The Neon Demon Screen 26 articles

The Neon Demon


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  • The problem in trying to critically assess Nicolas Winding Refn’s putrid atrocity of a film The Neon Demon is that regardless how much outrage is thrown at it, Winding Refn invariably wins, since that’s exactly what he’s after. The director has set out to make the most repellently misogynistic film imaginable, yet he’s disguised it as a postmodern feminist satire.

  • The parade of beautiful, bloodied women in Mr. Refn’s flashy dud — about a young model (Elle Fanning), newly arrived in Los Angeles — suggests that he fell under the spell of both Helmut Newton and David Lynch at an impressionable age, but without learning anything, including how to move beyond shocks or how to animate his visuals.

  • The movie’s narrative, such as it is, includes intimations of vampirism, sexual frustration culminating in necrophilia, and more unpleasant stuff. Mr. Refn composes striking images, but they’re all secondhand: faux Fellini, faux David Lynch and so on. (Cliff Martinez’s electronic score is also pastiche-like, but a far wittier concoction over all.)

  • The real horror of this thoroughly polished turd lies not in the acts of envy-fueled girl-on-girl violence or its many prettily oozing pools of blood but the idea that anyone might believe its events are derived from actual human feeling rather than layer upon layer of stylish nothing.

  • That it was only a dream doesn’t eradicate the distaste of the scene in which Reeves mimes a blowjob with a hunting knife on sleeping teen Elle Fanning. That it wasn’t even the most disgusting part of the always disgusting Nicolas Winding Refn’s disgusting movie says a lot about this film’s depths of smug depravity.

  • It matches exotic, voluptuary images to commonplace themes: the idea that the marketplace of female beauty encourages or even demands predatory behavior, and is peopled by spiritual cripples. The film lives or dies on its ability to seduce the viewer into an awed trance state with sheer technique, but the technique is by intention glossy and frictionless, and unable to get a handle, I found myself continually slipping into a restless indifference.

  • For a while at least, and discounting a few painfully awkward dialogue scenes, The Neon Demon seems like Refn's most surface-level-satisfying film since Drive... Unfortunately, its simmering insinuations eventually flower into full-on exploitation, with targets being evil lesbianism and violence committed in the name of female sexual rivalry. The film eventually loses the thread for whatever nascent commentary on male-pressured beauty standards it may have been building toward

  • The senses that miss out are taste and smell, since for all The Neon Demon’s eventual emphasis on cannibalism, there’s something faintly deodorised about Winding Refn’s vision of Sadean kitsch. There’s no feeling that any of the beautifully manicured hands on display would have trouble scrubbing away the blood from under their fingernails; the film doesn’t have that indelible rusted tackiness.

  • Virtually every moment of the film is dedicated to underlining society’s oppressive female beauty standards, bluntly enough to make the Grand Guignol climax (which is more like an epilogue, really—the true horror happens off screen) feel redundant. Conceptually bracing and formally daring, The Neon Demon lacks only a text to put the “sub” in its ostensible subtext.

  • A feature length advertisement for the director’s cinema, a film so exuberant it intentionally becomes a deconstruction of itself. The Neon Demon offers all of the “problematic” pleasures of his oeuvre, provides you with the space to enjoy it, but ultimately leaves you cold, empty and reflecting on why you may have had such a good time.

  • There is no reality check for the girls in Refn’s film, and the director unsurprisingly over-elaborates this sentiment. Yet at the same time, he mocks it, as Jesse becomes incredibly pompous for her young age and relative inexperience. The consequences of her vanity and of others’ envy reach such extremes that Refn cannot help but ridicule them, however bloody they may be.

  • The film offers up the type of sensual feast cinematic hedonists have come to expect from the director’s work—but it also proves that purely pretty things aren’t sustainably interesting... It’s not until we arrive at the third act that the film finally nails the tone Refn has been striving for... Here, the monstrosities of beauty are fully revealed in an orgiastic display of flesh, blood, and glittery eye shadow—it’s just a shame we didn’t get there sooner.

  • ...It would be nice to report that all of the visual gamesmanship in The Neon Demon is equally adroit, but as in Refn’s previous films—or at least the string of them starting with Valhalla Rising—there is a problem with the relationship of form to content. The question is whether Refn’s desire to indulge his “visionary” side detracts from the work rather than successfully defining it.

  • This is the film that made me realize that Winding Refn is a talented individual, but someone who should probably not be directing films. As a production designer, or an installation artist, Winding Refn's garish sets and stark arrangements would seem expansive, like seedy, postmodern Kubrick. In his films, though, they are just diversionary tactics. Much like Matthew Barney's films, The Neon Demon delivers in chunks and slabs, but never seems cognizant of cinema as a time-based art.

  • As with ONLY GOD FORGIVES, this is part fascinating, and part ludicrous mess. For that latter aspect, I don't hate the movie. Messes can be interesting too, and great films generally need to at least *risk* some kind of mess. But for me it's often very unsatisfying. NWR's imprint is palpable at every moment, but this is the sort of author who comes up in discussions of the auteur theory ad nauseum.

  • Refn offers a prepacked metaphor, supplemented with an astrological index that can help us in ‘decoding’ our product – even before the slightest attempt at interpretation is waged. By way of an absurd faith in difference, however, a ceaseless repetition of the Same ensues: an alternation which serves to camouflage a true sense of change. The director can but excel in the reproduction of his personal obsessions. Not without surprise, his films are as ephemeral as the world they claim to depict.

  • This grotesque, hyperstylized treatise on the fashion industry recaptures some of the zany images and B-movie abstractions of Refn's crossover effort, "Drive," though it never quite gels on the same level of inspiration. But, sure, the brand is warranted — elegant, sensual, and blood drenched, this is a genuine NWR film on every level.

  • The story is even thinner than the models; Winding Refn is more interested in long, stylized sequences in which they sit, stand, stare, or walk around while Cliff Martinez’s electronic score throbs and grinds and Natasha Braier’s camera basks in the chilly, surreal beauty of Elliott Hostetter’s sets and Erin Benach’s costumes. That makes sense for a film about beauty, set in a world where prettiness is the only means of sustenance and communication.

  • It's a vibrant, problematic and narcissistic howl at the moon, just as vapid and hollow as the industry it's trying to deconstruct. Fanning's doe-eyed performance embodies this contradiction nicely, at times sweet and demure, at others vengeful and manipulative. She is who she needs to be, in this sleek purgatory and the next.

  • The Neon Demon isn’t much of movie, if you’re looking for an actual story. Nor is it a moralistic fable about the emptiness of Hollywood—if anything, it’s a winking mockery of that sort of thing. But whatever the heck it is, it throws off a chilly, pleasurable sheen. This is visual hard candy.

  • Refn’s is clearly a film not be reflected upon, nor did he exercise any brain waves while making it. But having said that, for this two-hour vacation into an ideology-free zone I had a blast, as Refn has his vomit and eats it too. (Lesbian necrophilia! Chromatic ejacluation! To quote an anonymous Spanish-speaking heckler, “Puta mierda!”)

  • Refn's contradictions are hard to resolve, but The Neon Demon makes it easier by taking place in a Hollywood of pure abstraction—a bright, seductive, nightmarish approximation of the real thing. Through Refn's lens, Beauty, Jealousy, Vanity and Desire are themes played out in capital letters, and they confront the audience in arresting grotesque.

  • Color me shocked that my favorite recent movie is a Nicolas Winding Refn joint. Drive and Only God Forgives made me want to claw my eyes out (my Ryan Gosling allergy certainly didn’t help matters), whereas I felt like my every sense was giddily expanding while watching this vacuous and depraved take on the vacuous and depraved LA modeling scene. Refn hasn’t changed; he’s just found a milieu that suits his sumptuous nihilism.

  • One of the master stylists of today's post-filmic motion pictures, Refn's images are as clean as his characters are fetid, are as sterile as his material is filthy, creating a world of internal contradiction, a world exploding in replication, in falseness, in artificial poses, artificial clothing, and artificial relationships... In THE NEON DEMON, his finest film to date, he reaches new extremes of precision and expertly subtle dissection.

  • Boasting color that would make Mario Bava blush and proffering hilariously conceited exchanges that oscillate between farce and bone-dry awkwardness, each successive scene loudly announces Refn's turn of the screw. Refn finds the fabric of hidden cultural demons, and not the sorts of spirits that can be dismissed by an exorcist.

  • On paper, The Neon Demon is little more than a violent episode of Melrose Place, but the script doesn’t convey the life that Refn brings to this world. What critics of The Neon Demon appear to have missed is the intense loneliness of the film. Refn lingers with longing not just on the supple breasts and asses of his struggling fashion-model characters, but also on their eyes, which are empty in a fashion that connotes loss of soul rather than superficiality.

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