Sunday, 9 October 2011

Drive - Nicolas Winding Refn (2011)

  1. Drive is a very beautiful and extremely violent film by the Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn.
  2. If you're wondering how to pronounce that director's name, and you want to sound like you know him from film school, it's Nicholaas Vinding Revfun. You can ham up the non-existent 'u' at the end there as much as you like.
  3. A lot of people, including Winding Refn, talk about it being a film noir - a neon noir even. This is slightly misleading. In fact, as you probably noticed, the film it's most like, structurally-speaking is Shane. It even has the eery man/boy romance. Gosling's character is the weary, chaste, but ultra-competent gunslinger whose sense of honour draws him into a situation beyond his control, so forcing him to engage in the kind of fast-shooting behaviour that's the very thing he's been trying not to do so much of recently. Sorry, when I said 'gunslinger' I meant 'getaway driver' and when I said 'fast-shooting' I meant 'face-stamping'. 
  4. There are a couple of other things that make it more like a western than a noir. The first is a 10-Point Patent Rule© for knowing a noir from a western: the noir hero's talent is for taking punishment. The western hero's punishment is his talent.
  5. The second is that people within the film respond to Ryan Gosling as though he's intimidating. Where as anyone can see that even in an alley on a very dark night Gosling only ever looks like the healthiest gay man in your spinning class. But he was instrumental in instating Winding Refn as the director, and helped protect his vision from the studio execs, so evidently if he wanted to believe he was Charles Bronson, well, it was his train-set basically.
  6. A lot of people hate the pink script that was used in the titles and on the posters. It's called Zephyr, as of course you knew. Probably Winding Refn flexing his Hollywood muscles a bit - Kubrick always chose the type for his film posters.
  7. If you like violence you'll love this. Winding Refn even contacted the Argentine director Gaspar Noé for tips on the face-lift scene in which Gosling appears to stamp through someone's face in a lift. Noé knows about this kind of thing, because he directed Irreversible, a film which opens with a man having his head stoved in with wrong end of a fire extinguisher and climaxes with sixteen minutes of Monica Belucci being raped in an underpass. The film does, jeez sicko.
  8. All the violence conforms to Martin Amis's rule of street fighting: 'maximum violence, instantly.' Like David Cronenburg's, A History of Violence, which Cronenburg researched by watching DVDs he'd bought on the internet that teach you 'how to kill people who attack you in the street'. Unlike that film Drive doesn't ask us any questions about why we like to watch violence. But then maybe not trying to turn it into anything else is the most responsible thing that a director can do. At least there is little gunplay. You may even notice that in this film people who use guns always get shot - a nice touch.
  9. The fork in the eye schtick probably reminded you of Takeshi Kitano's film Hana Bi. Although, of course, in that it was a chopstick, but anyway.
  10. Christina Hendricks looks absolutely bizarre in jeans. And she's not even a real redhead.


  1. Nice. But no closure on whether or not it is, in fact, possible to stamp through someone's face?

    Just a quick beef with #5... what's great about Gosling's performance is his stare. It's kind of the one important thing about his character. Every other character treats him as if they've discovered some kind of new organism because he doesn't interact like a normal person, he just... stares. And then smiles, slowly. I liked that, and I liked the fact that his backstory isn't explored. Genuine mysteriousness, which is I think where the intimidation factor comes from.

  2. In the right shoes, it is definitely possible. American History X has another massive face-stamping scene, you will remember.

    I hear what you're saying, but I just felt like there was this major disjunct between what we were seeing ('handsome, rather preppy fella smiling') and what we were seeing the other characters in the film respond to ('terrifying face-stamper exuding menace from his teeth'). To do what you're talking about I think you need a face like Klaus Kinsky or if you're going to be handsome, handsome like Steve McQueen.

    I didn't mind it that much, like I didn't mind that the Mexican hood was playing excellent synthpop at his getting-out-of-prison party. Or that Carey Mulligan has the face of a girl you once fingered at a wedding in Buckinghamshire.

    What I thought Gosling did really well was this incredible innocence. Because his face is basically a magical charm that prevents you thinking bad things about him.

  3. Can you provide more detail on how you know Christina Hendricks is not a real redhead?

  4. I'm afraid it's a matter of public record:

    But pictures of her and her husband should give us all succour:

  5. The real thing about Drive is its charmingly analogue quality. The music, engines, SFX all sound thrillingly imprecise. Things are dirty (my favourite part was when Gosling first comes into Mulligan's apartment and we see a small insect crawling on the counter). It's full of undotted Is and uncrossed Ts in a way you tend not to see in such a big production these days.

    It's not quite 5/5 because of the unbelievable nature of many of the situations and characters. Crimes are committed in ways that would attract the rozzers with indecent haste; Gosling is a whoopsie; Shannon os too much of a grasping idiot. I mean, it works, but you can't help thinking the screenplay needed another five drafts.

  6. Yeah, it's an art director in need of a copywriter.

  7. I thought the type was a slightly modified version of Mistral:

    Might be wrong though, and it very nearly ruined an otherwise great movie for me – but that's almost certainly just me.

  8. The most pronounced feature of Drive is the way it plays with 80's B-movie techniques to create deep and hard-to-decipher resonances with its audience, especially those born between 1973-1985. While the story is pure Western, the world of Drive is anything but. It is this kind of stylistic overlap that allows for something truly fresh to emerge. By appropriating these period-specific effects Drive functions too as a defense of their narrative power and inherent artistry, an artistry presumably not wholly respected at the time. Like Tarantino's Kill Bill, Drive wants to be the best movie from its era that was never actually made. But Kill Bill was a free-for-all Tarantino fanboy fest with it's tongue firmly stuck in cheek; Drive is devoid of such irony. Stylistically then the film it resembles most is the 80's horror throwback House of the Devil which, like Drive, uses the genre tropes of the early 1980's in a serious way to tell the story it wants to tell. In both films, these style choices are as much if not more of the film than the narrative or script. I found the tone of Drive at first comic (that credit sequence song!) then clever and finally wholly satisfying and elegant.