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Drive (2011)

Dear Son,

Inside this century, very few films have appealed to your old Dad as strongly as did Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive. This appeal, which a rewatching has in no way diminished, was a broad and diverse one extending over almost the whole range of the film’s qualities, so that it is hard where to begin an appraisal.

It successfully combines elements which are difficult to combine and some of which are tricky to do on their own. To start with, the film deals with a dark subject, in the manner of a fairy tale, with that naive realism which allows one to believe. Refn exploits a realism of settings, people, gestures, words and music to obtain a mould for abstraction of thought - or, you could put it, to construct a castle, without which it is difficult to imagine a ghost. If the castle was itself ghostly, the ghost would lose its power to appear and terrify.

Gosling plays the driver – really, the film plays his part for him – whose rif sif ridiculous conscientiousness has led him to undertake … well almost everybody’s seen it. The film blazes with images, striking in themselves and yet continuously meaningful. Certain scenes, thanks to a rare kind of genius, succeed in pretending that they are taken from real life. The strip club dressing room in Drive, like the bedroom scene in Breathless.

I won’t go on about influences but Drive might have been expressly designed to show, against a lot of evidence, that the old vein is not worked out. With almost cynical aplomb, the director takes some of the hoariest themes in the whole Hollywood repertory and bleeds them into a fresh and genuinely exciting whole.

I would emphasize that this film is the contrary of an intellectual, or 'art' film. There is nothing more vulgar than works that set out to prove something. Drive, naturally, avoids even the appearance of trying to prove anything. The important thing here is to keep the throttle (won’t be accepting jokes there) open throughout without becoming self-consciously Bohemian or ‘mad’ or picaresque–especially that. While his contemporaries repeat themselves at declining levels of energy, and blunder through the arid wastes of experimentation Refn continues to invent as he always has done.

The film has turned out to be resistant to modern techniques of film criticism. Drive holds no interesting ambiguities, intentional or unintentional; there are no puzzles, no 'levels of meaning' within it, it just is. All the critic can say about most of it comes down to, 'look at this. Good (or bad), isn't it?' This is as much as a great deal of what passes for criticism is really saying, but with other directors - Kaufman, for instance, that notable purveyor of mere complication - it is easier to seem to be saying more.

If I were N Refn I think I would commit suicide or emigrate, rather than live in a country where I was publicly graded one step down from von Trier.

Love to movieforums and their family

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