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Cannes 2011: With Ryan Gosling’s ‘Drive,’ a different Dane gets his moment

May 19, 2011 |  8:05 pm


The focus these last few days at Cannes has been on Lars von Trier and the controversial Nazi comments he made after unveiling his movie "Melancholia." But another Dane pulled the wraps off his new film Thursday night on the Croisette, and he’s getting attention for all the right reasons.

Nicolas Winding Refn, a genre director who is swimming in high-end auteur waters for the first time, got some of the best responses of the festival when his bloody Scandinavian-flavored crime piece “Drive” debuted to the media Thursday night.

Starring Ryan Gosling as an automotive stuntman and laconic tough guy who’s as dexterous with his fists as he is with a steering wheel, the in-competition film winds through a tender relationship (with Carey Mulligan), a mob-centric heist and a general study in violence and (a)morality. Judging by the enthusiastic audience reaction, it's a blend that worked. (You can add it as the seventh film on our   six-films-to-watch-shortlist from earlier in the week.)

"Drive," which comes to U.S. theaters in September, also has a Nordic moodiness and style. In fact, rarely before can we remember something so Scandinavian in sensibility being recast as something this American -- the film is set in Los Angeles (note an opening sequence involving a Clippers fantasy scenario) and features a deep bench of Hollywood talent that includes Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks and Christina Hendricks. It's also based on a hard-boiled American novel by James Sallis.

Winding Refn is probably best known for the Danish-language “Pusher” trilogy, about the Copenhagen underworld, as well as “Bronson,” a black comedy about a dangerous criminal. But he’s a newbie when it comes to competing against world-cinema legends like the Dardennes and Pedro Almodovar.

Then again, he may be at the fore of a new trend. Scandinavian-inflected movies, particularly of the genre kind, have been gaining popular appeal in the U.S. in recent years -– witness remakes of vampire tale “Let the Right One In" and hacker mystery "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" -- while the dark-winter-of-the-soul action tales of Christopher Nolan have been carving out their place at the Oscar table. Perhaps it was only a matter of time before a movie with a genre skin and a Nordic heart got its big-stage Cannes moment.


Cannes 2011: Lars von Trier retracts Nazi comments

Cannes 2011: The six festival films you'll soon be hearing about

Cannes 2011: What Terrence Malick's Tree of Life is actually about (yes, we finally see it)

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Ryan Gosling in "Drive." Credit: FilmDistrict


Comments () | Archives (4)

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For the record, it's not Ryan Gosling’s ‘Drive,’... it's Nicolas Winding Refn's 'Drive'. He directed it, it's his vision on screen... Gosling is acting in his film. You might re-title the column since your focus is on Winding Refn, rather than Gosling.

While I appreciate the article and its subject matter, I would like to take the opportunity to point out that it is not the directors first time " in high-end auteur waters". If the comment was meant to refer Nicholas Winding Refn, a.k.a. "Jang" to his first time at Cannes, then yes, this is undisputed, but Jang has been one of Denmark's core creative and auteur-driven directors since his debut with Pusher. While we can agree that the subject matter, on paper, of all his films might seem pure genre: a film about a drug dealer, another about a mall-cop, a film about a violent inmate, another about a viking... his films are all but. Genre fans are often disappointed with Refn because of his unorthodox methods and his misleading genre titles: "Pusher", "Fear X", "Valhalla Rising", "Bleeder", "Bronson"... while all might harken back to Corman days of yore, the films themselves have always been swimmers of auteur waters, despite the directors own penchant to market them to differing demographics. So here's to the auteur, Jang, and his ongoing success. May he storm Cannes like the bat out of Hell (Denmark) that he is!!

While I'm glad Refn is getting the attention he deserves, calling him a "genre director who is swimming in high-end auteur waters for the first time" just suggests that the writer must not have actually seen any of his earlier films - while they may resemble genre films by their synopses, they deliver far more, and art house audiences have been watching him for a while. But then again, the fact that he would refer to the film as "Ryan Gosling's Drive" suggests he might me more interested in celebrity than the amazing director he is supposedly spotlighting. But in the future, rather than just reading a Wikipedia synopsis, do some real research before making such asinine statements.

I think when you name the director and work on the script and casting it's safe territory to call it RG's Drive, even for the record. But whatever, this film is awesome and I can't wait to see it again!


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