The Neon Demon

July 15, 2016

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Nicolas Winding Refn begins his latest, The Neon Demon, by stamping his initials on the background of the opening credits.  Not just for a moment, but through virtually the whole thing.  His supreme sense of authorship could evoke a great sense of pride in his work or a high level of pretension to his own abilities.  I’m not against the notion, per se, though it does strike me as a little gauche to do underscore every other credit by making sure nobody forgets this is your baby, but to do so puts the audience in an almost combative sense of expectation.  “This better be some high art, dude, because your lack of humility is jarring.”  There’s no doubt Refn has a sense of style, even if he’s a little reliant on Kubrickian camera moves to evoke his states of dreamlike dread.  His larger problem is his lack of self control, something he wears as proudly as Lars Von Trier (another filmmaker I run very hot and cold on), though lacking the latter’s occasional sense of cutting introspection.  Read the rest of this entry »

Only God Forgives

July 23, 2013

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Premiering at the Cannes Film Festival only to be greeted by a chorus of boos is not unusual, nor is it necessarily any real indicator of quality.  Still, the reviews from the less throaty audience members – in this case, critics – have tended to be pretty savage ever since May.  Now that it has been released properly, this has eased a little bit, with a small corner of defenders and a healthy number of “s’alright” shrugs.  Savage outcries about ultra-gory pomposity are understandable, and I imagine on a different day and in a different mood, I’d be somewhere closer to them.  As it stands, I think Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives is just successful enough in certain areas to overcome its many shortfalls.  So help me, I really enjoyed watching it.

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Drive

September 23, 2011

Caution:  Spoilers Abound

Reading snippets of interviews and press releases for Drive, I found a number of references by star Ryan Gosling and director Nicolas Winding Refn to John Hughes, specifically Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles.  These were perplexing remarks knowing what little I did about the film, but as I watched the film, I slowly found them quite instructive.  Perhaps not for the reasons they intended, I’ll admit, but instructive all the same.  Trying to analyze the similarities in a straightforward way, I couldn’t find any connection beyond a simple love story and romantic synth-pop heavy soundtrack, but even those elements weren’t terribly Hughes-like in any specific way.  It dawned on me, however, during certain sequences between Ryan Gosling’s Driver (as is so often with characters of this type, he’s never given a name) and Carey Mulligan’s Irene, the next-door neighbour with whom he makes a connection.  It was the feeling of these scenes that reminded me of Hughes.  Not in a direct way, mind, but in the way that I watched Hughes’ movies as an adolescent, all filled with a simplistic, romantic notion that came about through a combination of my total lack of understanding of how real relationships might function and beautiful, heart-on-its-sleeve emotional synthpop.  Therein lays, I think, the key to coming to understanding not only the Driver, but also the larger perspective of the film as a whole.

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