Directors in the Oscar race

Reteaming with his “History of Violence” star Viggo Mortensen, Cronenberg serves up another subterranean personality study, this time in the form of “Eastern Promises,” a razor-sharp film noir. Like last year’s “The Departed,” it functions on multiple levels — a genre movie with deep psychological undercurrents.

Explains Cronenberg: “You use the conventions of the genre to give you strength, but at the same time if you follow the structure too closely then you end up with a predictable, boring movie.” The trick, he says, is to embrace the conventions while subverting them at the same time — a technique that had some audiences feeling the story was too short.

“I take that as a compliment,” he says. “Then they write what the ending should have been. You want to see him taken away in handcuffs and all of those things, but the fact that you know all that means I don’t have to do it, so let me spend screen time showing you some things that you wouldn’t have anticipated instead.”

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