US 1986, dir. David Cronenberg, 100m
Cronenberg’s most accessible and successful picture is a stunning example of how an idiosyncratic talent can flourish in the mainstream. Simultaneously enjoyable and thought-provoking, humorous and horrific, The Fly succeeds on pretty much every level, from wham-blam crowd-pleaser to highbrow allegory. Scientist Jeff Goldblum – in his ultimate role – perfects a teleportation device that works fine with inanimate objects but has trouble with living matter. Ironing out the glitches, he risks going through the teleportation process himself – only to find that he has managed to fuse his DNA with that of his unsuspected companion in the transport pod, a housefly. Cue alarming physical and mental distortions and, finally, transformations. This is a curiously underpopulated film – the only real characters are Goldblum, Geena Davis as his increasingly terrified journalist girlfriend, and John Getz as her boss and ex-lover, a sour James Woods type. A small central cast is usually an indicator of metaphorical subtext, though whether it’s specifically AIDS here – Goldblum spears himself on a microchip the first time he and Davis get in bed together – or more generally disease and death, is up to the viewer’s interpretation. However you approach it, The Fly is a phenomenally well-made, exciting movie, light years ahead of the 1958 ‘original’ of which this is only vaguely a remake. Cronenberg totally understands his material, and as a result gets everything just about spot on – he saves the best till last, with a final shot and fade to black which feel just exactly right.
by Neil Young