Sunday, July 3, 2016

Los Angeles Eats Itself

The Neon Demon (2016) - Refn
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Once again, in David Lynch's absence, NWR carries the torch, delving more and more into flashy, neon-colored abstraction. If Lynch is a true artist creating certain mood with set design and texture (I'm grossly simplifying his artistry, forgive me), Refn is all about the use of lights. Still abiding by a thin narrative, he creates gothic fantasy/nightmare filled with the notion of beauty, fragile innocence and narcissism. The Neon Demon can easily be dubbed as Los Angeles Eats Itself, literally.

The paper thin story revolves around Jesse (Elle Fanning), a beautiful High School dropout from bumfuck nowhere in LA. Living out of a skeeziest motel, run by a menacing, predatory man (Keanu Reeves at his sleaziest- Refn's genius in casting), our wide-eyed ingenue is at first a bunny in a wolf's den. She befriends a pretty makeup artist Ruby (Jena Malone) who introduces her to LA modeling scene. Jesse knows she can make money off of her looks. Her natural beauty soon finds her fame and causes her meteoric rise and in doing so accumulates number of enemies. Soon her success gets to her head.

Refn has grown as a visual artist. His use of shapes, namely triangles in this film, is pastiche of 70s psychedelia or 80s rudimentary video games than actual symbols with meaning. They trigger a certain uneasy mood. Some of the images here are really striking and unforgettable yet again, devoid of any meaning. One might argue that all these are empty symbols and skin deep but so does the subject Refn portrays. Just like Lynch's Mulholland Dr., the parodying LA is not the main draw here. It is certainly imbued in its view, but artistically it's much more. The Neon Demon is very much like a Dario Argento film in his haydays. You have to enjoy it for its aesthetics and mood. Let it wash over you and you will be richly rewarded.

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