Stereo (David Cronenberg / Canada, 1969):

Clinical, sinuous, jagged. The first shot gives a tranquil view of the University of Toronto, a dot in the sky dilates into a helicopter carrying a mysterious fellow (Ronald Mlodzik), with cape and scepter like Dracula or a mod pop star. The dried, flattened voiceover elucidates David Cronenberg's method ("an existential-organic approach to the sciences"), but the daring of his concepts and the richness of his humor need no explanation. The "Canadian Academy for Erotic Enquiry" is the stage for this sustained abstract jest, where telepathy is the ongoing concern: Scanners is already sketched as Mlodzik lifts his floppy mop in front of the mirror and massages his forehead, seeking the best spot to drill. Just as Godard brilliantly posited the future as an extended hotel stay in Alphaville, Cronenberg turns society into an empty, cavernous institute. Fittingly, the turbulent self is composed of long corridors, stone walls, and glass panes, a void to be filled with Sartrean gags: a researcher fondles an anatomy dummy's plastic innards while a female subject awaits the sensation, topless and blindfolded atop a stool. Sex pokes through the zombified blanket -- a tracking shot transverses the lab in the dark and locates two experiments humping under research lights, "three-dimensional sexuality" arrives in a slow-mo group-grope that challenges the accepted borders of "perversion" and validates the movie's closet aperçu ("Amor vincit omnia"). With Jack Messinger, Clara Mayer, Paul Mulholland, Ian Ewing, and Arlene Mlodzik. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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