Cronenberg to receive France's Légion d'honneur

Celebrated Canadian film director David Cronenberg will receive France's Légion d'honneur on April 1.

Celebrated Canadian film director David Cronenberg will receive France's Légion d'honneur on April 1.

France's oldest and highest military and civilian distinction will be presented at the Ontario Investment and Trade Centre in Toronto by France's ambassador to Canada, François Delattre, on behalf of President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Toronto-based Cronenberg's cult horror films have long earned him accolades in France. The Dead Zone won the 1984 Critic's Award at France's Avoriaz Film Festival. In 1990, the French government named him a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters. In 1996, he won a special Cannes Jury Prize for writing and directing Crash. In 1999, he served as president of the Cannes Film Festival jury, and in 2006, he was awarded the lifetime achievement award at Cannes.

Last year, he directed an opera version of his film The Fly, with music by Toronto's Howard Shore. It was staged at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris.

He once explained his status in France by saying that the French, unlike North Americans, do not look down on genre films and appreciate films that do not fit the Hollywood format.

Master of horror

Cronenberg, who turns 66 on Sunday, grew up in Toronto and started establishing a name for himself as a master of the horror genre in the 1970s with Shivers (1975), Rabid (1977) and The Brood (1979). 

In the 1980s, his films explored themes of the paranormal, technology, identity and the psychology of delusion. The Dead Zone (1983), The Fly (1986) and Dead Ringers (1988) marked his emergence as a filmmaker of international stature.

In the 1990s, his films pushed into the broader fantasy genre, and he was able to access larger budgets. Naked Lunch (1992), M Butterfly (1993) and Crash (1996) reflected the higher production values of mainstream movies, and showed he had come a long way from his earlier experimental films.

His upcoming film, The Matarese Circle, is an MGM thriller starring Tom Cruise and Denziel Washington. He hopes to shoot it in Toronto.