Sunday 17 July 2016

The Neon Demon by Nicolas Winding Refn

If I mention the cannibalism and necrophilia I’m in danger of making this movie sound interesting... But it isn't, really. It's a boring, arty dud

(Before we go on I should perhaps issue a warning. This post contains spoilers. It also mentions some scenes you may prefer not to read about while eating your breakfast.)

I must confess, I saw a trailer for The Neon Demon and I was immediately hooked and eager to see it

The imagery looked stunning, like Nic Roeg at his most lush. You'll get a taste of what I mean from these posters.

Bu if I’d known it was directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, I  would never have rushed to get a ticket. Certainly Refn's movie Drive was striking and memorable — although it fell apart at the end, in a foretaste of things to come. 

But his next film, Only God Forgives, certainly ranks as one of the worst I've ever seen. (Where the hell did that guy get the sword?)

Admittedly, Neon Demon is vastly better... but that still leaves a hell of a lot of room for it to be bad in. 

Neon Demon tells the story of Jesse (a plucky Elle Fanning), a teenage girl who comes to LA hoping to be a model. She has sudden and giddying success, but also makes some dangerous enemies... Again, this all makes it sound quite interesting. 

However, Refn is like Kubrick without the genius and Lynch without the madness. And he calls to mind Cronenberg at his worst. Indeed, it’s as if someone wanted to emulate Kubrick, Lynch and Cronenberg while adopting the approach of Lars Von Trier at his most pretentious and boring.

Have said all that, The Neon Demon has the occasional highly effective moment – Keanu Reeves is quite impressive and there’s a nice bit involving him and a mountain lion. (Which accounts for one of the posters here.)

Apart from the incomprehensible artiness which besets this film, though, Refn makes a fatal rookie mistake. He kills off Jesse, but he doesn't end the movie at that point. 

It grinds on for another 15 minutes or so, continuing long after it has stopped in the minds and the emotions of the audience.

He does this because he wants to include a grisly gag about the two super models who helped to kill, and eat, poor Jesse. They are at a photo shoot when one of them gets up an upset stomach. She regurgitates one of Jesse's eyes. The other super model promptly pops it in her mouth and eats it.

So you can see we're not exactly talking about Citizen Kane here.

You'll also notice the prominence of Drive on these posters. That's because it's the only movie which Refn's directed that anyone would want to see. 

So far.

(Image credits: Thank you, Imp Awards.) 

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