(1943- ) Canadian film-maker. Crucially a writer as well as a director, Cronenberg can be claimed as one of the most important practitioners of sf, in any medium, of the last quarter of the twentieth century. From his early student and underground films – Transfer (1966), From the Drain (1967), Stereo (1969) and Crimes of the Future (1970), the television short Secret Weapons (1972) – through his gutsy, increasingly surreal exploitation movies – The Parasite Murders (1974; vt They Came From Within; vt Shivers), Rabid (1976), The Brood (1979), Scanners (1980) and Videodrome (1982) – to his more mainstream ventures – The Dead Zone (1983; from Stephen King's novel), The Fly (1986; a remake of the 1958 Monster Movie), Dead Ringers (1989), The Naked Lunch (1991; based on William S Burroughs's 1959 novel), and his film of J G Ballard's Crash (1973) – Cronenberg has shown a remarkably consistent visual and intellectual style, dealing with the mind-body divide, near-future social, religious and chemical taboos, the Media Landscape, and the extremes of experience. Cronenberg has also worked as an actor, in John Landis's Into the Night (1985) and, more notably, Clive Barker's Nightbreed (1990). The odd man out in his own filmography is Fast Company (1977), an efficient but nondescript movie about drag racing. The highly bizarre violence and mutation, often sexual in nature, of mid-period Cronenberg – especially the phallic parasites of The Parasite Murders and the sadomasochist visions of Videodrome – won him a reputation as the most uncompromising genre auteur of his generation, but The Brood, an interior-directed family-trauma drama, revealed a vein of icy sensitivity that later yielded The Fly, an extraordinarily moving rereading of its hackneyed premise which abjures monster-on-the-loose melodrama for a quietly affecting study of the process of physical change, and Dead Ringers, an entirely psychological and non-sf variation on Cronenberg's habitual themes that demonstrates how he has created his own category – the Cronenberg Movie – rather than inhabited the sf or Horror genres in the way that contemporaries like George A Romero and Wes Craven have done. On being hailed as "the King of Venereal Horror", Cronenberg commented: "It's a small field, Venereal Horror, but at least I'm king of it." Although Cronenberg is reported to have said around 1993 that he would no longer be working in horror or science fiction, his films are likely to retain the very distinctive Cronenberg tone, as could be said of his film – an adaptation of Henry David Hwang's successful play – M. Butterfly (1993), about a diplomat who falls in love with an apparently female Chinese opera singer, not realizing she is actually male. An interesting book of interviews is Cronenberg on Cronenberg (coll 1991) edited by Chris Rodley. [KN]
see also: Cinema; Cyberpunk; Humour; Monsters; Parasitism and Symbiosis; Pseudoscience; Sex.
born Toronto, Ontario: 15 May 1943
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