Reel Toronto: A Double Dose of Cronenberg
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Reel Toronto: A Double Dose of Cronenberg

Toronto’s extensive work on the silver screen reveals that, while we have the chameleonic ability to look like anywhere from New York City to Moscow, the disguise doesn’t always hold up to scrutiny. Reel Toronto revels in digging up and displaying the films that attempt to mask, hide, or—in rare cases—proudly display our city.

One of the many interesting things about David Cronenberg is that a lot of his contemporary work takes place in some random city that just happens to be Toronto. Crash, for example, is only a bit ambiguous about its location, while The Fly is more explicitly set here.

The same is true of Dead Ringers, which most people know as the one where Jeremy Irons plays twin gynecologists who use really freaky tools. Naked Lunch, on the other hand, takes place in a series of weird locales. (It’s the one most people know as “the one with the typewriter that talks out of its anus,” but more on that soon.)

Dead Ringers starts right off with this title, so there’s your explicit setting. (If there’s an explanation for why the twin Torontonians have Jeremy Irons’ very British accent, we missed it.)

Some old streetcars add to the effect.

This fancy restaurant is long gone, but it used to be Giannini’s, on Front Street.

This restaurant, however, is still around. It’s the very familiar conservatory at Casa Loma.

Getting a pretty good workout is the then-shiny-new Mississauga City Hall. Its main hall (also seen in Brain Candy) plays a banquet hall here.

Then you see the nearby Grand Staircase, here…

…and this lecture hall is most definitely the council chambers…

…which you can also see in this reverse angle. Word is, Hazel McCallion approved the movie shoot after reading the script and concluding there was no conflict of interest whatsoever in the gynecologists sleeping with their patients or pretending to be each other.

Apparently the apartment in which the brothers live was shot at Bell Trinity Square, though there are no visual clues. However, you do see the outside square at the end here…

…including the historic Holy Trinity Church, though this little area behind the Eaton Centre has undergone significant changes since 1988.

Even moreso than Dead Ringers, most of Naked Lunch‘s Toronto locations are long gone, save for Cinespace Studios, whose facilities were used to represent North African markets and a host of other weird locations. Naked Lunch is a film that, even for people used to Cronenberg’s fondness for icky things, really ups the ante.

This pawn shop was actually a jewelery store at 702 Queen Street West.

Obviously the streetscape has changed a lot even in the last five years, but in this shot you can see identifiable facades across the street, including the distinctive windows of the building that now houses Dufflet.

Also having gone the way of the Dodo is the Dunlan Restaurant, which used to be at Dundas and Landsdowne.

Neither movie’s for the faint of heart but if you want to spot some 1980s-era Toronto, you can give em a shot.