The Neon Demon Review

The first half of this post will be a spoiler-free review, however the second half of it will be me deconstructing and analyzing some of the fine points of the film.

Nicholas Winding Refn’s latest film, The Neon Demon, is a smorgasbord of decadence, narcissism, and morbidity. Refn channels into his own antagonistic personality to give us this delicious spectacle that leaves it rattling in your head for hours after viewing.

The Neon Demon follows the story of Jesse (Elle Fanning) and her time starting out in the glitzy high end modelling industry in Los Angeles. Other models however envy her and lust and crave over her natural beauty. The Neon Demon is as outlandish as it sounds, but it’s critique of the industry and vanity/narcissism itself makes it another subversive classic by the Danish filmmaker.

This film is very much like an acid trip; it can go either two ways, really well or really badly. I found myself completely on board with the film and because of that I absolutely adore The Neon Demon. It is certainly a film that you cannot get out of your head.

Elle Fanning, Abbey Lee, and Jena Malone were all fantastic as the models they portrayed; there was a great balance of subtle and exaggeration from the cast and it assisted the film’s alien and other-wordly feel. Fanning as the lead of Jesse is obviously the highlight of the film as she dominates both the innocent little girl and the vain, egotistical power woman roles.

Of course with a Refn film you are always expecting the visuals and score to be bold and wonderful. However, The Neon Demon is by far Refn’s most aesthetic film to date. If you loved the striking images from any of his previous ventures you’ll be sure to have a feast with all the crystalline cinematography that certainly makes this film stand out from anything else that touches the cinema screens for a good while. Cliff Martinez delivers his greatest score yet, too. With slight touches of his scores from Drive and Only God Forgives, Martinez creates a mesmerizing and trip inducing soundtrack.

Although the imagery in The Neon Demon is arguably simpler to grasp than those in Only God Forgives, you are at times left wanting more. The structure of the plot is rather thin and there doesn’t seem to be a cohesive path for the narrative. However, once you begin breaking down the images and themes presented in the film, you then discover that maybe a strong point was to not have a conventional plot structure – or any at all.

For those who do not like Only God Forgives, other Refn films, or surreal art pieces (there are touches of Argento and Lynch peppered throughout the film) then I highly doubt you will enjoy this. But I would thoroughly recommend this film to everyone else, it’s one of those films you can really dig your teeth into.

I’m now going to discuss some of the finer points of the film and break it down a bit more, so here is a spoiler warning as I’m going all out.

At a Q&A, Refn was asked about the alien feel of the film, to which the director responded by saying that people will soon think of The Neon Demon as a science fiction film. This to me is a massive point to consider when thinking about the film. From the start we are constantly reminded what type of world we have entered and that this one is not ours. Lines like “beauty isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” and how beauty is currency, perfectly explain to us what this world is all about.

Our “hero”, Jesse at first appears like she does not belong to this world, she is sweet and innocent and natural. But as we progress through the film we discover that maybe this is not true. Jesse, just like the other models, is part of this world (either she was always part of it or it corrupted her is debatable). The runway scene with the triforce is for me the moment that Jesse unveils her true self. She is confident, powerful, arrogant, and vain. She basks in her natural beauty and prides herself upon it, similarly like the other models but the difference is that it is built up to be true that yes, Jesse is the most beautiful. However, in the end Jesse is (literally) pushed aside, a reminder that in this world woman are tools, objects for the satisfaction of ego. I very much see The Neon Demon as a criticism of vanity.

Mirrors are constantly used in this film, yet never once is there the cliched “fractured face and fractured mirror means fractured personality” even though a mirror is smashed at one point. I noted this as quite significant. If we return back to the otherworldly feel of the film, we must think of the significance of mirrors in this world. Whenever a character is reflected in a mirror we see someone different. In the world the models seem completely vain, heartless, and completely inhuman; however we see their insecurities whenever they are reflected in a mirror. We see someone who looks trapped, consumed and possessed by this world that is devoid of all humility and humanity.

Although this is a different world, we are subtly reminded that this one does actually inhibit our own (or is connected to it). The seedy motel and owner (played by Keanu Reeves) shows that the decrepit nature of this world has overflown into our own. A world full of sexual exploitation and narcissism.

This is where Refn, the crazy antagonistic Danish bastard who loves pissing people off, shines. I’ve already seen this film dubbed as sexist, misogynistic exploitation trash and I’m sure Refn knew that too. Refn fills these shocking and absurd scenes with a clear argument against these said things by exaggerating and making them as explicit as possible. It’s almost like a satire how he criticizes these things by exaggerating them and showing them for what they are.

I would argue that this is a feminist film that makes some very strong arguments about female sexual exploitation and body shaming. This world is built on the foundation of these things and it has created a poisonous world riddled with narcissism and vanity. Refn presents a black mirror to our own world to show us the world of The Neon Demon, and how the nature – no matter how exaggerated it is – has spilled into our own. It may be alien, but it’s not far away.

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How to Make an Art-House Masterpiece

Arthouse movies are usually hit or miss. Only a few select individuals actually know how to create a masterful piece of cinema. However, is it really that hard to do it?

Art-house. What does it mean? It’s not a house full of art, but an explosive mental experience that only a select few human beings can comprehend. Simply put – since your Neanderthal brains are so dense – art-house is the highest form of visual entertainment and you should feel bad for not grasping its cultural significance. This article will not only educate you on what art-house cinema is, but also how to become an auteur like Alejandro Jodowrosky, David Lynch, Andrei Tarkovsky, Uwe Ball and Terrence Mallick. So strap in, concentrate and for once in your life use your brain. This; is how to make an art-house masterpiece.

First off, forget the script. Cinema is all about the visuals. Dialogue? Please, unless you want to seem like another bog standard idiot who runs about Hollywood chasing wads of cash and being hated by everyone, including your own family, you’ll scrap any notion of including any spoken lines. Don’t restrict yourself to a strict structure, let the camera tell the story and allow the visuals to flow.

One notable example is Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi (try saying that after a few pints). It’s a masterful film that explains how much of a destructive imbecile you really are, but not by telling you through mere words, but by holding a mirror up to your face and jabbing it into your eyes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PirH8PADDgQ

Lighting is key for any film to appear artistic. If nothing of any interest is actually going on, just have a two hour slow moving montage of a bunch of locations which have a pretty light in them. Red lighting specifically as you can basically say the red represents sex, anger or death. The perfect recipe for any first date.

Legendary auteur Ryan Gosling showcased how well he can utilize lighting to make a scene powerful, memorable and downright arousing. Take this scene from Lost River, where Ben Mendelson serenades the audience with a lovely jingle.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1lWdZtf9Pw

When you’re finally putting it all together, add some highbrow moral message about how pandas are the greatest living beings to have never lived or about how being single is the equivalent of being a racist, mass murdering psychopath who throws up before eating their victims. If people don’t get it, then they’re idiots, not you.

Birdman, for example, is a perfect example. Alejandro González Iñárritu basically mocks the audience, critics and basically everybody else in the world as he knows, like me, that everyone is a moron who only likes watching explosions, clichés and porn – they’re all basically the same thing aren’t they?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4d5KovCbU8w

And there you have it; if you have followed this guide then I don’t expect to see you at the Oscars as that’s for Oscar baiting hack frauds that thrive on nothing but money. But at least you’ll develop a cult following who will defend your film to the death. Now fuck off.

Cinema is not Dying, it’s Already Dead.

Note: Wrote this a wee while ago, after reading Simon Pegg’s recent comments about the dumbing down of cinema I couldn’t help but decide to publish this.

“If money’s the god people worship, I’d rather go worship the devil instead.” Jess C. Scott.

With “blockbuster season” upon us; you can only look round at the billboards and adverts, the buses and posters in the cinema, and realise how far the movie industry has fallen. Indeed, blockbusters have always been around, but it is simply the quantity of the same, banal trash that gets churned out every month that truly depresses me. Many say the industry is dying, hell, from where I’m standing it looks dead.

Its demise can be summed up in one word: commercialism. The industry has gone too far in its quest for gold, avarice has claimed the integrity of it; everything that made movies so much more than simply images on a screen is lost. There are so many explosive action flicks, superhero movies, and other “epic movies” that cinemas have no space or time for anything else. Smaller, cheaper and interesting films are lost and forgotten, simply because no one knows about them.

I am not calling for the death of superhero flicks, I am not saying that these movies have no place. However, to say that these films are “what the masses want” is frankly wrong. Of course more people are going to see Fast and Furious over a small foreign film like Ida, because no one knows what Ida is. They know what Fast and Furious is because there are promotions for it everywhere compared to the small, inexpensive films. There is a difference between want and ignorance.

The problem here is not the audiences, or even the movies themselves, it’s the whole commercialism behind it all.  The businessmen in their glass towers, the ones who funnel millions into a project to simply double their own money. You can say that they can do what they want, their money, but it is completely unfair for them to use their wealth to out-spend the competition by blowing them away with nothing other than commercials. It is even worse when the competition is a small film with a shoestring budget.

The exact same can also be said about the music industry. You now have an excess of glitzy pop stars who produce arguably the same music. Any alternatives, anyone different, daring, is cast aside quickly and lost, doomed to simply be tagged as “cult”. Why? Because they don’t have the same sell value as the pop stars.

The fact of the matter is that commercialism has killed both the movie and music industry. Variety is the spice of life, and it is clear to me that these industries have neither any variety, spice and life in them.