Sunday, December 18, 2011

Short Review

Driven To Critique

      This is a teaser of my next "What I've Been Watching" segment. A veritable assortment of Classical Cinema, from Scarface: The Shame of a Nation to Sunset Boulevard, has assaulted my exuberant eyes and ears. And at some point in the foreseeable future, I intend to share my sincerest thoughts.
      I've watched contemporary gems (Children of Men, for example) and, quite frankly, I've seen the best that American Cinema has to offer. Striving to enhance and seeking to foster, an understanding of film that is predicated upon all incarnations, foreign or domestic, I have begun enumerating in earnest, a diverse inventory of films, many of which are considered universal masterpieces of foreign cinema. From Italian Neorealism (Vittorio De Sica, Federico Fellini) and French New Wave (Godard, Truffaut, Melville) to German Impressionism (F.W. Murnau and Fritz Lang) and Hong Kong's New Wave (Wong Kar-wai and John Woo's early films), surely I've ignited a spark of cinematic curiosity that has proven to be as relentless as it is enjoyable. And I love every minute of it. An MFA degree, after consuming such a wide swath of lustrous films, would be commensurate achievement.  
      But for the time being, I present to you my thoughts on a style-centric modern film, which has sparked a polarizing debate concerning the merits of a mainstream disguise. The older stuff, quite apropos, is coming later.
Drive (2011) - Nicolas Winding Refn

Refn is, uniquely, cementing himself as the Next Great Director. Vigorously forceful in front of the camera and technically masterful behind it, Refn has reached artistic preeminence. Staking his immortal claim amongst the contemporary filmic titans—Paul Thomas Anderson and Wong Kar-wai come to mind—Nicolas Winding Refn has engineered, like the world's greatest architects, an enthralling landscape of breathtaking, strikingly original design. The Pusher Trilogy and Bronson, two prominent demonstrations of his nascent oeuvre, have, in time, proven to be exquisite precursors which underlie his immense talent. So much so, early parallels to the Michael Jordan of filmmaking, Stanley Kubrick, are being made. Deservedly so: Refn received the Best Director prize for Drive at this year's Cannes Film Festival.
       Drive is a magnificent tour de force of original filmmaking, a bastion of independent cinema and a glimmering ode to La Nouvelle Vague and New Hollywood. An art house film at its core, Drive succeeds primarily as a rhythmic rumination of contemporary action fare. And, quite prominently, as a blueprint for new age filmmaking; orchestral storytelling defined by superlative camerawork and kinetic, poignant flourishes. 
      Additionally, of concrete importance, is Ryan Gosling, a rising talent himself, who's quite capable of matching Refn's dynamism. His salient acting choices speak to a certain secular sophistication. Emboldened by Refn's intricate direction and underpinning his seedy world of amoral criminality, Gosling's character espouses an unshakeable though gratuitous code of ethics. Taciturn, magnetizing and mysterious, the "Driver" exudes a "Jean-Pierre Melville, Alain Delon, Circa Le Samourai" aura, inheriting a certain malleable definition of honor. 
      The visceral pungency of a Man of Few Words is profound, as Refn's tonal, atmospheric isolationism augments one's sensory experience, where shadows dominate the expanse. Accomplishing such an ambitious artistic vision is no easy task. Consequently, many critics derided the opaque, seemingly abstruse agenda of Refn's, what some contend, irredeemable "hero." But as someone who appreciates the cinematic translation of bold, brooding criminals, I can, without reproach, laud both Refn and Gosling's work. 
      Donald Trump—perhaps the worst analogous pop culture reference ever—may humbly fail to ascertain the enormity of his economic power, but critics, supposed arbiters of calculable, non-prejudiced analysis, should never fail to understand the deliberate, minimalist machinations of a gifted auteur. Ignore the quibbles of mainstream naysayers. Drive was, for better or worse, terribly marketed. But, for what matters most, brilliantly made. It is one of my three favorite films of 2011. And for someone who consumes as much celluloid as I...Well, that's a significant quality endorsement. Oh, and thank me later, cinephiles. 9.5 out of 10


  1. And if that's a short review.... I can only imagine how long the full review would be. :)
    Anyway, it's brilliant as usual. I loved "Drive", though it was a bit too moody for my taste. I hope it will end up being nominated for Best Picture at next year's Oscars.

  2. Boy, it is good to have you back - excellent teaser and terrific review!

  3. I have not seen this yet and have been loath to because I am not a Gosling fan. He has yet to really impress me and make me think he's worthy of all his acclaim. Now granted, The Notebook, is a big handicap for me in liking Gosling. Also Murder By Numbers, Half Nelson...I just can't seem to get excited about him. I think I'm the only person who didn't like Half Nelson. :)

    Drive does sound exciting and I did just watch Blue Valentine, which was excellent, so I will probably have my opinion changed.

  4. Drive was amazing - saw it in the theater. A perfect blend of art house meets action flick.
    Looks like we both lost out on Best Post at the Movie411, but not without a fight!

  5. I'm so glad you loved this film!! It was amazing. I saw it twice in the theaters-super nerdy I know- but I was mesmerized by it. People are going to either love it or hate it. FANTASTIC review!!