Both A Kiss Before Dying (KBD) and The Grifters are examples of what William Marling has called the American roman noir. Noir in this instance echoes another genre, film noir, and refers to a whole repertoire of narrative elements including settings, characters, plot devices, and diction. More generally it signifies a degraded moral condition and a pessimistic, even deterministic, view of the world. The noir universe is one where dark impulses drive action and appearances are often deceptive. Though romans noir often play out in the demimonde— cheap bars, casinos, shabby boardinghouses, etc.– moral darkness also pervades sun-struck suburban streets and opulent penthouses.
Cronenberg’s 1983 film uses a paranoid fantasy– that images can control your thoughts– to develop a hallucinatory critique of the power of electronic media. As with every other film he’s made, Cronenberg foregrounds the moist and meaty presence of the human body– in this instance to probe the blurry line that divides matter from ideation. Is the image a virus? Starring James Woods and Debbie Harry, Videodrome engages motifs further elaborated in 1999’s eXistenZ. Enjoy the ultra 80s trailer below!
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