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OolongTea

The Neon Demon (2016)

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The setting is in the dog eat dog world of fashion where everyone talks one way but walks another. It's stars Elle Fanning and Jenna Malone as an aspiring model and "been around the block" make-up artist, respectfully. Elle starts out as a doe in the headlights of the fashion world but quickly adjusts to a steep learning curve. There is also the most strange and bizarre cameo by Keanu Reeves..

I saw this movie on a whim. I wanted to see Finding Dory and ended up at this film somehow. While I was watching it, I almost left the theater on three separate occasions because it was such a bizarre, insane film. It felt terrible while I was watching it, but after a few days had passed, I thought about it and understood more and more until I thought it was a an amazing film; one of the best I'd seen. It now appears to me to be a very meta film. The shock factor, gore, and trippy cinematography all had purpose and was thematically grounded to me after much thought. But I really enjoy and respect your opinions on films, you are more qualified to analyze them after all. I want to know your thoughts, was my initial reaction the correct one?

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Honestly, I haven't been terribly impressed with Refin for a while. I loved the Pusher trilogy and enjoyed Bronson and Valhalla Rising (despite many problems with it). However I thought Drive was overrated and the dialog was awful, Only God Forgives had some nice visuals, but that was about it and this looks to be similar. I will still see Neon Demon though.

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I kind of hated it. It's super stylish but just didn't do anything for me. It's basically the logical end to the direction Refn pursued with Drive and then Only God Forgives. And I get what the film is trying to do -- offer this gorgeous and incredibly superficial world as a sort of parallel to the microcosm of high fashion and modelling, a fable about pursuing beauty. But that's unbelievably banal, and it offers this observation without further exploration or possibility.

 

Like, we literally consume women in the quest for unobtainable standards of perfection? Okay, everyone understands this in 2016. It's not subversive to say that. But if Refn is saying anything beyond that, I don't see it. And in fact, I'm not sure he gets it. The idea of a successful (cis, white, hetero, blah blah so sue me) director like Refn sexually objectifying a 16-year old girl (Fanning is now 18) as some sort of editorial on objectification strikes me as tone deaf. It's a whole lot of having your cake and eating it, and to me, it didn't add up to anything.

 

I don't mean to be a killjoy, feel free to enjoy the movie however you want. It is very beautiful, like a high end screensaver.

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I personally have not seen it yet, and Drive & Bronson are the only ones I have seen by Refn, which I loved both, but the criticisms set forth do not make me want to see it. I mean I do want to form my own opinion on it and two of my close friends both loved it, but more of my friends did not like it at all.

 

This review actually is what is keeping me from seeing it sooner. I have to agree with 24 Hour Party Pizza and the woman who wrote that review that even the trailer screams of Refn trying to comment on the negative sides of a society without actually saying it's negative.

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I saw it on Amazon and thought it was a bit better than Only God F orgives, though that's not saying much for some. It is visually stunning at times and there were scenes that really teased with my visual understanding, like when Fanning's character was in the photo shoot with the all white background, and how it's shot makes it seem like both characters are floating in a white void.The Keanu Reeves role was truly creepy and unnerving and there were times when it felt like an old school horror movie from the 70s-80s, but there wasn't much offered beyond the beautiful visuals. Which looking at that may be what Refn is commenting on in regards to the modelling industry.

 

Regarding Only God Forgives, I saw it in an old theater that mainly shows limited releases or foreign films and it might have been one of the funniest viewing experiences I've ever had. There was about 20 people in the theater, quite a few couples and a few people over the age of 70, both of which I found kinda odd as everything I read about the movie up to that point was that it was anything but a couple's movie or a movie for the feint of heart. You could tell that the couples were there because the boyfriends sold their girlfriends on the fact it was the new Ryan Gosling movie and that was it. Then when it really got nasty and gruesome, the boyfriends started almost immediately trying to preemptively apologize or makeup with the girlfriends, by nuzzlng their shoulders or kissing their cheeks, trying to lessen the fallout of how mad their significant other was going to be at the end of the movie.

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The way I think of this movie is that it fucks your eyes and ears with amazing visuals and music, all the while making excuses to your brain about how it has to work late.

 

And I say that as someone who actually liked "Only God Forgives."

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I see that Refn's birthday is today and for some reason every time I see a picture of him I swear it looks like he's trying to subtlety eek out a fart, but failing.

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I'm totally down for whatever Refn does and will probably always be. Some of his movies, like Valhalla Rising and Only God Forgives, I can love but am totally satisfied with only one viewing. Others like Drive I find exceptionally rewatchable (I think Drive remains his best work). Although I... appreciate Neon Demon for its style and mood, I do think it's his weakest film. It doesn't come together and seems more like an exercise in aesthetics and metaphor, which is appropriate I guess for a movie about the fashion industry. And I am always a sucker for Keanu. But it definitely is the least satisfying of his movies that I have seen.

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If you have never seen any of his Danish work, the Pusher trilogy is free if you have an Amazon prime account. They are not nearly as style driven as his English language work, but much more story driven.

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It might be my greatest Film Geek Sin that I have never seen the Pusher trilogy. BUT I GOTTA MAKE ROOM FOR VAMPIRE ACADEMY, RIGHT HDTGM?

 

What am I doing with my life?

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I kind of hated it. It's super stylish but just didn't do anything for me. It's basically the logical end to the direction Refn pursued with Drive and then Only God Forgives. And I get what the film is trying to do -- offer this gorgeous and incredibly superficial world as a sort of parallel to the microcosm of high fashion and modelling, a fable about pursuing beauty. But that's unbelievably banal, and it offers this observation without further exploration or possibility.

 

Like, we literally consume women in the quest for unobtainable standards of perfection? Okay, everyone understands this in 2016. It's not subversive to say that. But if Refn is saying anything beyond that, I don't see it. And in fact, I'm not sure he gets it. The idea of a successful (cis, white, hetero, blah blah so sue me) director like Refn sexually objectifying a 16-year old girl (Fanning is now 18) as some sort of editorial on objectification strikes me as tone deaf. It's a whole lot of having your cake and eating it, and to me, it didn't add up to anything.

 

I don't mean to be a killjoy, feel free to enjoy the movie however you want. It is very beautiful, like a high end screensaver.

 

 

I actually dug a little deeper. I, by no means, am a film buff. I'm not familiar with any of Refn's work. But the reason I thought this film was interesting was because of the actual structure. On the surface, everything was amazing. Cinematography, colors, contrast, music, even the actors and actresses appearances. But the contents of the actual film was grotesque, appalling, disgusting. By the end of the movie there weren't even any characters to root for. No likeable characters whatsoever. I don't even know anyone who has said anything nice about the plot. I think he made this structure mimic the thesis, that just because something seems amazing at the superficial surface level doesn't mean it's chocolate drops on the inside; it can be totally rotten. I thought of the film as one of the characters after a while: pretty on the outside shitty on the inside.

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I think he made this structure mimic the thesis, that just because something seems amazing at the superficial surface level doesn't mean it's chocolate drops on the inside; it can be totally rotten. I thought of the film as one of the characters after a while: pretty on the outside shitty on the inside.

No, I totally got that, it's pretty easy to understand. I just found it a really banal and obvious point, and there wasn't anything else going on to sustain my interest. I enjoyed Jena Malone's performance, but the film was mostly tedious.

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