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James Spader, Holly Hunter, Deborah Kara Unger and Rosanna Arquette star in Cronenberg’s controversial adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s metaphorical novel about a cult of automobile accident survivors who are sexually aroused by the near-death experience of car crashes.

The movie, which won a special jury prize at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival for its “audacity, originality and daring,” generated much controversy during its U.S. theatrical release, which was delayed after media mogul Ted Turner saw the movie and vowed to halt its distribution by Fine Line Pictures — the art film branch of New Line Cinema, which Turner Broadcasting owned (it was since sold to Time-Warner).

Turner eventually lost the battle, but his attempts at banning Crash in the U.S. simply added to the movie’s notoriety.

“I think what happened is that [Crash] pushed some very deep buttons within Ted which he was not himself able to understand,” Cronenberg told the Miami Herald in 1997. “It’s been so interesting for me, because I’ve gotten every kind of reaction to the movie. You get people who say ‘It’s amazing you could have so much sex on the screen and yet the film is completely non-erotic,’ and then you get other people like Jenne Casarotto [author Ballard’s agent], who told me, ‘I’ve never been made so horny by a movie in my life.’

“I suppose there’s nothing more subjective than sexuality, and our responses to it. As a filmmaker, I’m at the mercy of the sexual experiences and sensibilities of the people who come to see this movie. If someone has never heard or thought of these things before, then there’s going to be a shock effect, and a period of settling in. But I never tell you how you should be reacting.

“To me, that’s the difference between art and entertainment,” Cronenberg said. “With almost any Hollywood movie, you know exactly what you’re supposed to think. They tell you everything, not just what the characters are doing, but what you yourself should be doing, as an audience. I’m leaving room for a variety of responses that can be very subtle, very subjective and very personal.”


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