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Antiviral

Antiviral is the directorial debut of Brandon Cronenberg, the son of the master of “body horror,” David Cronenberg. It bears a marked similarity to his father’s work, but still manages to hold its own, has a distinct style, and is not merely a copy of Cronenberg films like Videodrome and eXistenZ. It’s eerie and fascinating, a subtle combination of horror, science fiction, and surreal atmosphere. The visual style has an elegant spareness and crispness that is pure and precise. I found it well worth watching, and very interesting.

The protagonist is Syd March, played by the beautiful yet intensely sinister Caleb Landry Jones. He works for a company which sells live viral infections harvested from the bodies of celebrities to customers who yearn to share their illnesses, and commune with them via the shared infection. This film brings up some intriguing concepts about the survival of the human body past the death of the individual. For one, it makes the point that to viruses, the human body in itself is irrelevant, it is the host cells, the basic biological level, which matter. One of the characters makes a reference to the first human immortal cell line, telling March that the cells of a woman who died of cancer in the 1950s are still alive and being grown today, so that at least on a biological level, her death has not been complete. He comments that “the afterlife is getting extremely perverse.”

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Ergo Proxy

I’ve just started re-watching the sci-fi anime show Ergo Proxy, and again I’m struck by its visual splendor. Ergo Proxy is a deeply philosophical, beautifully animated dystopian cyberpunk series which deals with the existence of humans and AutoReivs (androids) in the domed city of Romdeau, built to protect its citizens after global ecological disaster thousands of years in the past. The main character is Re-l Mayer, an intelligence bureau agent who is assigned to investigate the “Cogito virus,” which causes infected AutoReivs to become self-aware. The “Proxies” are mysterious, godlike beings whose nature is enigmatic yet deeply human. Taking place both within the seemingly utopian, futuristic city and outside in the vast, dark expanses of the post-apocalyptic wasteland, the capacities and origin of the Proxies are slowly unraveled. In this gorgeous animation, cerebral engagement, existential musings, emotional intensity, and aesthetic rigor combine in a rare way to produce a dreamlike, vague, often abstruse, but ultimately compelling story.

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“Notes from the Acrid Plain with Burton Hoary, Vol. 7”

One of the most memorable features that I saw during the Seattle International Film Festival in 2008 was a short film directed by Jonathan Ashley, called Notes from the Acrid Plain with Burton Hoary, Volume 7. It was a whimsical, eerie, darkly humorous, yet touching post-apocalyptic narrative styled like a vintage documentary, where “naturalist Burton Hoary hosts a survey of the toxic landscape known as the ‘Acrid Plain,’ peopled by the masked descendants of the human race. This chapter focuses on the Harvesters, their obscure practices and the perils they face.” I was pleased to discover that the short film is now up on YouTube.

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Olivier de Sagazan

Olivier de Sagazan’s truly disturbing, visceral, liminal performance art pieces tread the fluid boundaries between beauty, grotesqueness, terror, uncanniness, and creativity. The emotional intensity and sheer bizarreness of his uncanny art, which is a hybrid of painting, photography, sculpture, and performance, takes the viewer beyond ordinary considerations of aesthetic pleasingness into a world of violently expressed and unnervingly arcane impulses.

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