David Cronenberg, God love him, sounded content with retirement in a recent interview with the Globe and Mail. “If this is it for the so-called Cronenberg canon, then so be it. You can’t worry about legacy” is more or less the most definitive one can get, but it wasn’t for lack of trying — and if he’s going to the well a little bit in getting something new made, so be it. The best shot-reverse dynamic can’t direct itself.
Presenting the 4K Crash restoration at Montreal’s Festival du Nouveau Cinema, Cronenberg announced he was at work on a Netflix mini-series adaptation of Consumed, his 2014 novel about a camera-obsessed couple who discover a North Korean plot at world domination centered on planting bugs in women’s breasts… something like that. I wrote about it in 2014 and was a bit nonplussed by the whole endeavor, finding it maybe not the greatest use of his time but nevertheless a fascinating window into Cronenberg’s visual processing of the world around him. It sometimes played like the template for a more expansive, stimulating project, and, well, here we are. [World of Reel]
For a preview of what Consumed may hold, I highly recommend Cronenberg’s short The Nest, created in promotion of Consumed. A positively dread-inducing bit of work that, with luck, portends what’s next.
For posterity’s sake, the short and book’s official synopsis:
Stylish and camera-obsessed, Naomi and Nathan thrive on the yellow journalism of the social-media age. They are lovers and competitors—nomadic freelancers in pursuit of sensation and depravity, encountering each other only in airport hotels and browser windows.
Naomi finds herself drawn to the headlines surrounding Celestine and Aristide Arosteguy, Marxist philosophers and sexual libertines. Celestine has been found dead and mutilated in her Paris apartment. Aristide has disappeared. Police suspect him of killing her and consuming parts of her body. With the help of an eccentric graduate student named Herve Blomqvist, Naomi sets off in pursuit of Aristide. As she delves deeper into Celestine and Aristide’s lives, disturbing details emerge about their sex life—which included trysts with Herve and others. Can Naomi trust Herve to help her?
Nathan, meanwhile, is in Budapest photographing the controversial work of an unlicensed surgeon named Zoltán Molnar, once sought by Interpol for organ trafficking. After sleeping with one of Molnar’s patients, Nathan contracts a rare STD called Roiphe’s. Nathan then travels to Toronto, determined to meet the man who discovered the syndrome. Dr. Barry Roiphe, Nathan learns, now studies his own adult daughter, whose bizarre behavior masks a devastating secret.
These parallel narratives become entwined in a gripping, dreamlike plot that involves geopolitics, 3-D printing, North Korea, the Cannes Film Festival, cancer, and, in an incredible number of varieties, sex. “Consumed” is an exuberant, provocative debut novel from one of the world’s leading film directors.