Like many I discovered the Dane Refn after his 2011 hit Drive with its awesome soundtrack by Kavinsky. The images of a timeless, lurid neon LA complete with low-life criminals and movie stunt men captured the 80s retro junket we've been on for the last decade. I've gradually explored the rest of his catalogue and, with his most recent offering, The Neon Demon, I have to say I'm now hooked.
His use of cinematography and particularly colour is stunning, and he has the Kubrick-ian ability to create cult images which not only capture the zeitgeist but survive to become embedded in popular culture. As Clockwork Orange's mascara'd eye and bowler hat will sum up the violence of dystopian-scarred-youth, the back of Refn's silent, scorpion-embroidered-baseball-jacketed anti-hero from Drive will be associated with car crime for decades to come. I believe Tarantino has this quality too (think thugs in black suits with skinny black ties) but that's a topic for another post.
What a lot of my favourites share is mixed reaction - they are often 'Marmite' and Refn is no exception. If you don't like slow, production-design-driven movies featuring are long periods of silence then his work is not for you. The Neon Demon has really divided critics and it's an excruciating watch at times to be sure, but that only made me love it more. It's also a very good film about women, albeit the most dreadful and dangerous kind you're likely to meet.
I'll leave you with some images from his movies and hope you'll give his work a try. But don't blame me if you don't like it.
Bronson, 2008, where English eccentricity meets ultra-violence courtesy of a feral performance from Tom Hardy
Drive, 2011, with that jacket. And that soundtrack. Languid neon low-life in a bleak, late 20th century hinterland.
Only God Forgives, 2013, swaps LA for Bangkok and techno for karaoke. Seen here is a beautiful mural that epitomises the set design.