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Crimes of the Future

Crimes of the Future, 2022

In an unspecified future, human bodies have begun a series of mutations, growing strange new organs. Saul (Viggo Mortensen) experiences such mutations at a rapid rate, and he has become famous as a performance artist with his partner Caprice (Léa Seydoux) removing his new organs in public surgeries. The two become entangled in a political movement centered on a new type of digestive system when they are approached by the father (Scott Speedman) of a boy whose mother killed him for possessing such a system.

This is a conceptually engaging film that, despite good performances, doesn't quite hit as hard as I'd hoped.

There are a lot of Crash vibes here (no, not that Crash. The other one. The good one.), and that's a good thing. Early on, a seemingly timid government official (Kristen Stewart) tells Saul that the organ removal surgeries are "the new sex". In a world where most people have stopped experiencing pain in its original form, body mutilation and destruction have become the preferred sensory interaction between two people. While I honestly rolled my eyes at characters saying things like "I wanted you to cut into me," there were some little moments that I found very effective, such as a shot of one woman using what basically looks like a pizza cutter to slowly saw into another woman's foot. It also leads to a hilarious uncomfortable sequence where Stewart's character slowly corners Saul and a decidedly awkward kiss leads to Saul sheepishly conceding, "I'm not very good at the old sex."

So it's an interesting concept in the science fiction sense of things. But I also think that from an allegorical point of view it's also kind of neat to think about. In an era where people put their most personal, intimate pieces of their life on the internet for the entertainment and scrutiny of others, the visual of people literally flaying themselves on camera feels inescapably like commentary. I think it also gets into the input fatigue that most people can't help but feel these days. So many things are thrown at us each day, that it takes more and more extreme things to stand out from the crowd. In Crimes of the Future, that line becomes the live, for entertainment autopsy of a child. At the same time, it also invites the question of when things need to be seen. In the father's need for people to see the insides of his child's body---the insides that led his own mother to decide he was inhuman enough to merit murdering him and calling him a "creature"--has shades of Emmett Till.

Performance wise, I thought everyone was on point. Mortensen's Saul seems perpetually uncomfortable. His character, due to his constant mutations, is racked with breathing problems and unending digestive issues. (I read that Mortensen was also suffering from a pretty painful leg injury, so maybe the discomfort wasn't entirely acting). Seydoux plays an interesting boundary between someone who seems to be highly empathetic, and yet is still navigating the dynamics of what it is that she does in her art.

The effects themselves are also delightfully gross, with a kind of matter-of-factness to how many of the scenes are shot that add to their effectiveness.

There were a few things, though, that kept me from really clicking with this one. The first is that the whole subplot with the dead boy and his family felt somehow underdeveloped. I never totally understood why it was that the mother who didn't want the kid had him, and the dad who cared a lot about him didn't. I also felt as if, in general, the world of the film wasn't all that well fleshed out (sorry). I read that the film was all shot in a single warehouse, and there's a sense of non-reality here, as if there were only 30 people available to be in the film. Finally, I'm really over movies with audacious visions of the future that just show us the same bodies over and over. We see three different fully nude women, and they all are the same type and in the same age range. All of the "sex" interactions we see (whether the "new sex" or "old sex") are between men and women, with the exception of a scene between two women. This movie has its male gaze blinders on hardcore and frankly it's boring. The guy covered with ears? Interesting! The two pin-up women who get naked and lay around for no reason? Boring!

The ideas here are wonderful, but the story and the world feel a bit underbaked, and as a result the film as a whole left me cold.