Hysterical realism, also called recherché postmodernism, is a term coined in 2000 by English critic James Wood in an essay on Zadie Smith'sWhite Teeth to describe what he sees as a literary genre typified by a strong contrast between elaborately absurd prose, plotting, or characterization and careful, detailed investigations of real specific social phenomena.
I exchanged a tweet or two with you about Cronenberg's Cosmopolis. I hated it on first viewing. The sparseness, stillness and mundane visuals never quite bringing to life the absurd dialogue. Then I watched it again. And again. And now I think it's a pretty much a weird and fascinating masterpiece. I know you like it and wondered if you would mind sharing some more thoughts on the film?
“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.” The theatrical dialogue, the back-projection, the set pieces: all of these things work with the contexts and presented facts to present alienation in an alienated way. Eric Packer lives in the science fiction condition. At one point, in his glowing information-highway limo, he even says, “Why am I seeing things that haven’t happened yet?”
There is, in fact, a possible reading of COSMOPOLIS wherein Packer comes apart simply because humans cannot exist inside an event-stream of that intensity for that long. In fact, if you really squint at it — look how Sarah Gadon is made-up, lit and presented in each shot. Look to see who, aside from Packer, actually interacts with her. What if Packer’s wife isn’t actually there?