Key elements of Refn’s The Neon Demon recipe: fetishism, homosexuality, necrophilia and a bit of the ol’ ultra violence!
Winding Refn has officially transcended from art house film director into the level of auteur. With some of the year’s most memorizing atmospheres resulting from a combination of stunning visuals and a more bad ass than usual Cliff Martinez score, The Neon Demon had my undivided attention up until the credits dropped.
In this morbid satire of glamour and obsession, in full Refn style, he takes us back to the hypnotic and nocturnal world of L.A. to witness the birth of a model, Jesse.
Timid, 16 years old, and with a flawless beauty that is as powerful as it is envied. Jesse's dream of becoming a model begins to rapidly unravel in the dreadful landscape of demeaning beauty that is world of modeling. Throughout her journey, Jesse is surrounded by a mix of characters that include a shady apartment manager, a male friend that is the walking example of the term “nice guys finish last”, a douchey intimidating photographer and a femme trio composed of two overzealous models and an odd but friendly make-up artist.
It should come as no surprise that it’s the female performances that carry this film in terms of the acting. Ellie Fanning is remarkable as the young timid newbie embarking this fierce environment. But in my opinion, Jena Malone steals the show as she completely embodies the unforgettable character of Ruby.
Interestingly the film is categorized as a Horror, though its content and graphic nature doesn’t sway far from Refn’s recent films, but I guess you could stamp OGF as Horror as well.
Okay, I’d like to avoid spoils, so enough on the plot and character descriptions.
The Neon Demon deserves to be seen in theaters. Though sadly, its U.S. release was short lived, and whatever showings are left, are sparse. This film is more of a linear than Only God Forgives, it’s also an overall step up.
With that said, and given it’s familiar (NWR) subjective approach, it’s certainly the type of film that is and will be appreciated by few. And as much as I enjoyed this film, it is not without its flaws(mainly scenes that seem to have meaning, but also comes off as shallow). You often get a sense that there is actually no story here, rather a collection of beautiful scenes that are trying to tell a story. So of course, this is the type of film that not only requires, but is beneficial, to view more than once.
All in all, it's exciting to witness Winding Refn take his abilities of producing stunning visuals a step further. I cannot wait to see what he has in store for us next.