Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Only God Forgives: A Preview

"I thought it would be interesting to make a western in Asia. . ."
                                                                                 --Nicolas Winding Refn

With so many fair out week after week, keeping the dull, stupid and boring (redundant?) around as applicable adjectives for American film, Nicolas Winding Refn is the champion on the horizon, part of a budding new breed of film makers on the rise who are here to inject us with the old loving feeling: intriguing excitement.

Described as a "Western Set in Thailand" we have Nicholas Winding Refn's upcoming Only God forgives begging to course it's way through the cinematic veins of the world and show some light on our souls in just that special way Refn knows how.

Stealing from the Wiki page instead of the official synopsis (for purposes of keeping things a little more in the dark), the rudimentary plot is as follows:
"The film follows Julian, who runs a Thai boxing club as a front organization for his family's drug smuggling operation, as he is forced by his mother Jenna to find and kill the individual responsible for his brother's recent death."
Written as an original story by Refn, he flew to Thailand, got his location scouts together and started making preparations to shoot in chronological order, not a very common trait for most filmmakers due to logistics, scheduling and budgetary reasons. Coupling that with the fact that he does not shoot on Steadicam if he can help it, I guess it'd be safe to say the world of film stops for Refn, and then swiftly bows over for him towards his feet?

Perfectly a-o-k with me.

Refn shows how he values his camera laid on the tracks, opting for the slow push-in and precise, methodical camera work and shots. If there's one thing Refn likes executing in his set-ups, it's a butter-smooth range-of-motion and very precise lock on the frame, on his surroundings, and his actors. I could go on and on about his cinematography, which leads me to his choice in color pallets and cinematographer.

Now, colorization and pallets, uhm, that's usually an issue (if I'm correct, I don't mean to pretend I know fuckin' everything) between (mostly) the director, DP, costume designer, production designer a few choice others.

Larry Smith was brought back into the fold as Director of Photography here, with 2 1/2 projects on the 2013 debut, I'm guessing Newton Thomas Sigel from the beautiful shot Drive was simply not available. As you can see here, and more in the pictures I have and from the trailer below, he was most adequately replaced in Bronson DP Larry Smith.

But, with all these starks of dark, light and little in between, one begins to wonder, is Refn partial to this? Of course he is, but is also aided by a most wonderful blessing in disguise: he's color blind to the middle spectrum of colors. I have a dear friend who's also related similarly in color-blindness, hence his stark color-contrast in his beautiful paintings.

I'm going to note that Smith's cinematographer tutelage days go back to some of the most important films in the "2nd Coming" (i.e. 1967 and on); specifically because of the cinematographic techniques employed (as well as script, direction and acting, blah blah blah) : Barry Lyndon and The Shinning. This dude was at ground-zero for some of the most revered films from a lensing stand-point. And these images, and the trailer suggest he was taught very well, and also knows how to collaborate with his director's vision.

Now, enough talk--let's see this thing huh?

Refn was supposedly escorted to certain parts of the city of Thailand by the local mafia and other affiliates, which can certain only add to the level of credibility that he invested personally into the film. As a writer myself, I could only imagine how fascinating, exciting, and simply (for lack of a better string of words) cool-as-fuck that must be. "Wow, I'm getting escorted by Thai mafia around town to help me shoot my movie?! Word!"

Gosling has personally stated that the similarities to Drive are, almost on purpose. He went on to say in an interview:
"It's very extreme. . . It's part of the same dream as Drive, but it's more of a nightmare than a dream but it's more extreme."
After seeing Gosling and Refn's last outing, I'm hard pressed to see something more extreme, and does more extreme mean less lovely? Less beautiful? No. It could certainly pertain to that as well. There is evidence here in the trailer to support my inference that Golsing's "more extreme" comment was about everything in general, and not just the violence. Which could certainly include Yaya Yang's participation as well.

Vithaya Pansringarm stars as ex-cop "The Angel of Vengeance"

Gosling stepped in for Luke Evans, for he had scheduling conflicts with The Hobbit, guess she learned his lesson. Gosling underwent a massive overhaul of exercise, going from simply gym-tan-laundry to Muy Thai (literally the country's own home-style). Dropping the weights he took up nearly 2-3 hours of daily practice ranging from pros to 6 year olds, all of native Thai. Refn himself on occasion as well. Refn has grown a close bond with his star, and nearly got a remake of Logan's Run green-lit with him on top of it as well.

Last I heard, that project has plenty of mud under it's tires though, considering the massive budget that would be (suspected to be) needed to film it. That doesn't necessarily mean it requires that much, but, we all know how the suits feel, don't we?

How many Vanessa Redgrave's, Meryl Streep's, Charlize Theron's (and more) are out there where they build a career on the opposite, only to step-in later as a villain and get us all antzy in out pantzy? How wonderful it is too see Scott Thomas billed as this from the official synopsis "the  merciless and terrifying mafia godmother Jenna." And how much does she support that claim here? With a few bits given away, it would appear their relationship is, tenuous at best, Julian's and Jenna's. She's built up a very respectable career overseas in France as a native speaker in their films. And as an avid fan of the country's cinematic fair, I'll say you can't tell a difference. So, with Scott Thomas sharpening her acting knives on European audiences (who tend to appreciate more of the smaller, personal stories which only means more work for an actor) I'm very pleased to see her stretching her legs back into American film--and as a villain. . . ooh boy, what a damn plus. 

This has a release date for July 19th. See you there. 

Munki out 

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