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Nicolas Winding Refn


First trailer for My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

A documentary about Refn, by Refn's wife
Feb 16
// Per Morten Mjolkeraaen
It seems documentaries about eccentric filmmakers is the next big thing, as My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn follows suit with last years, Jodorowsky's Dune, when it premiers to VOD platforms and select theatres on F...

Review: Only God Forgives

Jul 18 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]216068:40444:0[/embed] Only God ForgivesDirector: Nicolas Winding RefnRating: RRelease Date: July 19th, 2013 (limited, VOD) Only God Forgives is such a different animal from Drive. Refn's latest is an excruciatingly mannered art house exercise in style. There's no weight to anything that happens -- not the sex, not the violence, not the over-the-top offensiveness of Kristen Scott Thomas's character -- since there's no substance to the events. It's a work of accidental self-parody in line with Terrence Malick's To the Wonder and Brian De Palma's Passion. The movie is a series of ellipses followed by punctuation. It sort of makes sense, though. Here are some of my favorite lines from Ryan Gosling's character in the film: "..." "..." [nostrils flare ever so slightly] "..." "...(?)" "TAKE OFF THE DRESS!!!" "...(!)" "(...)" "...You wanna fight?" Actually, Only God Forgives is not an animal. Like Gosling's quiet-type, Refn's film is more like a robot or a machine. It's cold, empty, lacking in humanity, but undeniably well-designed in order to achieve its purpose, which was, as far as I could tell, merely to be well-designed. A drug dealer named Julian (Gosling) runs some kind of kickboxing school/gym in Bangkok. His brother Billy (Tom Burke) rapes and murders an underaged girl. Billy is murdered, and a cop played by Vithaya Pansringarm has something to do with his death. Julian and Billy's mother (the psychotic evil twin of Kristin Scott Thomas) comes into town seeking revenge on the "yellow n**ger" who's responsible. Everything she says is about as absurdly offensive as that, which makes almost everything she says play out like a farce on the ugliest ideas of ugly Americans. Throughout the film, Gosling looks like he's in a daze, barely emoting but always looking good barely doing it. In Drive there at least seemed to be thought behind those eyes. Here, you get the same expression from Gosling from beginning to end. You'd get a comparable expression from your pet cat if you showed it last year's tax return. In one scene a gorgeous prostitute named Mai (Yayaying Rhatha Phongam) presents her crotch to Julian and then masturbates in front of him while he's tied to a chair just a few feet away. Julian looks like he's watching a tea kettle on the stove. When he later paws Mai through hanging love beads in the corner of a room, he looks like he's glancing blankly out the window on an overcast day. When he's at dinner with Mai and his own mother and his mom calls Mai a "cum receptacle" (or something along those lines), Gosling looks like he's watching paint dry. The stoic posturing became so annoying that I wanted to yell at the screen, "Just friggin' say something already, you dumb jerk!" And yes, I understand the characters are empty because they're really symbols for revenge, righteousness, indecision, and other thematic stuff. And yes I understand the critique of revenge as something hollow. And sure, the cop is doling out warped vigilante justice to lowlifes which suggests a different and almost noble dimension to his brand of violence. And yeah, I noticed the portentous dog with a bum leg hobbling around in that one shot. And sure the passivity of the Gosling character reframes the idea of what sort of revenge film this is. And of course I get the subversion of unpleasantness by shooting it so well. And yeah, I totally see the Oedipal stuff between Gosling and Thomas because the movie is so blunt about it -- it reeks of Freud like Hoboken reeks of Axe Body Spray on a Friday night. But getting it is not the same as liking what I got. These are all interesting ideas and they might work for some people, but for me interesting ideas and style cannot sustain a movie alone. Sometimes sure, but I want a sense of weight of some kind that goes beyond the merely aesthetic and intellectual -- some marrow in the bones, some heart in that chest. Instead we get zonked-out Gosling looking dreamy while Thomas drops vulgarities like prepositions. But the film's biggest sin, like Beyond the Black Rainbow, is that it's just plain boring in stretches. Live by vapid style, die by vapid style. To the film's credit, vapid imagery has never looked so good. Neither has gratuitous violence. Limbs get hacked off, torsos get split open, there's a torture porn scene, there's a blood-drenched room, and it all looks splendid. Refn and cinematographer Larry Smith seem incapable of creating bad visuals, and I admire the deep shadows and the stark Dario Argento monochrome in the hallway shots even though the most interesting thing about those tracking shots is the wallpaper. (To be fair, it is very nice wallpaper.) Makeup artists Vitch Chavasit and Pattera Puttisuraset know their way around stylish viscera. If only the mayhem actually meant something. The film ends on an odd and abrupt note followed by a dedication to cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo, Santa Sangre). Refn is a major fan of Jodorowsky's, and for his next project he wants to adapt The Incal, a brilliant science fiction comic that Jodorowsky did with Moebius throughout the 1980s. I can't want to see what Refn does with that material, and I hope the movie happens. Yet his invocation of Jodorowsky made me realize what differentiates the fascinating violence of a Jodorowsky movie from the banal violence of Only God Forgives. Jodorowsky declared "I LOVE VIOLENCE!" during an episode of Jonathan Ross Presents for One Week Only in 1991. Blood can be anything in a Jodorowsky movie -- grapes, blue paint, birds, smoke, paper, whatever's handy. It's all operating on a metaphorical level because everything Jodorwosky does is about acts of alchemy. We're base material, here's art turning us into something different -- horror into Guernica. "A child comes into the world covered in blood -- that is violent," Jodorowsky said in a 2000 radio interview with CFRB in Toronto. Violence is creative, and it's a force of life. It's an idea that goes all the way back to his early obsessions with convulsive art and the panic movement. The violence is just violence in Only God Forgives, no matter how aestheticized. It's generally non-transformative (unless you count broken noses as transformative) since there's little change in the characters (aside from becoming amputees or corpses) or in the movie's tone or approach to violence. Here is violence that seems merely tautological: A = A. It's not even like that tautology towards the end of Gravity's Rainbow: "The knife cuts through the apple like a knife cutting an apple." With that line in the novel, there's an odd, unveiled moment of truth. Hundreds and hundreds of pages of dense metaphor, and suddenly revelation. Hallelujah! In Only God Forgives, the man gets sharp things stabbed through his forearms like a man getting sharp things stabbed through his forearms. It's about as profound as it sounds.
Only God Forgives Review photo
What shall we do with all this useless, violent beauty?
Anyone who goes into Only God Forgives expecting Drive 2: Bangkok Drift is going to be disappointed. Drive was the unlikely combination of Nicolas Winding Refn's aestheticized violence and the fuzzy feeling of John Hughes. On...


Only God Forgives UK Trailer

Gosling and Refn's Bangkok delight
Jul 04
// Nathan Hardisty
Blimey. While you lot are out and about mingling and meeting 'Murica-ing, Ryan Gosling's hot face has been splattered all over a fancy new UK trailer for the Winding-Refn outing Only God Forgives. The new trailer shows off, ...
Only God Forgives Trailer photo
Only God Forgives Trailer

Trailer: Only God Forgives

Ryan Gosliiiiiiiiiinguh.
Jun 17
// Nick Valdez
The newest trailer for Nicolas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives is more "direct" (meaning helpful dialogue hints are sprinkled in) than the previously released international ones, but it still manages to pack a wallop. OGF t...


International Trailer: Only God Forgives

"One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble"
Apr 18
// Thor Latham
As the Cannes Film Festival draws ever nearer, so too does the premiere of Nicolas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives. A seedy and sordid revenge tale set in Thailand, these two new international trailers offer a few more deta...

Trailer: Only God Forgives (Red Band)

"Wanna fight?"
Apr 04
// Thor Latham
We finally have an honest to goodness trailer for Nicolas Winding-Refn's Only God Forgives. It's the first U.S. trailer I've seen, and I am about as excited as I am capable of being for this film. That is to say, I want to s...

New teaser for Nicolas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives

My most anticipated film...probably
Jan 07
// Thor Latham
It may be short, and it may not be the best quality, but this is the most we've seen of Nicolas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives next to a few pics that we see here and there. It may be but a glimpse, but it has suitabl...

Poster for Nicolas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives

What did they do to your beautiful face Ryan Gosling!?
Nov 19
// Thor Latham
In what is truly a sacrifice for his art, we have been given a poster for Nicolas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives where Ryan Gosling's beautiful mug has been put through the meat grinder. Yeesh. This unforgivable crime ...

Ryan Gosling no longer starring in Refn's 'Logan's Run'

The dream team takes a hiatus
Oct 26
// Thor Latham
When Drive first came to video, I watched it six times in five consecutive days and never has my love or enjoyment of the film diminished with repeated viewings. It is a masterpiece, plain and simple. So, needless to say...

Drive: Surfing the surface of the 'superhero' genre

Mar 30 // Nathsies
I think Drive is, at times, an overtly pretentious art film with eighties synth soundtrack blurring and blending into this confusing mess of absolute joyous romanticism, violence and anarchistic mythologising of the ‘superhero’. It shows the relationship between Gosling and Mulligan’s characters through silences and the eyes, truly hitting straight into real life. Drive then, eventually, shows a man getting his head blown to a bloody pulp by the hero’s boot. Hero. The hammer of anarchism is struck straight into the core of the ‘superhero’ and no longer is there any government, rules or laws or restrictions or order to satisfy the Driver. What I’m talking about is an entire deconstruction of superhero mythology and, then, an entirely new evolutionary exploration emerging throughout Drive. Identity and Causality The typical ‘secret identity’ that comic book superheroes have paraded for a near century is completely destroyed in Drive. Clark Kent is in the glasses, Batman in the mask, Spider-Man in the spandex suit and so on and so forth. Identity is used as a barrier between the human and the superhuman (unless you’re Superman in which case you’re 100% supers), so that both the man can transform into the superhero but also the superhero has a cushion to come back to. In this cushion there can be relationships with human beings, a day job, grocery shopping, education… working at a garage and almost becoming a race car driver. Hint. Hint. As Peter Parker himself says “If my enemies found out about you… if you got hurt,I could never forgive myself.”[2] the cushion is both a curse and a blessing. While no enemies can hunt down the ‘hero’, they can hunt down the man behind the mask (eventually) and this will destroy everything around the hero. In Drive, as soon as the Driver is found to be interlinked there is a strike against the only thing he holds dear: Irene. Once this happens, the Driver does whatever he can to protect her. Following this is a series of violent incidents, murders and chases across the city and a final confrontation with Bernie Rose. ‘Bernie Rose’ is probably the most comforting name for an antagonist ever. I cannot help but think of Weekend at Bernies when I hear that name. Identity then is the line between hero and human, a barrier if you will. To break that barrier there is the mask, and masks are absolutely crucial to understanding Drive. Irene’s child wears one, the stuntman mask that Driver wears pops in throughout (we’ll discuss that in a minute) and perhaps not just ‘masks’ but clothing in general. Clothing transforms the character of the Driver, it gives him a feeling. The toothpick and the gloves and the jacket, notice how he doesn’t even wear gloves during mechanical work or when he’s driving Irene during the first ‘Real Hero’ scene.   I call it the ‘Travolta’ mask. I just can’t help it.[3] The ‘Travolta’ mask confused me at this. I didn’t really understand why the Driver needed this mask, but then I recalled my knowledge of the superhero. This mask is the barrier between the human and the superhero, but better than that, it is another identity. Another identity that the responsibility for all the actions, all the hatred and all the violence. If you can then catch the BBC Miniseries Luther, especially the first two episodes of Series Two, it’s a show utterly about identity and how it’s reflected in the environment. In one such episode, a killer cannot bring himself to actually kill without a mask and that’s what I think happens in Drive. The gloves, the mask and the jacket all hide the Driver from himself. The causality between his actions and identity are absolutely paramount; the identity is the cause, the violence is the effect. The Driver, upon assuming the new identity, can then do as he pleases. Important to note the elevator scene in which the Driver kisses Irene, his human relationship (the ‘cushion’) and then turns his back on her to become enraged. He knows he cannot protect her as a human, so he becomes a real hero. Do you understand what I mean? In order to save his ‘cushion’, he has to turn his back on it. He has to become a real hero and, by the end of it all, he completes this. The track Real Hero by College (feat Electric Youth) comes at both the point of Driver’s emotional peak in his falling for Irene, but also at the end of the film when he finally completes himself. When he succeeds in protecting her, going off into the night to be hunted… I wonder what that reminds me of…[4] Identity itself is the causality of everything that the Driver commits in Drive. Note how he puts on his gloves before interrogating Blanche in the hotel room. Just like in every superhero movie, he needs to cover up his human form so he can commit such acts. Interesting further to note the name of ‘Driver’, that we never find out his true name. Probably a throwback to the Clint Eastwood trilogy ‘Man With No Name’, a chaotic hero himself (we might discuss that trilogy soon), but without this true ‘identity’, without a name… Driver is free of his humanity. But humanity is both a curse and a blessing, as we’ve said, and this is why I believe Drive to puncture the surface of the superhero genre. Because the Driver becomes a real hero… perhaps forever. Mythology "A key ideological myth of the superhero comic is that the normal and everyday enshrines positive values that must be defended through heroic action–and defended over and over again almost without respite against an endless battery of menaces determined to remake the world for the benefit of aliens, mutants, criminals, or sub-aqua beings from Atlantis."- Richard Reynolds, Superheroes: A Modern Mythology [5]  ’Positive values’. In the instance of Drive, it is love that is a positive values. Nice how Reynolds mentions the ‘criminals’, nicely fitting in to Drive as a superhero movie. His entire book is a great read up on the superhero mythology, unfortunately he fails to address how exactly it has changed over time. What’s interesting to note are two bits ‘heroic action’ and ‘determined to remake the world’.‘Heroic action’ in Drive is violent beatings… the same with The Dark Knight too but without the death really. Except ‘heroic’ as a word doesn’t really mean anything. What is the line between heroic and human? I would hazard to say it’s the blurring of the lines, the identity, and thus the causality. Instead, however, I think ‘heroic’ in Drive means righteous in oneself. The act of Driver beating up, murdering and covering it up with identity is all done heroically. It is a bad to defend the ‘positive values’, the love which seems almost alien to him at first. This is true for Spider-Man, The Dark Knight and the vast majority of the Superman series. They are defending their love of their partners.Except Spidey and Supes are not just out to save their love from total destruction, but also their dwellings. For Spidey it’s the entire city, where he countless times defends the city… but for what cause? Supes defends the entire Earth… but for what cause? Spidey tries to fulfill Uncle Ben’s last words, I guess, but Superman doesn’t even have a home. Is he trying to do it some justice? The superhero mythology gets a little bit weird in that the ‘positive values that must be defended’ can both be the love of the Driver and Irene but also the day-to-day life of millions of citizens. That society itself should be defended.   But Drive is 100% personal. It’s about the Driver defending his own turf, his love and himself. He wants to get out, he’s just an average everyday guy… this is what separates Drive from other superhero flicks. This is what it evolves from. The Driver is 100% human. He does not have powers or gadgets or any attribute that would classify him as a true ‘superhero’. He uses identity as a means to both save himself and Irene, but he’s more human than human. He defends, in the end, his humanity and accepts that this is his true purpose. That he can chase his humanity for so long, but it will always evade him. He cannot touch it any longer, because it will harm it, and so he goes off into the distance to be hunted possibly forever. As a Psychology-studying seventeen year old, it’s somewhat fun to insert a bit of psychological reading of mythology. It’s been covered by a lot of commenters on the film but I’d like to truly apply it. I am talking about how the title of ‘Drive‘ feeds into the psychology of the character and from my own knowledge there is such a thing as Drive theory[6]. “Drive theory is based on the principle that organisms are born with certain psychological needs and that a negative state of tension is created when these needs are not satisfied.” The mythology of the superhero, then, is not entirely built around this ‘nature’ approach to our brains. Superheroes, mostly, aren’t born with a desire[7] or need to be a ‘hero’, a need to defend everything. It is built out of a personal desire or fear. Batman with Bats, Spider-Man with his Uncle. Stuff like that. But the Driver? We’re all born with a need for love… when that love it taken away, we revert to that ‘negative state of tension’. It’s like when you get straight out of a great relationship and mope around for a bit, because it takes a while for your brain to dilute those ‘psychological needs’ away from the need of a particular somebody. In short, the superhero mythology isn’t particularly built out of Drive theory… a theory which (I’m being reductionist here) addresses the very issue of our humanity. That when we don’t have it, we can’t even act human. Evolution “Superheroes may be a prelude to an actual leap in our evolution.”- Deepak Chopra. [8] Biologically, human beings aren’t going to evolve for millions of years. Only then do we become super-powered beings. Except, then, would we lose our humanity? We’d lose our contemporary humanity, certainly, but would we lose love, foolishness, lust and all those stupid, stupid things that makes us human? If we’re all superheroes then… will there be a world to save? “When everyone’s super… well… no-one will be!” [9] Drive takes the superhero mythology and the idea of identity and evolves it into the human sense. That final drive away into the distance, wounded and bloodied, with the soundtrack ebbing the background. It’s all built around evolving the driver into a real hero… and a real human being. Becoming a superhero flick is not enough for the film, it has to change it. The film is a perfect reflection of our own day-to-day battle with our humanity against the brutal onslaught of time. To become a hero, we must accept the ruthlessness of time. We must agree that whatever has happened… happened. Only then can we move on with our lives. Move on from our past. A soundtrack trapped in the eighties, a subtle nod at action flicks and a direct punch to the gut of modern society in the form of the gangsterism (I had no idea that was a word) that has an iron grip on the city and on the humanity itself. It reminds me of Blade Runner in the sense of the ending. Where Deckard turns his back on the system that he has been a part of for so long, and instead flees with his humanity intact. The only difference between Drive and Blade Runner being that Deckard physically gets the girl in the end, whereas Driver has to be contempt in knowing that he saved her life but (to be ‘a real human being, and a real heroooo’) he has to accept the pursuit. Accept his humanity and what he’s done. In short, he must abandon his civilian life and become the Driver forever. Ever evading the pursuers behind him. And that is Drive. A puncture wound on the superhero mythology, an almost post-modernist kick to the groin and whatever else imagery you can think of. It’s a truly evolutionary thought captured in a feature that is both violent, romantic and both modern and regressive. It’s all about the line between human and hero, and in the end, hero and real hero. Batman, Spider-Man and so on and so forth have all been blessed with decades worth of lore and mythological explorations, but it’s time to turn it down a bit. For Drive, that isn’t enough. It might even be in the entirely wrong direction. What Drive suggests and investigates is truly transcendent. To be a real hero, you have to be a real human being. References, further reading: 1. Digital Spy Interview 2. Spider-Man 2 3. Hehe 4. The Dark Knight 5. Link to Online book here 6. Overview from Wikipedia. 7. One of the tracks in Drive… 8. IGN Article on Comic Con 9. The Incredibles I’m not sure what to think of this film essaying stuff. I rather enjoyed researching and watching all those lovely films but… I don’t know if this should take the place of Film Critique Corner? A filmy essay every two weeks? What do you think, leave comments below or whatever. I was thinking of doing the Man With No Name trilogy, focusing entirely around the space between name and non-name or something like that. Anyway, let me know if I was incoherent and generally quite terrible with writing this… honest feedback is appreciated.

[Sometimes, when people write awesome stuff on our community blogs, we promote them to the front page! Here is a great example of a well thought out, well executed blog about Drive by our own community member Nathsies. Show u...


Ryan Gosling looks all bloody in Only God Forgives

Mar 28
// Jamie R Stone
Get ready to quiver, ladies, because Ryan Gosling is lookin' sexy in Nicolas Winding Refn's (the director of Drive) next outing, Only God Forgives, which is sure to allude to... whoa, wait, did I say "sexy"? I meant he's look...

Hunger Games posters as directed by Bay, Herzog and more

Mar 26
// Liz Rugg
I'm such a sucker for these sorts of things. Below are a bunch of mock-posters for movies that could-have-been if this past weekend's blockbuster The Hunger Games had been directed by other famous Hollywood directors than the...

Mondo to release Drive soundtrack on vinyl

Mar 05
// Liz Rugg
Nicolas Winding Refn's critically acclaimed movie Drive was easily one of the best and most refreshing movies we've seen in a long time, and Cliff Martinez' incredible '80s inspired score is part of what made it so phenomenal...

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