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The films of David Cronenberg reveal a director who is continually finding new ways to explore themes that have preoccupied him since his early work on  Stereo, Crimes of the Future, and Shivers. His films are populated with characters who alter or are involved in altering the human body through violent acts, who represent science or the media or some fringe element of society such as the mob in A History of Violence or Eastern Promises, and where the  logical and ordered reasoning of science or norms are no longer applicable.

While Fast Company is certainly not a horror movie it is certainly not the typical racing movie either. David Cronenberg has substituted grotesque human physiology for the inner workings of the “funny car” which cinematographer Mark Irwin(who also shot Cronenbergs The Brood and Scanners) photographs in various stages of repair and assembly throughout the movie as if it were the inner workings of the human body. How the cars work is detailed throughout the movie without hindering the plot, which is deceptively simple when viewed as a standard 70’s car movie but when looked closer at reveal those themes which Cronenberg has been working through for quite some time. The physiology of the car iself is one theme that plays out through the movie and is tied intricately with the characters. The two main racers, Lonnie Johnson and Gary Black are physically part of the vehicles they race. I am sure that as anyone who races cars would tell you, the vehicle becomes an extension of the driver with every turn and increase of speed. There seems to be a certain appeal in this for Cronenberg who shows the drivers in and out of the car but these characters are only really complete when man and machine are unified. This is important because these characters also exist on the fringe, inhabiting race tracks and trailers and cruising down the highway from town to town. They are not the heroes of NASCAR who have gotten rich driving cars, just ordinary people who do not know how to do anything else but drive.

Then there is the organization called Fast Co. which, in true Cronenberg form, is a crooked and menacing company that is more concerned about selling its product(which is no good of course) then with winning the races that Lonnie Johnson drives for them. The track rep for Fast Co. is played with very dirty gusto by John Saxon as he constantly tries to put Lonnie Johnson and his crew off the track and out of a job. This unseen force which John Saxon’s charcter personifies is not subject matter that Cronenberg completely takes seriously, as there is a sex scene which involves two girls being rubbed down with Fast Co. oil and another where a dumbfounded security guard stands helplessly by as Lonnie Johnson and his crew steal back the funny car that was taken from them after they were fired. There are plenty of moments of good humor in this picture and they are made all the more funny because they are balanced out with the desperation the characters feel as they are drive and as they attempt to hold onto what they have worked so hard for throughout their lives. Lonnie Johnson and Gary Black are set up as polar opposites in this respect with what and who they love stuck in between their rivalry.

You might not think so from watching such movies as Rabid or The Brood, both of which bookend Fast Company, but much like The Fly or some of his other works, Fast Company reveals David Cronenberg to be very humane and compassionate towards his characters. Human suffering and struggle turns out to be a very important  part of the physiology which Cronenberg studies so intently in his films and while he never quite takes a transcendent view of the human condition or is very optimistic about it, he does take his characters at face value and is never flippant about their surroundings or circumstances. It is a shame then that this film has been all but eclipsed by a lack of distribution when it was released and very little critical attention afterwards. Despite all of this Fast Company is a great genre film and one that is an important reference point in the work of David Cronenberg.

charlesjacob; vanheck123@hotmail.com

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