Monday, 8 June 2015

My Life Directed: Nicolas Winding Refn

In 2011, Nicolas Winding Refn gave us one of the finest films of the 21st century – the neo-noir crime drama Drive. After years of girls swooning over Ryan Gosling in The Notebook, now men were starting to fall in love with his quiet, violent and effortlessly cool character in Drive. I am one of them. Nothing wrong with a man-crush, right? Drive has gone on to become a modern classic cult film with its electro score, superb supporting cast and that scorpion jacket. But how would Nicolas Winding Refn follow such a perfect film? I’ll tell you how! He took what people loved about Drive – specifically, a near-silent Gosling and extreme violence – and put it in Asia! What could possibly go wrong? The result was Only God Forgives, a very unusual film that continues to divide opinions – upon its first screening at the Cannes Film Festival, it received a standing ovation AND boos & walk-outs. 

Directed by Refn's wife Liv Corfixen and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes My Life Directed: Nicolas Winding Refn, a documentary, and a portrait of Refn, during the filming and release of Only God Forgives. This is a difficult film to review. Why? Because it doesn’t feel like a film. Clocking in at just 56 minutes and presenting a fly-on-the-wall look at the production of a film, this just feels like something that should be on the special features of the Only God Forgives DVD. At least, that makes up half of it. For the bits of this documentary covering the filmmaking process, there’s nothing here that makes it feel like anything more than a glorified ‘making of’ featurette. Take Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, the iconic documentary about the production of Apocalypse Now. THAT is a stand-alone work – it is feature length and covers all aspects of the creative process with ‘talking heads’ interviews with all the major players. It is deep, engrossing and involving. My Life Directed just didn’t bring any of that. It feels like a bit of a cash in, to tell you the truth. It’s almost as if Nicolas Winding Refn said to his wife “Hey Liv, follow me around for a bit with a camera and we’ll flog it as an individual DVD to some suckers!”. Sure, it showed some interesting things about the filmmaking. But it was nothing you haven’t seen before on any behind the scenes featurette on any DVD.

However, like I said, the filmmaking side of the documentary only makes up part of it. The other bulk of the documentary focuses on Winding Refn’s family life and marital strife (I’m a poet and I don’t know it, etc.) and just feels like cheap reality TV. It’s not something I want to see, and I’m sure it’s not something many of you want to see either. Winding Refn is an arthouse director for the most part, and so viewers of this documentary will be here to learn about him and his process. NOT HIS FAMILY LIFE. It isn’t necessary and feels like padding.

My Life Directed: Nicolas Winding Refn is an empty and unnecessary piece that just left me feeling underwhelmed. Now don’t get me wrong; I love Winding Refn’s work, especially Drive and Bronson, and will continue to watch his films as and when they’re made. And I love documentaries about cinema. But Liv…next time you film your husband at work, just stick it on the special features on the DVD of the film you’re covering, yeah? And maaaaybe switch the camera off when he’s not working. We don’t need to see your home life. Only God Forgives is a deep, dark, interesting film. If you’re going to make a documentary about it, do it right.

Even God wouldn’t forgive My Life Directed: Nicolas Winding Refn. 1/5.


Sam Love

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