- The gun shoots human teeth. THAT's how it got past the metal detectors!
- They're eating takeout from "Perky Pete's".
- People can get fitted with a bioport. It's how the, uh, game plugs into people.
-The PR guy for the game company, oddly, doesn't have one. But he does have a Canadian accent. "Being penetrated freaks me oot."
- Also, the best line in the movie.
- IT'S WILLEM DAFOE! He's a gas station attendant who's name is...are you ready...Gas.
- And it just so happens that he also installs bioports. "I haven't crippled anyone yet!"
- "You have to play the game, to find out why you have to play the game."
- Oh, that's gross. I've said that aboot 6 times now.
- That's an interesting twist.
- That's ANOTHER interesting twist.
- Now THAT is an Irish Wolfhound. Also, an interesting way to hide a gun.
Wow. That was an 11 on the camp scale.
It has a nifty premise to give meaning to its surreal hijinks. In "eXistenZ," Jennifer Jason Leigh stars as Allegra Geller, a video game designer in the process of releasing her newest creation, the eponymous virtual reality platform. As the film takes place in what can only be described as the near future, where game-makers are seen as artistic geniuses high above the 99%, Allegra is as important a figure as a world leader might be - she, along with few others, has refined a kind of video game so convincing in transporting its player into "another dimension" that the lines between reality and fantasy are spitefully blurred.
But Allegra's eXistenZ is still in the early stages of post-production, and, as the film opens, she is testing it out on an elite audience curious to see what she has to offer. The "screening," however, is interrupted by an assassin who tries to take her life, believing that her innovations in the entertainment industry will lead to the collapse of civilization itself. Though she only escapes with minor wounds, she worries about the future of her game, bringing innocent security guard Ted Pikul (Jude Law) along with her on a run for safety. Concerned that the "pod" containing all the data for her soon-to-be released creation may have been damaged in the bullet-ridden murder attempt, she convinces Ted to join her in entering eXistenZ to sort out any potential bugs. Their realities, though, may be affected in the procedure.
"eXistenZ" is offbeat in its satire and disarmingly serious in remittance to its screwy premise, and, like most other Cronenberg films, you either worship its quiddities or are unimpressed by them. As a critic who has gone for most of my reviewing career inclined to look the other way in response to Cronenberg's body horror based features ("Eastern Promises" is good, but "Dead Ringers" is vomit inducing"), "eXistenZ" makes for the first time in which his mutilations of what it means to be human have comprehensively drawn me in, on both a technical and artistic level.
Cronenberg gets just about everything right here. His (perhaps not so) far-fetched satirical view of media consumerism (often compared to his earlier "Videodrome," unseen by me) is sickening in its portrayal - in the future America depicted in the film, X-Boxes have been traded for what appear to be abnormally large, fleshy parasites, whose cords, looking rather umbilical, connect to ports located in the smalls of the player's back. Consumers don't sit in front of a screen and press a few buttons: they zone out and live in a fantasy world pre-programmed for them, so stupefyingly realistic that it comes as a shock when it turns out that other people in the artificial world only respond to dialogue when it is directly lifted from the script. At one point, Law's character briefly takes a break from eXistenZ and worriedly admits that reality no longer feels real - the faux one, it seems, has taken its place.
Cronenberg finds the time to spotlight the humor that can arise from such a ludicrous setting, but one of my favorite things about "eXistenZ" is its self-assuredness; so grandly outrageous is it that we initially find ourselves bombarded with questions to ask. Minutes later, though, do we come to accept Cronenberg's insanity, and the way Leigh and Law, top-shelf here, play it so straight that we applaud them for selling a hypothetical scenario that might otherwise come across as even being too moonstruck for a comic book. It's a strange, magnificent film, needed to be seen to be believed. Only Cronenberg could have made it, and that's a factor that makes its existence all the more unsurpassed.