I missed most of the David Cronenberg retrospective at the American Cinematheque last week, but did manage to catch a double-bill of Rabid and The Brood, preceded by his rarely screened early films (each about an hour in length) Stereo (1969) and Crimes of the Future (1970). The early films are very student-filmy, though Cronenberg places them in the context of American “underground film” ala Jonas Mekas, Jack Smith and the Filmmakers' Co-op. To my surprise, Cronenberg (who was present at the screenings for a Q&A) said he formed an entity in the late sixties called the Toronto Film Co-op. With Ivan Reitman of all people. Reitman is the director of Meatballs, Stripes, Ghostbusters, and Kindergarten Cop. (I don't mean to disparage Reitman. Ghostbusters is a fond film from my childhood).
Stereo and Crimes of the Future are very much of a piece, but Crimes of the Future benefits from being more coherent and much funnier. Adrian Tripod, a dermatologist at an institute called the House of Skin, is researching a fatal disease called Rouge’s Malady which has killed off most of the planet’s women. The disease causes its victims to engage in bizarre sexual acts of fetishism and to secrete white, foamy, edible substances from their orifices. Some victims grow detachable organs that seem to serve no biological purpose. In order to re-populate the planet, the survivors must breed with a pre-pubescent girl who has somehow been genetically manipulated to bear children. Such pedophilia is the "crime of the future". The narration, humorous and baroque, with pseudo-scientific pretenses that would delight David Wilson of the Museum of Jurassic Technology, makes this film a must-see for Cronenberg fans. "Must-see". Jeez, I sound like a journalist. Gotta drop that.