19 August 2013

Time To Meet The Devil

I was once sat with about five members of my family and not a single one of them was making the effort to speak. Rather than endure this vortex of boredom though I instead stupidly attempted to start a conversation. After about an hour of trying and failing to work the fucking room, I decided to give up. At a fairly young age I came to realise that a family was nothing more than a group of strangers who force a smile on the off chance that they might one day need each other’s bone marrow. These days I just avoid them and am more than happy to dive into either a bush or heavy traffic to escape an encounter. From what I hear though, other people have the complete opposite problem as I do with their family meddling in their lives like a gang of well-meaning twats. I know people who have pursued a career that they had no interest in just because of the pressure of what was expected of them. I'm kind of stubborn so I think if I wanted to do one thing but my family were forcing me into something else then I'd probably instead become a crack-addicted rent-boy to teach them a lesson. The reason that I mention this is because I recently watched the film Only God Forgives and I'm pretty sure that its message was that an interested family is really more trouble than it's fucking worth.

The film is set in Bangkok and tells the story of Ryan Gosling and his older brother who run a boxing club coupling as a drug smuggling business. Things go wrong almost immediately though when the older brother goes out for a night of relaxation and gets into a spot of bother. When I need to chill out, I tend to open a bag of weed and then wake up several hours later with chocolate around my mouth and my cock in my hand. Here however, the older brother decides to let his hair down by casually raping and murdering a young girl before getting his head caved in by her pissed-off Dad. Because of this minor mishap, the brothers’ Mum shows up and against her surviving sons better judgement, decides that the family must retaliate. As a result of her parental interference the family become the focus of a violent Angel of Death policeman who likes to get a bit chop-happy with his massive fuck-off sword. Only God Forgives is directed by Nicolas Winding Refn who most people will associate with his previous movie Drive. Although his last film was almost universally loved, this latest one has been receiving significantly mixed reviews. Whereas half of the audience have written articles hailing it as their current film of 2013, the other half have instead kicked the absolute shit out of it. After having now endured this deranged and fucked up movie, I'm happy to be able to consider this tasteless bastard to be one of the best movies I've seen so far this year.

Probably the most romantic
film since The Notebook.
Out of curiosity, I decided to read several bad reviews of Only God Forgives to see what people didn't like and one of the main criticisms seemed to be the films lack of any relatable characters. But is that really a problem? The Godfather is an absolute classic and yet I can't say that I see much of myself in any of those murdering, Italian fucktards. By Gosling’s own admission, his character here probably has very little going on below the surface but personally I don't see that as an issue. The character of Forrest Gump has so little happening behind his eyes that you could crack open his skull and use it as an ash tray but that doesn't make it a shit film. The fact that Forrest Gump is a shit film is what makes it a shit film. Instead, Gosling is simply an empty-ish vessel for the audience to experience his world through. Again, I think it was Gosling who said that in the last movie, he played ‘The Driver’ but this time he's playing the car. In which case I urge fans of The Notebook to check out this movie so that they can finally find out what it's actually like to get a ride off Ryan Gosling.

In all honesty, if I have one wish, it genuinely is that fans of The Notebook come and check out this film. I remember going to see Black Swan and being amused by the majority of the audience joining as it seemed that a lot of nice girls had dragged their boyfriends out to see a wonderful film about ballet. I think it was around the time that Winona Ryder started stabbing herself in the face that the screaming and walk-outs began and the initially reluctant boyfriends started to enjoy themselves a hell of a lot more. I really fucking hate the soppiness of The Notebook and regardless of gender, I hate the people who spend their lives believing that sentimental crap is how relationships and life should play out. It'd therefore give me nothing but satisfaction to find out that a fan of that shite movie had turned up to Only God Forgives having been lured there by the presence of Ryan Gosling. Having sat through plenty of violent and gory films in the past, I'm pretty hardened to a bit of movie splatter but even I was shocked by what I saw here. The initial head, ribs and arm chop off scenes were brutal-but-bearable however there's a torture scene near the end that is just fucking demented. I think it was the second we were treated to a close up of some chaps eye being sliced open that all my brain could do to cope was mentally project the phrase, “fuck me” as vividly as it possibly could.

There's no denying that Only God Forgives is a film that aims to challenge its audience as much as it possibly can. It’s kind of like the movie equivalent of a domestically abusive partner in that it beat the complete shit out of me but despite that, I still loved it. With Drive at least, there was the romantic subplot that hinted towards a sense of hope and humanity that perhaps we could cling onto. However here, that glimmer of light is noticeably absent, instead being replaced by a constant sense of fear and dread. I suppose you could argue that the two films take place in the same universe but only because Only God Forgives plays out like a nightmare set in The Drivers fucked up head. Another of the main criticisms of this film is that it is ‘all style and no substance’, but that's just not true. There's no doubting that the style is certainly one of the movie’s focuses with each shot being perfectly framed and every movement being paced to perfection. However underneath, there are so many things being explored such as issues of masculinity, destiny and redemption. I think it explores religion a bit too but the main conclusion there seems to be that God is either a cunt or massively uninvolved... which I guess would also kind of make him a cunt.

Seriously this is a surprisingly lovely film. 
Key to all of this is the bizarre relationship between Gosling’s silent protagonist and Kristin Scott Thomas who plays his psychotic and controlling mother. At the start of the film, he seems to be an apathetic mute with a very vague leaning towards at least knowing what is morally right. However from the moment she swaggers into the story like an unhinged, menopausal Barbie doll, the reason for his withdrawn persona becomes very obvious. She undermines him at every step of the way by banging on about how he was jealous of his brother and when he sensibly refuses to take revenge, she suggests that his logic is a sign of weakness. If that wasn't enough to make him feel any less manly, she also plays a game of top trumps- but instead of using themed cards she just compares the size of her children's cocks. She even seems almost wistful to point out that poor, little Gosling was never quite as impressive as his dead, rapist brother when it comes to showing off the old, pink beaver cleaver. Luckily, I don't have any siblings so I can sleep soundly knowing that of all the children my parents produced I am by far the most well endowed. Gosling however is clearly suffering his mothers torment and needs to escape and be re-born in order to reclaim his own freedom. I can't really go into whether this happens without getting into spoilers so let’s just say that the resolution is as fucking mental as you might expect. It's also slightly more literal and squelchy than I was imagining...

I can see why people would hate this movie and to be honest, it seems that was its intent from the start. Refn is clearly making a film that's so extreme and difficult that it's bound to piss people off and I imagine he'd consider himself to have failed if it had been loved by everyone. The best way to explain how it divides people is I guess to compare it to being like some sort of hardcore monkey fucking scat porn. It's the kind of thing that will be embraced by some and rejected by others but nobody will simply accept and forget. Only God Forgives is dark, violent, beautiful and most rarely of all unique. It also contains quite a lot of fingering scenes which was an unexpected but more than welcome surprise. My only advice to those of you who are yet to experience it is to just go and find out for yourself. I know a lot of people will skip to the last few sentences rather than read the entire blog so just to sum up for you lazy skim readers- Only God Forgives is my film of the year so far and if you loved The Notebook then this is the film for you!

Follow this blog or I'll fucking cut you.