Take a Drink: whenever Refn expresses doubt about how Only God Forgives turns out
Take a Drink: for random naked babies
Take a Drink: whenever anybody says “Drive“
Take a Drink: whenever Refn struggles to articulate what he wants
Take a Drink then Swoon: when Ryan Gosling does something dreamy
Do a Shot: whenever Refn reads or mentions blogs or reviews
Do a Shot: Jodorowsky!
By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
Four years ago, Nicolas Winding Refn’s Ryan Gosling-starring, neon-splashed ultraviolent Drive debuted to nearly universal acclaim. Two years ago, his Ryan Gosling-starring, neon-splashed ultraviolent Only God Forgives landed to nearly universal derision (even though I rather liked it, especially from an aesthetic standpoint). What went wrong?
Certainly not Kristin Scott Thomas’s scene-chewing…
My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (directed by his wife, Liv Corfixen) documents Refn during the filmmaking of his purported debacle, while also touching on the difficulties of his family adjusting to living for the time in Thailand and his personal crisis.
The main calling card of this documentary is the fascinating inside baseball look it provides at the creative process and crippling self doubts of Refn, and I’m positive not a few other master directors of the past and present. Making a film of the scale and ambition of this one, especially on the heels of such a universally adored and expectation-generating success as Drive, is a challenge that not many can really understand, but My Life does a great job of articulating how difficult that task must be.
In it’s short, just shy of an hour runtime, it also gives us some clues as to where Only God Forgives fell short for so many- Refn himself expressed doubt as to what exactly his movie’s about at one point- and shows us how he went on to justify his final product, at least outwardly. He says, “That’s when you know you’ve made a great film- when half love it and half hate it”, which, well, might be a better definition for a mediocre film.
This is what 50% on Rotten Tomatoes looks like this week, anyway.
Still, it also shows how even the greats read reviews, and provides an admonishment to critics not to be that mean. Still, seriously, don’t read the reviews, good or especially bad, man! Michael Bay clearly doesn’t, and laughs all the way to the bank, and I doubt Kubrick used the newspaper for anything but toilet paper in a pinch.
Oh, and Ryan Gosling? Yep, he shows up, plays with Refn’s kids, who clearly love him, and appears to make instant friends with everyone he meets… yeah, he’s a big ‘ol teddy bear.
The title’s a tad misleading because it indicates a personal spin from Corfixen on her husband and situation, but the most personal we ever really get on her end is a few mild complaints about taking the kids out of school to move to Thailand for the six-month shoot. There’s a phrase for this, it’s on the tip of my tongue…
In fact, it’s a bit of a question as to whose movie this is exactly, anyway. Corfixen is an actress with more than a dozen credits, but she’s never directed up until now, and several points in the film makes complaints that seem to indicate this flick was all Refn’s idea in the first place. It doesn’t diminish our interest in the information in the film, but does seem to water down its impact somewhat.
While it doesn’t entirely explain why Only God Forgives wasn’t the success that Drive was, My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn does present a fascinating, unvarnished peek into the psyche of a great director in a period of doubt, and the ups and downs of the artistic process in general.