For Reel


The Neon Demon (2016)
June 29, 2016, 7:36 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
3 Stars
The Neon DemonThe opening title cards of The Neon Demon feature an insignia reading “NWR”, and one could easily imagine that director Nicolas Winding Refn had to be talked down from having it on screen for the entire duration of the feature. It is a work of garish pretentiousness—not in the way that it revels in the artistry of lighting and production design, but that it feels like watching a twisted fantasy where Refn is the only really getting off. The skeleton of a plot involves the (literal) cut throat modeling industry, where beauty is perceived as the one true commodity and women are none-too-eager to welcome any competition. The dialogue is equally simplistic and absurd, and it only feels right when the film descends into giallo-inspired Eurotrash. Refn, though, is an undeniably provocative imagist to a point. He utilizes women’s bodies in ways rarely seen in film (this is a film about posture as much as anything else), and an early scene in a bizarre LA bondage club is convincingly unnerving—it’s clear from that moment that things are going to go bad, but unclear when. That Refn has so caricatured himself makes it clear that the revulsing content is meant to be watched with a smirk, even if Refn seems undisciplined with the content of the scenes themselves. Save for one disturbing detail, a sex scene in a morgue is photographed as any other sex scene, settling for the shock of the juxtaposition rather than progressing the drama of the scene further. The Neon Demon is almost objectively a bad film and certainly an offensive one, but Refn plays his provocateur card with a tongue firmly in cheek, and as such it is morbidly fascinating even at its very worst.

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