Videodrome
1983
Dir: David Cronenberg
Canada has long supported its film-makers through government funding. By combining local and national funds with specialist cinema distribution funds, and fulfilling local TV content quotas, film-makers can sometimes raise the majority of their budget.

We recently showed a season of films from Australia, another country that has strongly supported its film industry. Yet Australia seems to have produced more great films from its funding strategy than Canada.
Whilst Canada is a very popular and successful location for US-based films and television series, it's true to say that Canada has never really set the world alight with its own film productions.
And that's a bit strange.
How can Canada so successfully replicate US entertainment when commissioned to do so by Americans, but fail constantly when originating it themselves?

I suspect the answer has something to do with Canada's cultural identity, and the fact that it defines itself not by its similarity to the US, but more by its differences. Whilst Canada will take American money to recreate American cities in Toronto and Vancouver, the films that Canadian film-makers really want to make are films that explore Canada's individuality.
And perhaps the rest of the world isn't that interested.

It is perhaps true that Canada's most famous directors are those that have turned to the 'dark side' and make films in the U.S., and most viewers would probably mistake them for being American - e.g. James Cameron, Paul Haggis, Arthur Hiller, Norman Jewison, Ted Kotcheff, Roger Spottiswoode, Ivan Reitman.

David Cronenberg was nurtured by the Canadian funding system. His early films, 'Rabid',
'Shivers', 'The Brood' and 'Scanners' were all low-budget films produced within the Canadian system.

And through these films he developed a lot of his trademark obsessions - with the body, disease, distorted reality, control, disintegration.

He is one of the few film-makers who embraced the horror genre not as a stepping stone to more 'respectable' genres, but as a perfect canvas to bring his unique vision to audiences.

He brought together a team of collaborators that together created a unique atmosphere and style. Cronenberg films have a look, a sound, a visual style that is so co-ordinated and consistent that it could only come from a team whose work meshes together like pieces of a bizarre jigsaw puzzle. Music composer Howard Shore, art direct Carol Spier, sound editor Bray Day, film editor Ronald Sanders, costume designer Denise Cronenberg, and cinematographer Mark Irwin worked together on many of Cronenberg's early films.

Films like 'Rabid' and 'Shivers' are somewhat crudely made, and really only watchable as part of a study of the origins and evolution of his work.

But with 'Videodrome' it truly all came together.

The look, the sound, the tone, the use of make-up effects, and the pervading atmosphere of corruption of body, soul and mind are pure Cronenberg.

The story follows James Woods - a producer for a cheap TV channel as he looks for the next big trend to try and gain ratings. As he scans the other channels to see what they are producing, he finds a bizarre and horrific pirate channel that is strangely compelling.

What sets Cronenberg's films apart from most 'horror' films is that they are clearly produced by a man of vision who has something to say to us.
In 'Videodrome' he explores how television can control our lives, and how it can corrupt our minds. He predicts the power of reality television when his character Dr. Brian Oblivion says "television is reality. And reality is less then television". He explores the strange power and attraction of pornography, and its integration into mainstream television.

It is is bleak and disturbing vision.
The first time I saw 'Videodrome', I did not like it. It was too strange, too dark, too uncomfortable to watch. And yet there was something that made me want to see it again, and again.
Cronenberg's particular disease is infectious!

Paul Spurrier