Nicolas Winding Refn’s controversial nature is back in full force with his brilliant take on the fashion industry
Following his love or hate kind of style, Winding Refn delivers one of the years’ most bizarre and intelligent movie of the year. His obsession with style has created a division among everyone. Some seem to think that obsession sometimes leads to a style over substance problem and while there are some in The Neon Demon, for the most part, it doesn’t matter.
Jesse (Elle Fanning) is an incredibly pretty young individual. Her prettiness manages to upset all the other pretty girls who are looking for a shot to fame. Jesse always seems to be the go-to girl and this prompts the other models to get jealous and homicidal. The story, on the surface, is simple and something we already saw. However, Refn’s style is what makes this simple story an intricate one by using visual cues to tell his story. Refn uses just about everything in the frame to convey emotion, personality and important story elements. It’s easy to dismiss these as just pretty visual effects and they are beautiful. He uses lots of red and blue to symbolize good and evil. He even shows off the changes in people using colors, lighting, props, looks and scenery.
The environment of The Neon Demon feels like a club a first with the techno heavy scores. However, the movie does get darker and the visuals become more haunted house-ish with the strobes and red colors. This makes the movie ease into the various tonal changes and brings about a smooth transition into the more horror elements.
Sometimes the plot does feel thin and it is a style over substance issue. The movie feels like it’s not going anywhere and just focuses on having that perfect shot. However, this doesn’t really matter because there are lots of visual story-telling. The make-up on the actresses’ faces changes as their personalities changes. Elle Fanning does a great job as Jesse. She does drastically change, instead, the things around her change to let the audience know that she has changed. Jena Malone is also fantastic as her make-up artist. She gives a gutsy performance with the things her character does. It is not so much as the actors convey the changes in their personality or emotions as the visuals around them get warped to accommodate the changes.
When Refn cuts back his true intentions, it’s where the movie becomes its own. All the satirical little jabs all through the film about the fashion industry is shown in the third act. Refn never holds back to show the superficial horrors and just how this industry works. It strips away their humanity and the models become the mannequins the fashion scene wants them to become.
The Neon Demon literally takes the worn out expression “if looks could kill” and creates a visually stunning masterpiece. Refn opts for more visual story-telling than your typical dialogue driven story. Many people might not like this artistic choice but it’s a nice change of pace.
BUY HERE: Neon Demon [Blu-ray]