David Cronenberg, Cosmopolis, 2012, color film in 35 mm, 108 minutes. Production still. Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson).

UNSPOOLING FOR THE PRESS THIS MORNING, Cosmopolis, David Cronenberg’s adaptation of Don DeLillo’s 2003 novel, is the second of two page-to-screen transfers of high-profile American novels playing in competition. Though not as dopey as the first—Walter Salles’s version of On the Road, which screened on Wednesday—Cronenberg’s latest is uncharacteristically inert (especially when compared with his earlier inspired adaptations, 1991’s Naked Lunch and 1996’s Crash). Further to the film’s detriment, the white stretch limousine that serves as a steel-and-metal cocoon for billionaire financier Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) as he crosses New York to get a haircut in Cosmopolis immediately recalls the vehicle that figures so prominently in Leos Carax’s Holy Motors. When Pattinson’s character wonders aloud, early in the film, “Where do all these limos spend the night?” it was impossible not to think of Carax’s answer.

The responses that Cronenberg—witty (sometimes satisfyingly barbed), thoughtful, and eloquent—gave at his press conference proved more satisfying than his film. “To me, the essence of cinema is a person, a face, speaking,” the director noted (a credo especially borne out in his previous film, last year’s masterful A Dangerous Method). Pattinson’s pretty face certainly does a lot of yakking in Cosmopolis, most of it registering as an affectless drone. Before the panel was assembled, moderator Henri Behar made this request: “Let’s try and keep vampires and bats out of the conversation.” The journos obliged, asking Pattinson not about the Twilight series but whether he, as someone who has talked openly about “the difficulties of living life in public,” saw similarities between himself and his character. Pattinson politely considered the query before becoming frustrated with himself: “I’m not the best self-analyst. I can’t seem to consciously bring anything from my life into my work. [. . .] Why can’t I answer the question—this is so annoying!” Cronenberg, who had earlier said of his star, “I always had the feeling he had never seen any of my movies,” gallantly came to the actor’s aid: “The reason you can’t answer the question is because it’s a flawed question.”

Melissa Anderson