Monday, September 26, 2011

Drive + Hype

I finally had the chance to catch a screening of Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive (courtesy of our friends at Vendetta Films) last week after months of buzzy anticipation (blogged about it back in May), but this isn't going to be a formal review, just some stray non-spoilery (possibly incoherent) thoughts on the film:
  • Intial reaction: mostly positive. For a film that's on a narrative level, not particularly "interesting" nor ground-breaking, I'm finding it rather hard to pin down; I usually write my notes post-screening but I've left it until now - four days later - to do anything about it. Maybe to let the film sink in? Maybe it was so damn good, I couldn't bring myself to write about it? I'm still not sure.
  • Drive is all look and feel. The opening scenes oddly felt like Blade Runner to me or something. L.A. never felt so futuristic in the present. Yet it's a film that's blatantly '80s retro in its aesthetic (the pink script font of the opening credits, the lush Euro-tinged electro-pop on the soundtrack, etc). Either way, this might end up being one of the best-looking L.A. movies ever. I always love seeing the US through the eyes of a foreign filmmaker.
  • It's easy to see where Refn is cribbin' from: Jean Pierre-Melville, Sergio Leone, Walter Hill, etc. But it's not distracting - nor obnoxiously fanboy-ish, like Tarantino at his mix-master worst - since the whole thing's so marvelously synthesized and emerges with its own unique vibe.
  • This is NOT an action film. It's not Fast and Furious 5. It's more crime-noir. More dream cinema. More Taxi Driver. Almost anti-action. Though I did keep thinking of John Woo's The Killer, which itself of course is indebted to Melville etc.
  • Ryan Gosling - dude can do a wicked stare. He's as tightly wound and pared down as Refn's direction. No fat here.
  • My main fault with the film is the rather thankless treatment of a couple of characters - but my lips are sealed...
The film opens 3rd November in NZ and I hope it does alright, considering it's a "small film" that has proven a little difficult to market (it looks like a car movie, but it's not). It has the weight of HYPE on its shoulders too. I'm gonna call this the "Black Swan Effect". I recall the agonising wait for Black Swan to come out last year. Blogs all over the web were going nuts over it and when I finally got to see it, I dug it - but now, almost a year later, it's a film I have not much interest in seeing again. Ever. I blame it on hype. The expectations built by hype have ruined it for me. It's a bit of a strange thing I've noticed more and more recently: getting super-excited about upcoming films but when you finally come to see it, it never achieves the level of excitement that you initially had for it, even if it might be a perfectly okay movie. I really do hope Drive won't turn into another Black Swan; at this point in time, it seems like something I'd like to visit again soon.

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