Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Sneak Cinema: The Neon Demon w/ Nicolas Winding Refn

Nothing like starting the week off with a trip to Santa Monica's historic Aero Theatre for an early screening of The Neon Demon! Directed and co-written by Nicolas Winding Refn of The Pusher, Bronson and Drive fame, The Neon Demon has to be the most "what the f*ck" movie I've seen in a long time but is very interesting to watch and gorgeously shot. It's also got the best soundtrack I've heard in a while courtesy of Drive and Only God Forgives composer Cliff Martinez who provides a synth laced The Thing meets Blade Runner blend of creepiness and vast atmosphere. Since the flick hasn't hit theaters yet, I'll just say that TND is a bit of a fairy tale meets nightmare take on the young woman moving to Los Angeles to find fame and fortune gone weird, violent and freaky. Elle Fanning plays Jesse, an aspiring model who quickly becomes the favorite of several revered figures in the industry, much to the chagrin of local talent vying for their big break. As he did with Drive, Refn shoots Los Angeles in ways you've never seen, showing off scenic view points, seedy motels and classic dives throughout. Jena Malone, Christina Hendricks, Abbey Lee, Alessandro Nivola and a funny yet sh!t bag Keanu Reeves round out the cast. The Neon Demon definitely isn't for everyone but if you're into weird, experimental flicks or Refn in general, I think you'll like it.

After the film, Refn and his frequent collaborator Martinez took to the stage, spoiler free:

- Refn wanted to tell a tale of beauty and narcissism, fleshed out the script with female playwrights well known and not Mary Laws and Polly Stenham.
- Shoots chronologically for most part. Gave script to James Bond writers Robert Wade and Neal Purvis for suggestions.
- Props to Jena Malone for going to great depths to find her character early on which changed arc later on.
- Elle Fanning impressed him but he was hesitant since she was so young. Some people are just born with it, believes Fanning and Gosling are of the ilk.
- Makes movies very inexpensively to tell the stories he wants. Shoots quickly and uses familiar locations in new ways to save time and money.
- Sees Hollywood studios as a well oiled machine that is redundant but the machine pays well, pays for 90% of the industry and for films like his.
- Views directing as inspiring others while taking credit.
- Martinez jokes that Refn shoots totally different movies than are scripted, usually taking out lots of dialog. He's waiting for the day Refn makes a silent film.
- Martinez recalls many 3:00 AM Skype calls with a chipper and coffee sipping Refn.
- Amazon Studios got involved after an associate from Drive wanted to see the film, flew to Copenhagen for a screening and made lucrative offer after.
- Theatrical is still a big part of the film experience but streaming will let movies live on forever.
- Sees digital as the revolution that lets people create.

More was talked about but hey, see the movie and we'll chat more. Until then, queue the soundtrack.

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