Nicolas Winding Refn makes good movies. If I were to slap together a Top 10 of my favorite films from last year, both his Bronson and Valhalla Rising would be on there--they're intelligent, meticulous, gorgeous, surreal, and violent films, with excellent use of music, rich imagery, and style to spare. Er, said list would have to be a top ten of the best movies I watched last year versus a top ten of films actually made in 2010, as Bronson is from 08 and VR is from 09, but regardless, I watched them for the first time in 10 and by the celluloid gods they were both excellent films. I talked a bit about Bronson back when I saw it in March of last year, and I haven't watched a lot since that I've been so taken with--Tom Hardy is absolutely tremendous, and the film itself is more than up to the task of matching his energy and nuance. Valhalla Rising is every bit as good, though remarkably different, and gauging by the Best Director win he picked up for Drive in Cannes last month, his next effort is looking rather tidy as well. This clip, for example, is tense as hell for a scene utterly divorced from any context beyond what it brings to the table:
No? Then again, the only English language film of Refn's I've seen to date was Fear X, which starred John Turturro and was an uneven thriller, sort-of, with a David Lynch sort-of feel to it and some sort-of The Shining imagery going on. Sort-of. So yeah, the English language track record is helping me to manage expectations for this newest effort, and having Ryan Gosling in the driver's seat isn't doing much to alter that. Then there's the fact Refn is presently slated to direct a Logan's Run remake. Starring Ryan Gosling. Peculiar.
In between said remake and Drive he's got another flick on the table about a Thai boxing grudge match between a cop and a gangster called Only God Forgives, so it'll be interesting to see how he navigates these bizarre waters of his career. For now, though, I'm planning on going back to some of his early works, the Pusher trilogy that initially put him on the map. I have vague memories of enjoying the first one quite a bit back when I was a high school burnout but didn't even realize it was the same director until well after I'd watched Bronson and Fear X--I recall the later two entries attracted attention for Refn's casting of actual underworld figures in the film, an interesting and risky move. Meditating on it, interesting and risky seem to be two words that sum up Refn's career rather perfectly--he's one of my favorite contemporary directors, and I'm curious to see how the move to larger films effects his brooding style.
Very nice, indeed.