Nicolas Winding Refn – The Neon Demon Interview

To celebrate the release of The Neon Demon, read this fantastic interview with director Nicolas Winding Refn!

Nicolas, you co-wrote the script and came up with the original idea. I just wanted to chat about the origins of The Neon Demon?

“I wanted to make a film about beauty. So I thought what if I made it into a teenage horror film. But then I wanted to do it as a comedy as well and add a lot of camp, because I love camp and vulgarity. Then it also had to have a little bit of science fiction and a bit of melodrama.”

THE NEON DEMON Film-maker Nicolas Winding Refn in conversation with James Bond writers Robert Wade and Neal Purvis at the Prince Charles Cinema, Leicester Square on 24/10/2016 . THE NEON DEMON arrives on DVD/Blu-ray/VOD/Digital 31st October and writer director Nicolas Winding Refn has been in London attending a special one night only screening event at the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square. The event kicked off with a screening of Refn’s controversial and powerful THE NEON DEMON followed by conversation between the esteemed director and writers Robert Wade and Neal Purvis who are known for James Bond blockbusters SPECTRE, SKYFALL, CASINO ROYALE and more. The night was completed by a screening of Refn’s critically acclaimed DRIVE. Picture by Julie Edwards . FREE FOR USE FOR ARTICLES IN CONJUNCTION WITH NAMED EVENT / NEON DEMON RELEASE ONLY. ANY OTHER USE CHARGEABLE. IMAGES REMAIN COPYRIGHT OF JULIE EDWARDS

How does it all start for you? There quite a vivid image right at the beginning of the film of Elle Fanning’s character on a couch with her throat cut and her eyes wide open – which really sticks in your memory….

“That’s how the movie began. I came up with this idea of an opening not really knowing where it was going to lead to. I actually spent a couple of years really trying to figure out where it was all going to lead to, or at least NOT lead to.”

You’ve been quoted in saying that the film is really about the sixteen year old girl in all of us. What did you mean by that?

“I think that everyone has a sixteen year old girl in them that desires beauty and understands the power of it. I think that it’s something that men will never be able to experience – the power of it.”

Of course this is the polar opposite of your last couple of films like Drive and Only God Forgives and we have largely female protagonists. In fact the male characters are very much…

“They’re puppets.”

Yes. Was it your intention to make something completely different with this?

“Yes, I thought that I wanted to make a movie about women and the world of women, and everything that that would mean. Therefore all the male characters became more archetypes rather than part of the storytelling. You can say for example the boyfriend – the young man she sees at the beginning – kind of represents morale, society, acceptability. He has the right thoughts, parked in the right place, all of the good morals, and of course he’s the one that challenges that [Jesse] is about more than just beauty. But then the designer says that if she wasn’t that beautiful then you wouldn’t have looked. She’s also very hypocritical, which we all are. A lot of the time beauty is all superficial nonsense but at the same time we desire it, we need it, we dream about it.  You have Keanu Reeves who represents the male threat to virginity – the predator. Women are preyed upon in the entertainment industry as well as everywhere else.  Then there’s the fashion photographer who, while he seems in control, all he is is a gateway. And then of course you have the designer who is the high-concept version of the obsession. Even though what he says is so extreme there is a lot of truth to it.”

And you mention Keanu. He’s not really the obvious choice for his role in the film. How did he become involved?

“I met Keanu some years ago. I’ve always been very fascinated by him and so I picked up the phone and asked if he would come down and drink bad coffee and sit in a plastic chair and he said yes, sure.”

He’s quite the cool guy and he’s made some amazing choices in his career.

“Keanu is amazing. Keanu is so unique that he’s going to be around a lot longer than most of us.”

In terms of his age?

“Yes, but in terms of how he chooses, how he looks at life. He’s a very, very inspiring person. He’s the only one who has defined all genres that Hollywood now makes.”

THE NEON DEMON Film-maker Nicolas Winding Refn in conversation with James Bond writers Robert Wade and Neal Purvis at the Prince Charles Cinema, Leicester Square

You have Elle Fanning in the main role. How did she become involved? It’s probably the most important character to cast.

“It was all about her. The question was ‘who is going to play [Jesse]’. I didn’t really know and I was in Hollywood casting the film and we had to find someone who was going to have the believability, the looks and of course the acting skills to take it to that level. Those three things do not go hand in hand, so it was a bit like ‘fuck, what do I do?’ My wife had seen a movie she had done and said she was really good and the casting directors had worked with her on another movie and we were like ‘maybe Elle is the one’. Elle’s manager had sent me a photo shoot that she had done – a fashion shoot – and she was amazing, and I was like, right away, ‘it’s her. I don’t care. I don’t need to see her. Just hire her.'”

She was just sixteen when you shot it?

“Yes. She’s very skilled. She does the Michael Caine acting. She’s so good an actress that you can’t tell.”

And this story is set within the fashion industry out there, but it could be any industry couldn’t it?

“It’s beauty. It’s what we all obsess about.”

Yes. We’re all a little bit vain.

“Absolutely. Even the ones who say they’re not. They’re lying.”

There’s a lot of symbolism in this particularly film.  Obviously there’s the use of a lot of mirrors but there’s the constant triangles. What did they represent?

“Triangles represent the three women. The three women represent the three main desires. Gigi, who is not born beautiful but who tries to artificially create herself, Sarah, the supermodel who is afraid of age and longevity, and then Ruby who desires purity and virginity. All those things essentially equal beauty because beauty is both inner and outer. I wanted The Neon Demon to have a symbol – like an identity, so I came up with this neon triangle because neon is very analogue, but its very futuristic at the same time. It’s very fashiony also, it’s very chic, flamboyant and as a triangle the three women were represented.”

There’s also the perfect symmetry of a triangle?

“Yes, and also it’s also a female symbol of power. Once the male characters have outplayed their part, they disappear from the film. It’s nothing to do with men. It’s all about the world of women.”

You debuted the film in Cannes. How was it to premiere the film out there as you’ve first shown your last three films at the festival?

“I love it. I love being the eye of the hurricane.”

The first press screening got as many boos as cheers. How did you feel about that?

“It’s great. You know you’ve done something right. Polarisation is very difficult, so it mean’s you’ve actually done something right.”

You talk about Hollywood as well. This is your second film to be set in Los Angeles following Drive. How do you find the place as both a person and a filmmaker?

“I love Hollywood and I love Los Angeles as a city. I find it very inspiring. I find it very poetic and strange and alien and unique. There’s no other place quite like it. It’s one and its own.”

THE NEON DEMON Film-maker Nicolas Winding Refn in conversation with James Bond writers Robert Wade and Neal Purvis at the Prince Charles Cinema, Leicester Square

Have you had the temptation to be lured by the industry to tackle a big mainstream blockbuster rather than these very unique smaller films?

“I would love to do a big blockbuster movie, I just don’t know whether they necessarily want me to do it. I would love to try one. I watch them and I find them very entertaining, especially when I’m on a plane as I’m afraid of flying. They take away my attention. There’s a certain understanding when you make those films that there’s a trade-off. There hasn’t been that trade-off that’s been worth it for either side, but yes, I would love to do one – one of those big superhero movies with a lot of people running around.”

The studios seem to be going for more independent directors for those kind of films now though.

“It seems to me like a lot of studios, as I hear, are understanding that they need more voices in their filmmaking but I mean, don’t kid yourself, in the end it’s marketing groups, focus groups, test groups that’s going to determine how that movie is going to turn out.”

You must have complete creative control in everything that you do.

“Yes. It’s what makes you get up in the morning. I have always said it’s very important that creative freedom out-weighs any amount of money that they can ever pay you – as long as you’re in okay shape, but if you were to switch it around you have to lose your control. My world is that it just has to be worth it for both sides of the coin.”

Where do you draw your influences from as a filmmaker?

“I just make films based on what I would like to see. Everyone is inspired by what they experience growing up or around them continuously, and you kind of take that and you go on to what you do. I don’t always think that it’s healthy to try and figure out the inspiration because it becomes more about categorising or almost figuring a way to put it in a box. Like Bronson says, ‘you can’t put me in a box mate.”


The Neon Demon is released on DVD, Digital HD and Blu-ray on 31st October, 2016.
Read our review 

 

Life – Brand New Trailer!

There are a lot of movies out there set in space, and a whole heap coming our way. It seems that we’ve explored a lot of stories on earth and that the only way is to look outside of this world. This continues in Life.

Starring Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson, and Jake Gyllenhaal, Life revolves around six members of the International Space Station who discover an alien form, only to find out that it’s a lot more intelligent than presumed. Welp!

With essences of Alien and The Thing, Life doesn’t look particularly appealing. Tones of the similar, are you interested?


Life is out 2017 

Happy Halloween: Looking Back….Trick R Treat (2007)

It’s very easy to dismiss horror films, especially does that come up nearly hours into a video on demand search. With films meant to be intentionally bad, sequels and reboots that are actually bad, and a lot of disappointment in the genre, it’s rare to feel excited about horror movies nowadays. So, when I wanted something banal to watch in the background of working (my stay at home job running this lovely blog and other film related escapades,) and picked Trick r Treat, a film I wrongly thought was going to be naff and settled into background noise.

What happened after would shock you…

Ok. This is not a click bait article, what happened is that I was ended up being so absorbed with the film that I bunked off working for two hours to appreciate it in its fullness.

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Trick r Treat is a somewhat of an anthological film that sees four stories of Halloween in a small town. With an appearance by a sack wearing child named Sam in every tale, the interweaving plot lines focus on a murderous teacher who has contempt for his trick or treating students, a legendary school bus crash that spooks modern children, a cranky old recluse who is terrorised by a young assailant, and a young woman who is looking to break her virginity on the fateful night…. What ghouls could spook them?

It’s difficult to balance originality whilst paying homage to classic horror films but Michael Dougherty’s film, in script and direction, creates this iconic movie in its own right. Balancing the right amount of thrills, chills, and comedy, Trick r Treat is a rambunctious affair that broils with entertaining premises that still have lavishes amount of gore and red stuff. The tales are lifted from different types of horror premises and seamlessly fit into one another without meshing into complexities. Raucously wild and hilarious, this marries supernatural evils and human ones too in a ceremony so lavish and fun, you’d be missing something to not enjoy it.

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It’s not without its twists and scares which balance against the wicked hilariousness but also embellishes it greatly. The film has genuinely terrifying moments as well as a sadistic nature that makes it all the more enjoyable. Whilst it doesn’t revel in the sickening moments to be classed as torture porn, it does have some toe-curling scenes. Yet laced with humour and tongue-in-cheek elements, especially with stories that go in vastly different directions than you expected, you relish the gore even more, making Trick r Treat a riotous product.

With actors such as Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, and Dylan Baker, there is a clear sense of everyone involved just having a blast here which echoes throughout the entire film. It has accrued a wide fan base and hopefully will have a longevity like it’s classic counterparts as it sits firmly on the must see horror film of Halloween. Just one note, however; always stick to Halloween traditions – you don’t know what people have planned this holiday….


Happy Halloween! 

Best Movies about Witches

Everybody I know wanted to have magical powers when they were younger. Everybody. Whether it was superhero mutant gifts or spellbinding wizards, the thought of manipulating your life with a wave of your wand or a wiggle of your nose is something we still wish as “adults” today.

In the movies, films have looked at magic since they could craft moving images (smooth pun well intended.) There have been a whole coven of movies about witches for us to enjoy! To celebrate Halloween, we’re looking at the best Witch movies!

Honourable Mention: At this point, we’d like to assume the Harry Potterseries goes without saying…

Practical Magic (1998)

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Yes. Practical Magic is a pretty naff film. It’s cheesy as hell and has over the top performances, especially from Nicole Kidman. It was definitely one of those movies to gather round on a lazy Sunday night and enjoy gleefully as powerful spells and fun was concocted. The film revolves around a family of witches who are cursed: When they fall in love with a man, he is doomed to die. Sisters Gillian and Sally are rebellious and cautious respectively have to navigate this world of magic and love. With an indelible spirit at the centre of it, Practical Magic embraces the cheesy charm and with Sandra Bullock as Sally, you just can’t help but fall in love with it…

Oh, and, who doesn’t want midnight margaritas?

Hocus Pocus (1993)

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There is nothing in this world that will make you happier than Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy as hapless evil witches trying to catch a teenager and his young sister. Seriously. The three actresses are clearly hamming it up and having the time of their lives in this wickedly fantastic Disney movie – back when live action frolics from the studios were genuinely great. Filled with hilarity, and the best version of I Put A Spell On You Ever, Hocus Pocus is an entertaining Halloween must from the family friendly studios!

Häxan (1922)

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When movies were first invented, it wasn’t long until people started exploring the dark side of imagination and the spiritual world of evil. Danish silent film Häxan is often noted as one of the first horror films and one of the scariest, celebrated as an innovation of filmmaking by many critics. The film works as an anthology about Satanism and witchcraft with some horrific imagery, gruesome moments, and surreal sex scenes. Developed by Benjamin Christensen, the depictions of torture, nudity, and sexual perversion surely made people quiver upon first release.

 

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

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The found footage horror has never been quite as spectacular as it was with The Blair Witch Project. Heck, the movie caused such a riot upon release with marketing pretty much saying, “Oh yeah, this is true,” that even I clearly remember people crying after release. The chilling horror still shakes audiences to the core today with the atmospheric piece crawling down your skin with this heavy realism. The movie revolves around three students who go into the woods to film about the legendary witch who once lived there. However, they are soon plagued by visions and ghosts and are never seen again…With a lack of jump-scares, the restrained film unnerves with its heavily realistic tones. In fact, one of the final shots will linger forever…

 

Suspiria (1977)

Stylish, colourful, and compelling, this redolent feature caught our attentions in an icy grip of paranoia and horrific exploration of womanhood. Suspiriarevolves around a young ballet student (Phantom of the Paradise’s Jessica Harper) who travels to a remote school and is caught in torment as a series of murders begin. Directed by Italian horror maestro Dario Argento, the film is an atmospheric and powerful film that lurks with contemporary shots, striking imagery, and haunting visuals. With the help of a sensational score by rock band Goblin, Suspiria is unnerving.

 

The Witches (1990)


Growing up in the nineties, here is nothing more appalling and perturbing as watching Angelica Huston peel off her face to reveal a haggard, wart covered creature underneath. The Witches revolves around a young boy who discovers that the titular fiends are staying at his hotel and they have a plan to turn all the children into mice. With gruesome special effects, Nicolas Roeg masterfully creeps and establishes the brilliant cinematic world of Roald Dahl. Although the author panned this version of this film, it is still one of the most iconic children’s movie for all making us piss our pants at least once during childhood.

Seriously, the whole “trapped in a painting” spell keeps me up at night!

The Craft (1996)

This is the pinnacle witch film that saw children throughout the nineties attempt Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board and all the hijinks this quartet try. One of the most powerful and accurate movies, helped by Fairuza Balk who is actually a Wiccan, the film revolves around four girls in a coven that are torn apart by power when one of them is corrupted by magic. Steeped in nineties grunge aesthetic and enhanced by a brilliant soundtrack, The Craft is also driven by deep routed emotion and pubescent issues that are explored with the aid of spells.


Happy Halloween! 

Stranger Things: Why We Love Nancy Wheeler

(Warning: There are spoilers.)

Stranger Things has been a cultural phenomenon. Very rarely does television reach pique epicness where everyone you know is still talking about the show, even a month after its release date. The commercial and critical success has pleased most, if not all, audiences and we’re frothing at the mouth just speaking about it – like an Upside Down worm of excitement crawling out of our orifices. Yes….plural.

Elevating into the golden collection of fantastic television shows, Stranger Things is yet another success for video on demand service Netflix which includes Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Jessica Jones, Orange is the New Black, and Narcos. Yet, somehow, it feels as though they struck better gold with this science fiction romp from The Duffy Brothers.

For those who haven’t seen it (I’ll assume you’ve spent your time in Upside Down world and I’ll forgive you,) Stranger Things echoes eighties adventure films whilst unravelling a spectacularly tense mystery as the young Will Buyers disappears. Three friends, two teenagers, and two adults try to separately solve the disappearance which becomes entangled when a girl imbued with powers arrives in the town of Hawkins.

What worked best for the show is its focus on the emotionality and growth of the characters. From nerdy heroes led by a dungeon master to the powerful but abused Eleven, each role was written with astute and intellectual knowing. Even side character Barbara “Why the hell would you kill her off?” Holland (affectionately called Barb) had excellent moments that has helped secure her, and actress Shannon Purser with a cult following and even a Barbie doll.

In fact, the response to the relatable, sassy, unpopular girl warmed our hearts. Especially considering that we are all pretty much Barb. That being said, we can’t help but feel her bestie – Nancy Wheeler – has been eschewed by the audience despite having the most realistic arc. Confident and ultimate Barb champion, Nancy is one of the best written teenaged characters that as graced the television screen.


Senior Nancy Wheeler is the older sister of Michael. The ever intellectual, studying hard to pass her exams and get out of her town, flirts with popularity and bouffant-haired Steve, upsetting her position and putting strain on her relationship with Barb. Whilst many see this as callousness, it is portrayed in a realistic manner, all the while mirroring tropes from the eighties. However, Nancy is far more than a cliché: Her studious disposition plus hormonal exploration sparks the beginning of a character going through puberty motions and ultimately growing because of it. The party scene shows this in a magnificent way. Though she seemingly throws Barb away due to her attraction with Steve, this isn’t unlike any teenager or friend you’ve ever known.

However, having sex with Steve sees Nancy flourish. Breaking the mould of “You Fuck, You Die,” Nancy actually changes. The shift in emotive patterns after the night before is so wonderfully depicted as though a step into adulthood has been taken. Fantastically astute and embellished with sensitivity, in this moment, Nancy really shines.

After Barb’s disappearance, Nancy springs immediately into action, being the only soul in Hawkins who believes a graver fate has bestowed her bestie. With the fall out of her evening with Steve as well as the bullying from him and his friends, Nancy has the weight of the world on her shoulders. Yet she still joins forces with Jonathan Buyers to get to the truth of the disappearances and ventures into the beyond in pursuit of her friend. Tackling the upset and embarrassment as rumours fly and she is verbally attacked, Nancy stays defiant and strong, caring wholly for Barb as well as dealing with the guilt of leaving her alone. Helping her brother and his friends too, Nancy may have showed hotheadness in an attempt to be cool but she grows with the story and in Stranger Things, she becomes a multi-faceted character and it makes our hearts swell.

OH! And she’s the only character to enter Upside Down and get herself out without scientific equipment AND comes up with a way to lure the monster to try and destroy it. Nancy Wheeler is a realistic, bad-ass, and poignant character which has a glorious arc. Played defiantly by Natalia Dyer, she is an accomplished character and a blossoming, head-strong young woman who’ll do anything for the people she loves.

And that’s why we love Nancy Wheeler.


STRANGER THINGS IS AVAILABLE ON NETFLIX
READ OUR REVIEW 

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – “Where’s Josh’s Friend?” Review

I got into Crazy Ex-Girlfriend hella late. In fact, I don’t even know what took me so long. After all, I’d loved Rachel Bloom’s previous musical work for a while. Her whole talented escapades and satirical videos are iconic and to see them unleashed in television glory is relentless glee all the time. The songs are on point, the dark humour great, and the situations strangely human. Now Season 2 is unleashed upon us and the excitement is paramount.

For those who haven’t watched Season 1, here is a quick re-cap: Rebecca was working hard at a New York job, making though but it made her blue. One day she was crying a lot, so she decided to move to West Corvina California, brand new pals and new career. Well, it happens to be where Josh lives but that’s not why she’s here…. Basically, she’s a crazy ex-girlfriend….

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At the end of Season 1, Josh and Rebecca had hooked up, finally, as he left Valencia at his sister’s wedding. With Rebecca swiftly moving on from Greg, whose left comatose stating his love for her. However, whilst Becks may be with the one she has pined after for so long, she lets slip that she moved to West Corvina to Josh which has  scared him completely. Unfortunately for Rebecca, her confident Paula is trying to move on from the craziness whilst Greg has gone AWOL. With Josh using her for sex and living quarters, Rebecca struggles to navigate this circumstances where she is seemingly alone.

The opening episode of Season 2 is not a bad episode but it doesn’t rank highly in the list of superb outings for Rebecca and chorus. The downfalls of the opening episode isn’t the fault of the talent at hand, it’s because there is a clear tonal shift. Why having superb elements, it’s tricky to get your head around a darker new series where everything is seemingly broken. There is an unearthing of everything nefarious with following our heroine down a seedy path that is summed up well with Greg’s Dad who states “You mess up people’s lives and then pass it off as quirky.”

The self-awareness of the show is excellent but it does mean the ground we tread is unfamiliar. I’m not saying this as a critique, quite the opposite, it’s through this brilliance that the show can shoot of into something stellar. I am just saying that you’ll leave feeling as wounded as all our characters because you can no longer brush off Rebecca’s calamity as New Girl quirkiness. And in that kernel, its Love Kernel, lies a strong season that will root inside of you.

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This all being said, Where’s Josh’s Friend has defiant moments of bonkers and crazy to add hilarity to the realistic proceedings. In fact, there are several moments where I – quote unquote – lost my shit including a broom replacing a character, the whole song Love Kernels, and Emory’s sweater.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is back with new odds and a new character setting. How it choses to develop after this episode will defy the show forever. But one has hope that, whilst unusual and bleak in opening, the series will develop in a glorious, unbridled way.


Crazy Ex-Girlfriend appears on Netflix every week.