Wednesday, July 24, 2013


I shouldn't be surprised by the reaction, but a few days after its opening, I still find the predominantly negative reaction to ONLY GOD FORGVES irritating.  I understand that it's a film that won't appeal to a large audience, but the ferocity of the hostility directed at the film is what galls me.  You have so many critics and others out there who bemoan the sameness of Hollywood product and complain about the cookie cutter plots and mindlessness of your standard action movies and then something unusual like Nicolas Winding Refn's film comes along and people react like he created a crime against cinema.  You have geniuses in various papers and online venues who've written as if Winding Refn meant to make a typical thriller, and failed, or should have made a more conventional thriller, when that is so obviously not what he had the slightest intention of doing. To state the obvious:  ONLY GOD FORGIVES is a dream movie.

It follows the rhythms and speed of the subconscious mind, the nocturnal mind, not the  linear waking mind. Like David Lynch, for example, Winding Refn is one of those directors who has an ability to burrow deep into the recesses of the subconscious and come back with disturbing yet beautiful imagery.  Everything about ONLY GOD FORGIVES, from the languorous way it unfolds to the lack of logic in the story to the over the top violence to the sleepwalking manner of the actors, is dreamlike. Oneiric, to use an old film theory word.  In fact, though it was advertised as a follow-up to DRIVE, a re-teaming, after all, of Ryan Gosling and Winding Refn, the whole tone and mood of the film is closer to his earlier VALHALLA RISING, a very strange Viking saga. That Winding Refn dedicates the film, at the end, to Alejandro Jodorowsky, should make it pretty clear what kind of film he wanted to make.  To my mind, it's a luscious, absurd, lurid, violent dream of a movie, and anyone with a sense of movie adventurousness should ignore the numbing drumbeat of the negative reviews and give it a try.

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