Sunday, July 28, 2013

Only God Forgives

Since "Only God Forigves" is one of the most controversial films of the year, I've decided to do something a little different.  Rather than a traditional review, I'm going to stay a hypothetical conversation between director Nicolas Winding Refn and star Ryan Gosling.  Obviously this is all conjecture.  There is no way to know if this conversation ever took place, but I am certain some elements of this discussion had to happen at some point.  Even if the final product doesn't entirely show this, "Only God Forgives" was made by humans, presumably, and it helps to remind yourself this while watching it:

Ryan Gosling:  Okay, Nick, I'm a little confused as to my motivation here in this one scene.  Can you help me out a bit?

Nicolas Winding Refn:  Alright, alright, Ryan.  We can take five here.  What do you need, buddy?

Gosling:  Alright, I'm at a restaurant in Thailand.  I've brought this Thai prostitute with me to pose as my girlfriend for my evil Lady McBethian Mom.  Kristin Scott Thomas over there is going to go all out on this insane Oedipus-flavored rant against my fake girlfriend.  Presumably I have a lot of issues with my mom, I get that.  But I don't understand, why don't I ever talk in this scene?

Refn:  Because you're being enigmatic and cool.  The audience doesn't know really what you're thinking.  Its a while other level to the scene.

Gosling:  ...Alright... But even then, presumably any normal person would have something to say at this moment, right?  And would probably react with a facial expression?  At the very least, I should show some emotion to the audience?

Refn:  No, no, no, no!  We've been over this one hundred times.  Two hundred times!  You never show emotion once.  If you're watching a prostitute masturbate, don't react.  If somebody tells you your brother is dead, don't react. Not once.

Gosling:  Yeah, but there's subtlety, like my character in "Drive", and then there's nothing.  I have nothing to do in this whole movie.

Refn:  Sorry, Ryan, you said the "D-word".  We're not making a sequel to "Drive" here, we're making a higher level piece of cinematic art.  That's not a camera, that's my brush.  This isn't a set, its a canvas.  And you, sir, are a prop.  A prop in my masterpiece.

Gosling:  I think I'm starting to see the problem...

Refn:  What problem?  We are pioneers, boy.  This silent protagonist business is going to revolutionize film.  Nobody will ever understand what the hell they've seen or why they saw the first time they see "Only God Forgives".  They'll spend years analyzing and debating this work.  We will be immortal.  In ten years nobody will know the "D-word" movie.  But "Only God Forgives" shall outlast the continents!  Shall outlast us all!  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

Gosling:  You have gone completely mad, haven't you?

Refn:  About 90% mad, yes.  But I had Michael Camino, director of "Heaven's Gate", and Richard Kelly, director of "Southland Tales" look at the script, and they loved it.

Gosling:  You mean two directors who followed up two brilliant and well-loved movies with massive plodding unjustifiably awful auteur projects and then had their careers burn up in their faces?  That Michael Camino and that Richard Kelly?

Refn:  Exactly.  Camino was the one who suggested that I delete all of your lines and make you more unsympathetic as the villain.  Kelly offered that I should throw in some vaguely David Lynch dream sequences to make sure the movie was even more confusing and obtuse.

Gosling:  You're making an unwatchable disaster of a movie here, Nick!

Refn:  Your "unwatchable disaster of a movie" is my "avant-garde new frontier in the history of cinema".  Terrance Malick is going to weep in envy once he sees "Only God Forgives".

Gosling:  I have no idea what we're doing.  I'm a very good actor.  Kristin over there is a force of nature as my bitchy New Jersey mobster wife mom, simply dominating every scene.  But I can't do anything.  You're not letting me do my job.

Refn:  Your job is to act the movie I told you to act.  If your character is vague, forgettable, and a massive drag on the pacing of the movie even as the protagonist, than that's exactly what I intended.  This isn't a "movie", Ryan.  This is a malaria dream of neon lights.

Gosling:  That reminds me.  Why exactly is my character likable again?  So far the story is about me and my mother, a family of drug dealers in Thailand, who are out for revenge for my brother.  That same brother who opened this movie by demanding that he sleep with a fourteen-year-old, then raping and killing a sixteen-year-old girl.  Apparently I have no reactions at all to any of this?

Refn:  None.  I cannot stress this enough.  You must never react once.  Remember how in "Drive" you were very quiet but still managed to dominate the screen with little smiles and warmth, while still exuding an air of incredible menace?  None of that.  If I hung a log down from the ceiling and filmed that instead as my protagonist, it would be just as sympathetic.  Actually, that log would probably make more of an impression.  Be worse than a log.

Gosling:  ..........Okay.....  So this Asian prostitute girl, do I love her?

Refn:  I'm not going to answer that, its more interesting if nobody has any clue.

Gosling:  .........Okay...  Am I ever really going to be proactive at all in this movie?  So far the movie has just been happening around me, with my mom doing all the work and this balding short Thai samurai-cop fighting her.

Refn:  At the end, you surrender to that cop and let him chop off your arms.

Gosling:  Oh.

Refn:  But that might be a dream sequence, I decided this movie wasn't quite arty and incomprehensible enough.

Gosling:  At this point I'm only shocked that I keep overestimating you.  Are you the same guy who directed "Drive"?

Refn:  You say the "D-word" again and I'm going to replace you with Ryan Reynolds.  And yes, I am the same director.  You can see it in my fabulous use of lighting and color, framing every shot with nearly mathematical exactness.  This is going to be a beautiful movie.

Gosling:  Oh, that's okay then.  Will that framing be enough to restore energy to a film that's essentially plotless and lacking in characters?

Refn:  Ha!  "Plots"!  "Characters"!  The world of cinema has been haggled by those two anchors for too long.  We are going to free movies from all limitations.  I'm injecting art up the movies' rectum--

Gosling:  Alright!  Alright!  Shut up.  We've all heard the "rectum speed" before.  How about music?  Will the music be decent?  "Drive" had--


Gosling: ..........................................Sorry.  Won't happen again.

Refn:  Accepted.

Gosling:  So music?

Refn:  Lots of vague noises and shudders.  We're done with the neo-eighties techno pop.  Instead I'm randomly throw in some techno so level it sounds like Daft Punk on digital acid.  Then I won't play that song ever again.  The villain does do some lounge singing though.

Gosling:  Why?  What does that prove about his character?

Refn:  I don't friggin' know.  I'm just a director.

Gosling:  What?

Refn:  I mean... -errr, um... Its symbolic of the divisions between civilization and chaos, sanity and madness, and um... some other crap.  I'll let the film students figure it out.  I don't really care.

Gosling:  So let me get this straight.  "Only God Forgives" is a movie without a protagonist, without really a plot, without very much action, every conversation is words exchanged at a snail's pace, with every single moment so detached from reality that only the most hardcore cinemaphile could ever stand to watch it.  Is that your vision?

Refn:  I also want the ninety-minute running time to feel so excruciatingly boring that the audience will envy the guy whose eyes get gouged out in a certain shameless exploitation scene.

Gosling:  Is this going to be the worst movie of 2013 or just almost the worst movie?

Refn:  I'm sure Michael Bay can make something worse than me.  He's a true genius.

Gosling:  ...Fuck it.  When is that check coming?

Refn:  Glad to see we're finally on the same page, buddy.  Now let's get back to work.  We have MOVIE MAGIC TO MAKE!


  1. *sees the name Terry Malick*

    Psst, I dare you to review The Garden of Words, or as I call it, Terry Malick: The Anime. It's only 45 mins long, which IIRC was how long you could endure To The Wonder. >:]

    1. Sorry for the long reply, I never saw this comment. But I know the director to that particular anime, he's the guy who made "Voices Beyond the Stars", and he's really not my cup of tea. He only seems to get more pretentious and arty with every film.

    2. And now that I saw his earlier work, yes that is true. Garden of Words is To the Wonder bad (and after actually watching Malick's films that's the only one I can't stand because it literally has NOTHING [Your Tree of Life blog is one of the funniest things I've ever seen tho]), although I was quite cool with Voices Beyond the Stars and also thought 5cm per second was quite good. But after that he just fucking tanked.

      This review also is a lot of fun to read, but the "without very much action" bit... well, have you ever seen the Renegade Cut "The Devil in Only God Forgives"?

      I feel that vid helped highlight how badly structured this movie is. It actually has a ton of shit going on when Gosling isn't staring into the camera, but it's so goddamn disjointed none of it feels significant, and therefore feels like nothing actually happens. I don't know many other failures with this kind of bad structure tbh.