After a long string of fairly normal dramas, including a boring period piece, David Cronenberg gets back to his roots: hypersexualized artificial orifices in dystopian worlds of squishy, organic gizmos.
Crimes of the Future is a weird intersection of sex, politics, body mutilation, and evolution. Aragorn (Vigo Mortensen) and his partner Caprice are performance artists. Vigo grows new organs in his body, and Caprice surgically removes them in front of enthralled crowds. The surgery itself is highly sexualized, and the performance borders on pornographic.
For those artists without spare organs to yank out, extreme body modification will have to suffice.
Vigo isn't the only one growing new organs. He makes friends with the weirdos down at the National Organ Registry, a new government agency dedicated to tracking the growth of new organs in the population. Their intentions are dubious, and they're also running some organ beauty contests on the side.
A detective pokes around into both the organ registry, and Vigo's art shows. Nobody really trusts anyone, and this seems like a fully justified stance. The owls are not what they seem.
The detective is trying to infiltrate an underground cult that is making illegal candy bars in an attempt to overthrow humanity.
In this future, pain is mysteriously absent, and eating is a serious challenge. The cult leader explains to Vigo that humans are evolving to adapt to their new environment, and the future of food is plastics. Vigo is not convinced, until a bunch of people are violently murdered and he eats some plastic.
Crimes of the Future shares the most in common with eXistenZ: both follow famous artistic leaders in a sexualized, tech-driven hobby of invasive body modification who find themselves caught up in a murderous underground movement driven by a moral fervor that seems both terrible, and possibly justified. eXistenZ is more exciting and action-packed, while Crimes of the Future dives harder into deeply emotional connections and philosophical wanderings. Compared to eXistenZ's now-tired VR-is-evil trope, the more Children of Men humanity-evolves-away-from-itself dilemmas of Crimes of the Future are considerably more interesting, though at times the characters' absurdly disinterested conversations drag on too long.
Visually, this film blows eXistenZ, and all previous Cronenberg films, and most other films, right out of the water. It is gorgeous, featuring incredible use of chiaroscuro and Rembrandt lighting. The sets are stellar, the lighting incredible, the costumes perfectly fitting to the environment, and the organic tech thingies and grotesque scenes of flesh removal are just the right mix of both obviously fake, and completely believable.
I honestly can't believe he got the funding to make this now, but how lucky we are that he did.