Film of the Day (08/08/18): The Neon Demon

 

Written By Nicolas Winding Refn and Mary Laws and Polly Stenham
Directed By Nicolas Winding Refn

Where to begin with something like this? I guess to start, I would say that Winding Refn has a keen eye and packs his movies with equal amounts of beauty and savagery, and this is certainly no exception. No, in this case, that’s actually the point, as he takes an unapologetic, gruesome look at LA’s modeling world and their obsession with youth and beauty. It’s shocking, violent and disgusting, as it is no doubt meant to be, forcefully daring you to confront these notions and think about what we as a society are doing to each other when trying to enforce unrealistic physical expectations. When it comes to looking desirable, we are willing go harm ourselves, harm others, and even cannibalize each other. Yes, that actually happens in this movie. It’s a great concept, but I’m not sure if it’s something I will ever want to watch again. The film does a lot of things well, including absolutely breathtaking imagery, a fabulous score and perfectly deliberate pacing. There is no denying that Winding Refn can execute a shot you will not forget, and his use of color and lighting may be unmatched, but some of these images are so shocking they will stick with many viewers for the wrong reasons and fail to drive the thought and conversation he seems to be going for. Framing and subtle camera movements are art forms, however, and this man has mastered them. And the score from Cliff Martinez is a perfectly haunting companion piece, brimming with all the subtlety the imagery lacks. My main issue was characters that were paper thin. And while I’m sure some would say that’s the point, based on the world they inhabit and the ideals they hold, that would seem like a cop-out to me. I didn’t feel like it was shocking for the sake of itself, as I have seen suggested, but it did strike me as a bit pretentious. Overall, this is a very good movie that I doubt I will revisit, based on  how jaw-droppingly insane it is. It is surely a divisive work, and worked hard to earn that distinction.

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