The Neon Demon (2016)

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn 

Running time: 2 hours

Cast: Elle Fanning, Jena Malone, Keanu Reeves, Christina Henricks, Karl Glusman. 

I had every fibre of my being wanting to like Nicolas Winding Refn’s movie Only God Forgives with Ryan Gosling starring. But ultimately I knew it was not something I fully enjoyed at all, in fact much of it, I simply endured. I feared that this vapid arty look at modelling and the value of beauty would be worse. 

There are many haters for this movie and I fully accept that many will find this slow motion, slow dialogue, long shot and out of body experience of a film to be like a bad migraine. But I have to admit I was captivated. Elle Fanning has mesmerised me since Super 8. She is perfectly cast newbie Jesse entering the modelling world in Los Angeles. The film delivers like the best work of David Lynch with its horrors and emotional strains being set to an unsettling musical score. The film is shot partly in a palette of rich colours to highlight the models fake plastic world which they inhabit. Winding Refn claims to be colour blind and only see contrast but I have no idea if that’s true. It would explain why he makes such artistic looking films. Maybe we should watch them with the colour set to black and a white to get the full benefit. 

But between the shiny clever- clever directed phases, there’s a straight forward style of film to be found where the characters try and lead a life out of the glare of a camera. Another touch stone would be the excellent Black Swan which was also partially demented and just as weirdly rewarding. 

I think if you are prepared for the almost supernatural eeriness of the Neon Demon then you may find something to enjoy. Put it this way, if you don’t like the first ten minutes then it’s not for you. Jena Malone co stars along with Keanu Reeves who both lend an interesting weight to proceedings and have both a history in the off centre kind of movies where reality is skewed. I’m thinking or Sucker Punch for Malone and A Scanner Darkly for Reeves, both of which I adore.

If you’ve managed to watch the classic Eraserhead all the way through then I have high hopes you’ll find some gold here. 

C Whitehouse 2016 

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