directed by David Cronenberg
Canada 1996


Almost as pared down and purified as late Bresson, Cronenberg's Crash focuses on half a dozen individuals who aren't so much characters as separate versions, aspects, or stages of the same character; all are car-crash veterans and most have sex with most of the others. The first two we encounter, Catherine Ballard (Deborah Kara Unger) and James Ballard (James Spader), are a married couple who have a lot of casual sex with other partners, experiences that are then recounted during their sex with each other. James produces TV commercials, and Catherine spends a lot of her time around an airport (in the novel she works at one). But the film is interested only in their sex lives and their driving.

In the first crash we see James collides with another car on a freeway because he's looking at a set of storyboards while driving. Unlike the crashes we usually see in movies but like all the crashes in this film, it's over in a flash, the makes of the cars are irrelevant, and there's no explosion--three early clues that this is an art movie, not an exploitation venture. This isn't to deny that Cronenberg has his own way of making the event baroque: the driver of the other car is thrown through his windshield onto the hood of James's car and killed. His wife, Dr. Helen Remington (Holly Hunter), has been kept in place by her seat belt; as she breaks free she exposes one of her breasts--a detail missing from the novel--and it's not clear whether this is inadvertent or deliberate. This moment represents a modulation in the way the film handles sex, an eerie key change that's reflected in the remainder of the action.

Immediately after the collision, James and Helen are shocked into seeing a new kind of erotic possibility, which is explored when Catherine visits James in the hospital, when he encounters Helen in the hospital and afterward, and when all three of them get acquainted with Vaughan (Elias Koteas), a survivor of multiple crashes. He introduces them to an entire cult formed around the erotics of car crashes, including Colin Seagrave (Peter MacNeill), a former race-car driver who collaborates with Vaughan in restaging famous car crashes (such as those involving James Dean and Jayne Mansfield), and Gabrielle (Rosanna Arquette), who wears leg braces and a full-body support suit like fetishistic paraphernalia. It all sounds like a joke, but the film rigorously, solemnly follows these characters as they compulsively replay and comment on a crash video in Swedish, restage accidents, have sex in cars, photograph people having sex in cars and crash victims (one of Vaughan's activities), or crash their cars into one another's as a kinky kind of love play.

Excerpts from Jonathan Rosenbaum's Review in the Chicago Reader HERE


Theatrical Release: May 17th, 1996

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DVD Review: New Line - Region 1 - NTSC

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New Line

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 1:40:24

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 4.77 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio English, French (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Subtitles English, French, Spanish
Features Release Information:
Studio: New Line

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• Theatrical Trailer

DVD Release Date: November 17th, 1998
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Chapters 22



What can I say? Extraordinary work by New Line, particularly considering this DVD's age (it came out in 1998).

The transfer of this single-layered disc is excellent in every regard. Cronenberg's chromatic colors are pristinely retained, sharpness and detail are evident throughout and the contrast is flawless as well. There is no combing or ghosting whatsoever and neither will you find too much grain. I am amazed at how crystal clear this image is, both in motion and upon closer inspection.

The 2.0 soundtrack does its job very well too. Dialogue is always perfectly audible, while we also get some impressive sound effects in the driving scenes. Besides the original English version there is a French dub as well.

New Line seriously believes that anyone would be interested in watching the severely cut R-Rated version of the film, which is featured here through a seamless branching process. Well, seamless it isn't, because what we see when choosing the R-Rated version is the NC-17 rated one, only programmed to stop at a freeze frame when "inappropriate" material turns up and then to jump forward a few seconds. So, for your own good, ignore the R-Rated cut.

A major disappointment here is the lack of the Cronenberg audio commentary that was featured on the Criterion laserdisc. Cronenberg is one of the finest DVD commentary speakers among directors and his track on the laserdisc is really terrific. The only extra we get is merely the theatrical trailer. We can only hope for a future re-issue of this magnificent film, featuring this important piece of bonus material, but until then this excellent looking and sounding DVD should make all of us happy.

 - Stan Czarnecki


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