, even more than any other sort of film). So if you overly detest any of the actors there, if you are too fond of any of the actors there, if you are sleepy, if you have a toothache, if you are only ready to accept solid, definite, well-shaped characters as the only sort of valid characters – postpone seeing it, or don’t watch it at all. Honestly. It is weird.
Whereas you most probably wouldn’t put Cosmopolis on the same shelf with The Tree of Life, they are somewhat comparable in the density of abstraction, only conveyed by completely different means. Cosmopolis follows a rather straight-forward linear narrative: a young billionaire in a limo goes through Manhattan on his way to get a haircut; in the meanwhile he meets half a dozen of people, all eager to share their innermost thoughts, has sex with two women, witnesses street riots, loses his whole capital, loses his wife, loses his friend, and descends into sheer insanity. On the topic of insanity, I have to notice that the choice of the main actor is quite brilliant, and those who’ve seen Pattinson in Little Ashes would probably agree with me – he is a perfect madman (although a couple of teenage girls who left the screening halfway through must have been of a different opinion). Not the sort of evil madman that you see as a Marvel villain or a thriller antagonist, those are a lot of times either sympathetic or of no interest to most people, but the sort of madman that you could see in the streets in the broad daylight with a mix of fascination and disgust.
There are a lot of amusing visual details scattered through the movie that correspond to its storyline, and this I found very clever and even entertaining as a way to reinvent something usually done via dialogue or the change of settings. A very obvious instance is Eric the protagonist’s gradual disintegration depicted excessively by his appearance – here he takes off his sunglasses, here he loses his tie, here he doesn’t have his jacket anymore, his face is covered in cream, his hair is a disaster, a bullet hole in his hand… It is ridiculous and genius at the same time because it is all just too much of an exaggeration, both the way he is robotic and uptight in the beginning, and the way he is shattered and illogical in the end. Responding to the debate as to how (anti-)capitalist this movie is, Eric might be a personification of the capitalism itself, and its inevitable tragic trajectory. Similarly, most of the characters are filtered down to pure conceptual abstractions, sometimes devoid of any humanity – one of the limo visitors, the ‘head of theory’, repeatedly criticises rioters who set themselves on fire as being ‘not original’.
What is not typical for the genre, and that’s a happy news, is that although it gets more and more crazy as it develops, the film actually has a rather rewarding closure, a scene that despite all confusion as to the characters’ motivations catches your full attention and leaves you with much to think about. Spiced up with humour which seems almost impossible at the time, Paul Giamatti’s brilliant appearance, his neurotic, shaking character, who even in the moment of the most crucial confrontation tries to hide and cover himself, finally gives a face and a shape to something that was hovering above the main character all along, and having an enemy other than his own inexplicable self-destruction, Eric seems to become more comprehensible. In a way, it shifts the narration back into the familiar dimension, and somehow it all comes together.