Sunday, October 16, 2011
Refn Gives Good Cinematic Fuck
Nicholas Winding Refn's Drive is a synthesis of gold. Its influences are things of beauty. Heat. Goodbye,Uncle Tom (the stunning song 'Oh My Love'). Le Samourai. Thief. Walter Hill's The Driver. Takeshi's Hanna-Bi. Lynch's Lost Highway. Blue Velvet, too.
There's a love story there about a caring man who wants to do right for someone who deserves it, someone who's revealed no hidden, shabby agenda. His motives don't seem selfish. They seem pure. Ryan Gosling plays him with a quietly incandescent serenity. Carey Mulligan, harboring a beautiful spirit, plays the girl. She exudes a tone that many men seek, but few can avoid adjusting.
The use of light and shade will recall Bullitt and Heat for cinephiles. For those less exposed to cinema's treasures, it will feel fresh. For mine, the influences are like velvety collisions in the dark. The styles mesh and form a truly hypnotic whole. As in a Takeshi Kitano film, the brutal emerges organically from the beautiful and serenity is briefly interrupted by violence before it dominates again. Refn's style IS the film's protagonist.
The plot is as simple as it needs to be for the tenor the film wants to achieve. There are no contrived detours. The threads knit comfortably together, forging a taut structure.
Albert Brooks plays a bad guy who was probably once good. He lost his focus. Took a path of least resistance. Ron Perlman, looking stunningly grotesque, plays a badder guy who never struggled with good. He exudes the exact opposite of Mulligan. He is metal distortion driven so far into your ears your eyes bleed.
Few directors resist the urge to shoot car chases as jigsaws of chaos. Refn does. One car chase, not particularly lengthy, rears up at us like an angry animal and feels like two panthers in pursuit of one another. It is staged in glorious wide shots, and we never lose track of what's where and what's being done to whom. The use of sound in this sequence is the smartest since Cobra. It blew me away.
It's a film you feel and surrender to. The elements -- music, cinematography, lighting, silence -- marry and masturbate our senses. We're being fucked beautifully. Rising and falling. Nothing else exists. As it should be.