The Very First Film of J.G. Ballard’s Crash, Starring Ballard Himself (1971)

The Collins Eng­lish Dic­tio­nary defines “Bal­lar­dian” as “resem­bling or sug­ges­tive of the con­di­tions described in J. G. Bal­lard’s nov­els and sto­ries, espe­cial­ly dystopi­an moder­ni­ty, bleak man-made land­scapes and the psy­cho­log­i­cal effects of tech­no­log­i­cal, social or envi­ron­men­tal devel­op­ments.” You’ll find no more dis­tilled dose of the Bal­lar­dian than in Bal­lard’s book The Atroc­i­ty Exhi­bi­tion, a 1969 exper­i­men­tal nov­el, or col­lec­tion of frag­ments, or what’s been called a col­lec­tion of “con­densed nov­els.” Sub­ject to an obscen­i­ty tri­al in the Unit­ed States and the sub­se­quent pulp­ing of near­ly a whole print run, the book has earned a per­ma­nent place in the canon of con­tro­ver­sial lit­er­a­ture. Its twelfth chap­ter, “Crash!”, even pro­vid­ed the seed for a Bal­lard nov­el to come: 1973’s Crash, a sto­ry of sym­phorophil­ia which David Cro­nen­berg adapt­ed into a film 23 years lat­er. The movie, in its turn, stoked a furor in the Unit­ed King­dom, cul­mi­nat­ing in a Dai­ly Mail cam­paign to ban it. But as far as film­ing mate­r­i­al born of Bal­lard’s fas­ci­na­tion with the inter­sec­tion of auto wrecks and sex­u­al­i­ty, Cro­nen­berg did­n’t get there first.

Susan Emer­ling and Zoe Beloff drew from Crash the nov­el to make the still-unre­leased Night­mare Angel in 1986, but fif­teen years before that, Harley Coke­liss turned “Crash!” the chap­ter into Crash! the short film (also known as The Atroc­i­ty Exhi­bi­tion). Cast­ing Bal­lard him­self in the star­ring role and Gabrielle Drake (sis­ter of singer-song­writer Nick Drake) oppo­site, Coke­liss crafts a vision almost oppres­sive­ly of the sev­en­ties: the pro­tag­o­nist’s wide, striped shirt col­lar dom­i­nates his even wider jack­et col­lar below the grim vis­age he wears while ensconced in the suit of armor that is his hulk­ing Amer­i­can vehi­cle. “I think the key image of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry is the man in the motor car,” Bal­lard says in voiceover. “Have we reached a point now in the sev­en­ties where we only make sense in terms of these huge tech­no­log­i­cal sys­tems? I think so myself, and that it is the vital job of the writer to try to ana­lyze and under­stand the huge sig­nif­i­cance of this met­al­lized dream.” If this Bal­lar­dian vision res­onates with you, see also Simon Sel­l­ars’ thor­ough essay on the film at fan site Bal­lar­dian.

The first Crash will be added to our list, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

via Boing­Bo­ing

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

by | Permalink | Comments (3) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (3)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.