lunedì 27 maggio 2013

In the Mood for Vengeance

Sometimes, I get interested in a film-maker through an actor.
It has been the case for Nicolas Winding Refn, who I discovered thanks to my passion for Mads Mikkelsen. Besides the Pusher trilogy, the two made together a very strange film called Valhalla Rising
. On paper, Winding Refn doesn’t have much to please me. His cinema is famous for being extremely violent and I’m famous for being extremely irritated by violence on screen. But, as it is often the case in this life, sometimes we like things we are not supposed or we don’t expect to like. 
Nicolas Winding Refn and Mads Mikkelsen on the set of Valhalla Rising
I guess his cinema attracts me because it’s made of opposites: his movies are almost silent or too filled with words, the main characters are real heroes or complete losers and the most romantic scenes can be immediately followed by the most violent ones (Drive's elevator scene docet). Violence in Winding Refn movies is never cold, though. This is why I think it’s bearable. It is always driven by emotions, it’s coming from the evident flaws of human beings, and very often it’s perpetrated on awful kind of people to get justice (well, ok, I admit it: it’s a very primitive kind of justice). 
Also, I have to confess I really enjoy Winding Refn’s interviews: he is always very funny, interesting, confused, and completely crazy. Apparently, he is teetotal, colour blind and dyslexic. As a bonus, his father is the editor of Breaking the Waves by Lars Von Trier.  There are enough elements to become a fan, as far as I’m concerned. 
Nicolas Winding Refn
Winding Refn became a mainstream film-maker just a couple of years ago via the movie Drive, where Ryan Gosling found his consecration as an actor. Having particularly liked to work together, the two decided to team up for another movie, which has been selected for the competition at this year’s Cannes Film Festival: Only God Forgives. Since Drive became kind of an iconic movie, many were waiting for their new collaboration. I have the feeling, from what I wrote in many critics these days, that people have been disappointed by it, but I didn’t. 
Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling on the set of Only God Forgives
In fact, the thing I liked about Only God Forgives, is that it is the absolute anti-Drive
So, if you want to see Drive 2, well, forget about it. While the guy played by Gosling in Drive was a powerful one, in this one he’s powerless and sexually impotent (as it was the case for Mikkelsen in Pusher 2). Julian is supposed to run a drug dealing business (the movie is set in Bangkok) but he isn’t tough enough. He is subjugated by his eldest brother and, when this one is massacred for having raped and killed a 16 years old girl, Julian is not able to take care of his vengeance, as his (lovely!) mother asks him to. And last, but not least, he also has an enormous Oedipus complex: the guy is a complete disaster, I assure you. 
The only thing the driver and Julian has in common, is that they are not very talkative kind of guys. I read that Gosling and Winding Refn are dreaming of making a silent movie together, one day, and I hope that day will be soon.
Ryan Gosling as Julian
And while in Drive the music was a super important element of the movie, with a bunch of songs that stayed in the collective imagination, in Only God Forgives the music is obscure, obsessive, and the only hits are the pathetic, melodic Thai songs performed in karaoke restaurants by the real hero of the story: Chang. This man is a retired policeman, a wizard of the sword, a silent guru and a merciless avenger, whose presence (real and unreal) will haunt Julian for the whole movie. 
Vithaya Pansringarm as Chang
The other star of the movie is my favourite character: Crystal, probably the most awful mother on screen ever, played in an exceptional way by a very intelligent actress, Kristin Scott-Thomas. Usually hired to embody sophisticated, ultra-bourgeois, complex women, Winding Refn had the brilliant idea to transform her in a monstrous creature, a modern Medea dressed in Versace (the resemblance with Donatella Versace is actually pretty scary), a real bitch, able to waste his son’s life in the space of a couple of sentences (the dinner scene is absolutely to die for). 
Kristin Scott-Thomas as Crystal
The movie builds up very slowly, obliging the audience to hold back the rhythm, to quit defences, and be ready to enter into the story and into this dark, gloomy, ultra-violent world. You can take it or you can leave it, but if you are patient enough, you'll be rewarded by many unforgettable scenes (oh, the Thai child in the weelchair!).
Filmed in a spectacular way, Winding Refn confirmed his talent for an astonishing mise-en-scène, somewhere between Scorsese and Lynch with a twist (in this Far-East location) of Wong Kar-Wai. 
But if the Hong-Kong film-maker was in the mood for love, it is clear that the Danish one is more in the mood for vengeance. 
Si salvi chi può!

1 commento:

  1. Meno male che non amavi i registri "freddi", "violenti" e "misogini" (le donne sono tutte puttane e/o schiave dei mariti, tranne mia madre che è castratrice e un po' incestuosa).

    Anyway, il film l'ho trovato di un manierismo insopportabile e serioso (cento film rivisti cento volte), con dei dialoghi che rasentano il ridicolo (la scena della cena: vivement un film muto!). Tuttavia ho trovato 3 punti positivi:

    1) Ci sono due o tre inquadrature molto belle;
    2) dura poco;
    3) Ryan Gosling viene gonfiato come una zampogna.



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