Review: Cosmopolis | Clothes on Film

Starring: Robert Pattinson, Paul Giamatti, Kevin Durand
Directed By: David Cronenberg


Cosmopolis is visual shorthand for David Cronenberg: vaguely futuristic setting, bursts of sex and violence, body horror; its literal and/or figurative consumption by disease, and a lean male protagonist driven by obsession and unable to reconcile his life.

Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) is a billionaire broker travelling across Manhattan in his white limousine for a haircut. He sets out wearing black single breasted Gucci suit, plain white Gucci shirt, black silk necktie, black leather lace-ups, black leather belt, titanium Chanel wristwatch and black Oliver Peoples sunglasses. As Cosmopolis progresses, Packer’s attire disintegrates alongside his business empire and fracturing psyche. His soiled shirt represents a man ruined. Packer’s exquisite facade guarded the key to his rotten soul. Without it he is exposed.

Costume sketch courtesy of Gucci: As Eric Packer, Robert Pattinson wears a two piece, two button black 100% wool suit, part of Gucci’s ‘Signoria’ line. Trousers and jacket are cut to fit close to the body. Costume designer Denise Cronenberg was provided with six identical suits for the shoot.

For a character to have one change of clothing throughout a story signifies a singular state of mind. Packer is not flighty. Yet with increasing propensity toward self destruction, he comes to doubt his place in the world. Packer’s spotless clothes, carefully selected to isolate, eventually place him ever deeper in the sweating throng. There is an argument that Packer subconsciously craves anonymity from the film’s very first scene. Standing alongside his bodyguard Torval (Kevin Durand), their outfits are practically identical. Packer’s black Gucci suit is actually an inmost desire to belong; his white limousine, an ostentatious projection of why this will never be possible.

David Cronenberg and costume designer (and sister) Denise Cronenberg understand how to link costume with narrative. Watch Cosmopolis with no sound and it tells the same tale; this about a man becoming undone. His visual metamorphosis is as vivid as Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) in The Fly (1986). Austere, expensive clothes make Eric Packer who he is, taking them away at the end of his quest means he has become someone else entirely. Following Packer’s awakening becomes a rewarding compulsion. Cosmopolis satisfies as everything avant-garde cinema should be; an immaculate journey into weird.

Cosmopolis was released in the UK on 15th June and is due for release in the U.S. on 17th August.

You can watch Robert Pattinson in Water for Elephants at LOVEFiLM.com.

© 2012 – 2014, Lord Christopher Laverty.