Sunday, 13 November 2011
David Cronenberg's "Secret Weapons" available free to view online
Many years ago, I think around 1984, I attended a short season of Canadian films screened at Canada House in Trafalgar Square - rather an imposing, formal space in which to see a distinctly anti-authoritarian double bill; David Cronenberg's Scanners and his incredibly rare 1972 short film Secret Weapons. That evening I took with me a new friend, the filmmaker Derek Jarman; Derek had never heard of Cronenberg but after chuckling appreciatively through Scanners he left the screening singing the Canadian's praises, and especially Secret Weapons.
Twenty-seven years later. I'd almost given up hope of ever seeing this bizarre curio again, until tonight, when I found it available to watch online absolutely free. What strikes me watching it a second time is just how strange a mixture it is; part-underground movie, with a sort of techno-Beatnik feel, part straight-faced satire featuring another of Cronenberg's sinister, derailed institutions, mutating from pure science into anarchic absurdity. The blend is due to the fact that Secret Weapons was written by Norman Snider, whose authorial voice provides a fascinating counterpoint to Cronenberg's (the two would work together again on the screenplay for Dead Ringers in 1988). The acting is rough, amateurish even, but the conceptual intelligence and stylized filming are perfectly in sync' with early works like Stereo (1969) and Crimes of the Future (1970). However, where those two films were minimalist, withdrawn to the point of inertia, Secret Weapons has dynamism; perhaps it would have wilted if spread out over an hour like Crimes of the Future, but at just over twenty minutes, and boasting sync sound for the first time, Secret Weapons is a bridge between the undiluted avant-garde of Cronenberg's early films and the accessibility of Shivers (1975) and Rabid (1977).
Last but not least, a truly unexpected pleasure is the music by an outfit called Syrinx, a mixture of pulsing electronics, organ, and saxophone that sounds like it escaped from an all-night recording session with Cluster or early Kraftwerk, with Conny Plank at the controls.
Watch David Cronenberg's "Secret Weapons" here.