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'Meet you all the way, Rosanna yeah'

Author: • Dec 14th, 2007 •

Category: Ballardosphere, body horror, celebrity culture, censorship, David Cronenberg, death of affect, film, sexual politics, speed & violence

Ballardian: Crash

How strange is this: Rosanna Arquette, and Crash, popping up in all sorts of places. This film, Ballard’s story, still packs a powerful psychological enema.

First up, Maxim Magazine, anointing the scene with Spader/Ballard fucking Rosanna’s leg wound as no.2 in ‘The Worst Love Scenes of All Time’:

Regardless of how distasteful most of the previous couplings have been, at least they all involved the use of normal human orifices. In Crash (David Cronenberg’s movie about car crash fetishes, not the racism lecture penned by the rich white guy), we have the unfortunate airing of Spader’s penis and a huge gash in the back of Arquette’s leg. Sorry, even we have limits.

According to MelbPsy (who brought this bizarre ripple in the space-time continuum to my attention): ‘Thirty years on and even a magazine which shamelessly promotes the sexiness of dangerously fast cars alongside the geometric fetishisation of specific bodily contours hasn’t the stomach to look Crash in the face. How little we have travelled.’

The other weird detail is that in their excerpt from the film, Maxim has blacked out Rosanna’s breasts and vagina. Are we therefore to infer that ‘normal’ female sexuality is even more distasteful to these people? Do they in fact have any sex life at all? Or do they simply hate women? What a messy, confused, distorted signal they send.

And then, unbelievably, Heather Mills of all people weighs in:

SIR PAUL McCARTNEY’s estranged wife HEATHER MILLS is reportedly “disgusted” by his new girlfriend ROSANNA ARQUETTE for her controversial role in 1997 movie CRASH. The former model – who lost a leg in a motorcycle accident in 1993 – is sickened by Arquette’s portrayal of a disabled woman who gets sexual enjoyment out of car accidents in the David Cronenberg-directed movie, according to a pal. Mills’ alleged attack follows reports of a romance between the ex-Beatle and the Hollywood star, which first surfaced last month (Nov07). A close friend says, “When Heather saw Paul’s new girlfriend appearing on screen with a similar injury to herself, she was disgusted. Rosanna’s character gets turned on by accidents. Heather told pals she finds this reprehensible.” Mills and McCartney – who have a four-year-old daughter, Beatrice, together are currently embroiled in a bitter divorce battle.

Are we therefore to infer from this that Heather wants all amputees and accident victims to live chaste lives, segregated from ‘normal’ society? You can’t have it both ways. Maybe Paul shouldn’t have dated Heather in the first place, as he could be seen to be getting his jollies from accident victims.

Emily, who alerted me to this story, says that ‘Crash still retains the power to shock’, and indeed it does, but so does Beatle Paul. I had no idea he was going out with Rosanna Arquette.

What next? Holly Hunter shacking up with Gerry and all his Pacemakers? Elias Koteas shagging Elton John?

Ballardian

..:: RETROSPECTO REWIND ::..

Ballardian

Here’s a reminder of the throbbing paroxysms generated by Crash on its release in 1996. Alexander Walker was one prominent critic generating most of it; Christopher Tookey was the other. Here’s the latter responding to *his* critics after he called for the film to be denied an 18 certificate:

One perk of being a freelance journalist who writes for the Daily Mail is that there is always the chance of becoming a leftwing hate figure. Last month, it happened to me. I was denounced in the Guardian, Observer and Time Out. Normally friendly fellow critics accused me of being “very, very, very, very bad” (Ann Billson, Sunday Telegraph) or setting myself up as “moral guardian to the nation” (Alan Frank, Daily Star).

Perhaps the weirdest response was a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission by a media studies lecturer convinced that I was prejudiced against disabled people having sex. Actually, I used to be director of an ATV programme about disability called Link, and we covered the subject several times, usually in items presented by disabled people.

I duly reassured the commission that what I had found questionable in Crash was not disabled people having sex, nor able-bodied people being interested in having sex with the disabled, but the attempt by the filmmakers to eroticise mutilations and fetishise orthopaedic appliances.

Whatever course of action, or inaction, the BBFC takes about Crash, my belief remains that David Cronenberg’s film might well have a “copycat effect” on a few unstable individuals-particularly if it became available on video, where it could be studied obsessively. The lethal weapons that Cronenberg fetishises are, after all, not guns, which are not readily available to the British public, but cars, which are. Joyriding, ram-raiding and reckless driving by youths are already social problems. Cronenberg’s reputation among the young as a cult, “shock horror” director might tempt many more to seek out his film than would normally watch a boring art-house film.

Crash could also have a far more insidious longterm effect by eroticising sado-masochism and orthopaedic fetishism for people previously unaware of being turned on by acts of mutilation. To allow Crash an 18 certificate would set a precedent for even more pernicious-and commercial-films in the future.

“Fetishising orthopaedic appliances”? Like Dr Scholls sandals, for example? Seriously, this is seriously hard to take seriously.

So, what does Tookey think of Hostel and Wolf Creek, then? Surely, 10 years on, in the age of ‘torture porn’, he can’t feel the same way about all of this? And sure enough, he doesn’t…after a fashion. Compare his recent review of Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises:

Such brutality may be hard to watch, but it’s more truthful than most big-screen violence, and it doesn’t have the flippancy that so degrades Eli Roth, Tarantino and other purveyors of “torture porn”. Cronenberg’s intention is probably neither moral or humanistic (there seems to be something about blood and brutality that he finds erotically stimulating) but the effect of Eastern Promises is undoubtedly to bring home the nastiness of violence. And that is moral, humanistic and responsible, whether the film-maker intends it to be or not.

Yes, you guessed it, Tookey has found a couple more straw men to rail against. Thus, although he still begrudges Cronenberg the artistic due the filmmaker so richly deserves, Tookey — in crab-like fashion, two steps forward, 10 steps sideways — ever-so-slightly admits, fighting with all his might against his better nature, that there’s more to Cronenberg than mere ‘shock horror’. As for finding ‘blood and brutality’ erotically stimulating, I would like to direct Tookey’s attention to the charming Dead Girls Fashion Parade and to Steven Meisel’s state-brutalised models. And to those beheading videos with which his review makes reference, the ones that were so virally and virulently propagated all over the internet.

This is the world we live in. We’ve been living in it for a very, very long time now. Tookey makes a good first move by acknowledging the ‘truthfulness’ of Cronenberg-style violence. Now he needs to take the final leap: acknowledging the erotic element, which he seems to find so thoroughly distasteful in both his Crash and Eastern Promises rants.

And delivering that sermon must surely be the task of Cronenberg himself:

I can imagine some wouldn’t want to acknowledge the homoerotic element [in Eastern Promises], but to me it seems pretty obvious. I wish I could be the first to claim to see the connection between sex and violence, but it goes back about 5,000 years. I’m just acknowledging things that are there that seem apparent to me. We’re in a bizarre place with the Internet right now, where we can see snuff porn any minute of the day or night in the comfort of your own home—courtesy, often, of Muslim extremists. I’m sure they would be pretty shocked to think that I was seeing homoerotic stuff in their beheadings and so on, but I do see it, and very clearly. And it drives me crazy that they’re so self-righteous about what they’re doing, because I see it as a very complexly perverse act. The beheading I saw was like a homosexual gang rape, really. Despite the religious chanting and the beards, it was very apparent to me.

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13 Responses »

  1. I was unaware of the McCartney story.

    I remember a hideous interview with Heather Mills where she launched her George Best tribute single ‘My Amazing Feat’ with Colin Hay.

    http://www.heathermillsmccartney.com/media_best.php

    She first declared that although she wasn’t a fan of Men at Work she was a big fan of Hay’s solo work (who’s she trying to kid??) before spending an awkward amount of time over-explaining the pun in the title: “You see he achieved an amazing feat, and he had amazing feet, because he was such a great footballer, so it works both ways you see?”

    More sickening than anything Ballard could ever imagine.

  2. She certainly has a way with words and imagery. Didn’t she tell us all to drink rats’ milk recently?

  3. Indeed she did, Fat Tony style. She endorses The Federation of Rodent Cheesemakers.
    http://deedah.org/cheese/facts.html

  4. James Spader looks like he’s playing a hair-metal riff in that photo.

  5. In fact, he looks like he’s playing the lead break to Toto’s ‘Rosanna’, the lyrics of which this post takes its title from.

  6. One thing that is very resonating for me is how Tookey is so ruffled by the brutal truth of Crash that he desperately tries to push it off on Joyriding Youths.

    Growing up in the UK, the cult of auto-eroticism was in all stratas of society. Visiting my dad in the summers I came into contact with classic sports car owning, London satellite village dwelling business types – blasting the country lanes, drunk and reckless.

    This local pub down there in Kent had a classic car Sunday. The men would line their classic cars and inspect them, all the time using rich suggestive language.

    I used to make myself laugh out loud thinking that the next natural step out to be the guys engaging in burning passionate sex at the wheel and dying together in glorious high speed impacts/orgasm.

  7. Let’s face it, would you pull the staff of Maxim, Heather Mills, Alexander Walker or Christopher Tookey from a burning car? I’m surprised you give these pinheads the credence of responding to their inane blather… although the irony would probably amuse JGB.

  8. JGB, as far as I can tell, doesn’t give a crap. After all, when Alexander Walker walked out of a Cannes screening of Crash, Ballard declared that little hissy fit to be a ‘total artistic success’. He has an excellent point: when these bastions of moral values (oh alright, Jack…’pinheads’) are on your side, you know you’re batting for the wrong team.

  9. I can’t imagine Ballard gives a solitary fuck, but I don’t think it does to be all intellectually nonchalant about this and live in an ivory tower. This was reported in the MX, a popular free Melbourne newspaper and I think it is worth noting that a lot of people will read this and no doubt take it at face value, vaguelly agreeing. Sadly more people will listen to Heather Mills than read this site and I consider mass opinion worth observing and commenting on. I think Ballard does too, although he may remain blissfully unaware of this episode. Did he not, for all his glee in their disapproval, describe the Mail anti-Crash articles as a shameful event in British culture? He undestands that these types of media are incredibly popular and feels this worth engaging with. He could not have written Kingdom Come if he’d been satisfied to sit smugly with his copy of The Guardian in a Hamstead retreat. This is part of what is so compelling about Ballard. And so yes, I do think it was worth commenting on.

  10. What’s wrong with speed, shock and horror? Nothing at all; it’s good for you. But the dosage has to be continuous, like an IV infusion, so tolerance can develop. Then and only then, one can progress.

  11. Ooh, I just found out that the Toto song “Rosanna”, the lyrics of which this post takes its title from (as I mentioned a few comments back), was actually written about Rosanna Arquette! Apparently she used to bring the band food while they were in the studio. I had no idea, that song just came to mind when writing the post. So there you go: the image of James Spader playing Rosanna’s leg brace like a guitar while singing “Rosanna” is chillingly accurate. As Ballard might say, “Deep assignments run through our lives — there are no coincidences.”

  12. It’s not the speed, shock and horror that worry me, it’s the faux-disgust and outrage. We need more honesty, for moral thugs lie behind every corner.

  13. [...] many years you’ve got left there, David. So do us all a favor- unless it is going to contain sex with scars, exploding heads, or Jeff Goldblum- don’t make this [...]

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