David Cronenberg's Rabid

COVID culture pt. III: What to read, watch and jerk off to

More culture recommendations for week three.

Okay folks, how long since your partner and/or roommate suggested you have “like zero empathy”? How many times have you, inhaling the bracing spring air while taking out the compost, thought of Rimbaud’s “And spring brought me the idiot’s frightful laughter” and then laughed to yourself far too loudly while still, thank goodness, still able to smell the rank composty odor?

Whatever your answer, here’s some culture to maintain those scary smirks and/or tears spreading themselves across your faces.


This article in The New York Review of Books by Leslie Jamison, “‘Since I Became Symptomatic,” is the first terrifyingly poetic account of this crisis that I’ve encountered, and it did some good to feel a literary and not just an existential dread. A single mother with COVID-19, Jamison penned a brief but heart-rending essay, reminiscing about that panicked but pre-lockdown world when she watched in the grocery store a “man whose arms were loaded with soap, as if he would do nothing but clean himself until the end of time.”

Long art film!

I will admit to being a little skeptical going into Matthew Barney’s The Cremaster Cycle. The five films, made between 1994 and 2002 and amounting to 398 minutes of what The Guardian called “‘challenging art’” look from the outset to be as alienating as possible. There’s just something about Barney dressed as a satyr and tap-dancing on the edge of a pier, or about the woman running across a blue football field with two Goodyear blimps-on-ropes in her hands, not to mention all the body-horror stuff. Yet, actually sitting down to Cremaster 4 (the first Cremaster film) I was immediately curious, involved and a little grossed out, a state of being pleasingly antithetical to that numbing weird claustrophobia we’re all getting used to.

Sure Netflix’s Tiger King is fun, but it’s far too easy to agree with your watching-partner or over texts with friends about Carol Baskin’s sinister past or about the sordid state of big game ownership in the States. The Cremaster Cycle, on the other hand, is deeply baffling, but still references the world enough to engage you in a dialogue. Argue with your friends about what sidecar or white gooey chamber represents which phase in human reproduction, with added points for art history references and celebrity appearances, like “Norman Mailer as Harry Houdini.” Barney’s world is deeply surreal, but so much so that, during the first installment of the series, I was totally free from virus-thinking for the first time all week. Save Tiger King for after each installment, as a digestif. 


Every Tuesday until whenever the world returns to “normal” (whatever that looks like), Montreal band Elephant Stone will be streaming Sacred Sounds from their studio. 

Multimedia at the MAC!

The MAC’s doors may be shut, but you can peruse their multimedia collection from home, containing 300 works.

Home dance parties!

For those of you hunting down an opportunity to move and sweat, here’s a list of virtual dance classes for many different levels and styles. Montreal 24/24 is also broadcasting virtual DJ sets every Saturday night for more nocturnal apartment-gyrating. 

Porn! (almost) 

First off is a 1997 instructional VHS called How to Have Cybersex on the Internet, courtesy the Found Footage Festival. It may not actually be porn, but hovers lovingly in its margins. Its contemporary relevance is all-too-obvious. Watch this tantalizing clip

Then, lay back and enjoy Rabid, the 1977 Cronenberg horror film in which a pandemic sweeps Montreal, turning everyone into zombies. It may not be a porn, but there are some luscious nude scenes, many of which involve the actress Marilyn Chambers (here playing patient zero) who you may recognize from such actual hardcore films as Behind the Green Door and Insatiable. Good luck inside your own skulls everyone! ■

See last week’s recommendations for Coronavirus home-viewing/reading by Nora Rosenthal here.

For more coverage of the Montreal art scene, see our Arts section.

To read the latest issue of Cult MTL, click here.

To vote for your favourite Montreal people and things in the Best of MTL readers poll, please also click here.