BFI Classics: Crash Review

Author: Iain Sinclair

No doubt Iain Sinclair is a very erudite, insightful and learned man. He knew JG Ballard (on whose novel Crash was based) personally. But it’s hard to imagine putting him on a ‘fantasy dinner guests’ list on the basis of this slog of a book.

There have been other egg-headed entries in the BFI series and there’s nothing wrong with getting your academia on. However, it would have been nice if – seeing how this is a series about films and all – Sinclair had demonstrated a bit more passion for Cronenberg’s work. There’s plenty here about Ballard’s book, Ballard’s vision and Ballard himself, but there’s very little in comparison by way of background about Cronenberg’s work, Cronenberg’s vision and Cronenberg himself.

There are digressions into the world of the London demimonde, the work of the Marquis de Sade and, um Jayne Mansfield. It’s all linked together beautifully but after awhile it was like being Alex in A Clockwork Orange: bombarded with too much information, in a way that felt really unpleasant. And yes, along with The Man From U.N.C.L.E, A Clockwork Orange gets a look in.

There’s no real sense of Sinclair the film fan here, and this book is the poorer for it. He writes intelligently and knowledgably about film, but with no fire in the belly – and he’s pretentious with it, to the point of parody, and there’s nothing he can say one way that can’t be said a couple of more times in a different, “look ma, I’m a writer!” way:

“The characters are zombies of the suburbs. There are no star performances. They are all bit players in a lost B-feature that has somehow scammed a serious budget. Holly Hunter and Rosanna Arquette are generous enough to behave as if they are look-alikes. They understudy themselves. They’re in this nightmare together, a deleted book, a pre-posthumous movie.”

Good luck wading through that. There’s more (a lot more) where that came from, and a lot worse to boot. As Sinclair might put it, to read this is to be sucked. To be licked. To be groped. To be screwed on the altar of late 20th century disaffection. But never to reach any kind of climax.

Clare Moody

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