Liv Corfixen & Nicolas Winding Refn – My Life Directed…

March 2, 2015 by  
Filed under Interviews

In the documentary film “My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn,” Refn’s wife and first-time director Liv Corfixen points her camera at her husband during the making of his 2013 crime drama “Only God Forgives.” Corfixen hoped to capture Refn’s filmmaking process and what it’s like for director like him to create a film that would be considered by many as one of the most polarizing of his career.

During an interview with Refn and Corfixen, we talked about what it was like opening up their lives for a documentary like this, what kind of film Refn thinks “Only God Forgives” ended up becoming, and whether or not Refn would ever consider “selling out” in this industry. I first started the interview by asking Corfixen whether or not she ever contemplated taking the advice filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky offered her in the film after reading her tarot cards. He told her she should divorce Refn if she wanted to find happiness in her own life.

“My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn” was recently released on VOD and on iTunes and theatrically in Los Angeles and New York City.

Liv, did you ever file divorce papers like Jodorowsky advised you to?

Liv Corfixen: (Laughs) No, I didn’t. We went to couples therapy instead. We’re still together so it must be working.

Nicolas Winding Refn: So far.

Was it challenging for both of you to open up so candidly about your life in a project like this or did you find it therapeutic in a way?

LC: I think Nicholas found it therapeutic. I did it because I thought it would be more interesting to make a film that showed the downside of being an artist and all the anxieties that you have. I didn’t want to just glorify what filmmaking is. I wanted to show the ups and downs of it.

Nicolas, you were already putting yourself under so much pressure during the making of “Only God Forgives.” Did you ever think having another film happening at the same time would only make things more difficult for the production?

NWR: I had no say. One day Liv came to me and said she wanted to make this film. We were already living in Bangkok. I said, “OK.” Because of her friendship with Ryan [Gosling] and everyone else on the set, she was able to do it. So she started doing her own thing. We were both making our own different movies at the same time.

Looking back on “Only God Forgives” today, do you consider the film successful?

NWR: I think the movie was personally very successful. I think financially it was also successful. I just think it was a film that divided a lot of people. At the end it became the ultimate counterculture film. What more could you ask for in cinema?

When “Only God Forgives” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, reports came out that it was booed by audiences. How did you react to that?

NWR: Well, at Cannes, basically they applaud and boo you at the same time. There’s no either or. What was interesting was that in the morning screening, which was just for critics, there were either very aggressive boos or applause. It created some hostility because people were either loving it or hating it. So, when we got to the night secreting, I was so nervous about what was going to happen. I had heard stories of people reacting harshly at the night screening. But I was so relieved that I got a standing ovation at night. So I knew that whatever I had done was right.

Do you believe because a film is polarizing makes it more special?

NWR: I don’t know if you remember but “Drive” was universally hated by a lot of people. It didn’t get very good reviews when it came out and it didn’t make a lot of money. But it hit a nerve. A lot of people didn’t like the movie. The distributors didn’t like the movie. It’s always been like that for me. That polarization has always been there. I love it because that creates thought and reaction and emotion. Emotion brings the world into a better place.

Liv, is there anything you learned about Nicolas that you didn’t know before making this documentary?

LC: Well, we’ve been married for 19 years so it wasn’t like I learned something new about him. (Laughs) Every time he makes a movie it’s like this. I just felt like I wanted to show him in this process. I enjoyed it. It was a great experience for me. I really want to make another film, but I haven’t decided what it should be about.

Nicolas, what is your definition of selling out in this industry? For example, if you were offered to direct, say, the next “Transformers” sequel, is that something you would think about doing?

NWR: Well, I have a huge admiration for Michael Bay, but I don’t know if I would be the right guy for something like that. (Laughs) I’ve had some great opportunities, but at the end I’ve turned them down because I thought that was the right thing to do. I don’t believe in selling out. And actually, you don’t really sell out, you get points. You just have to ask yourself, “How many points in life am I willing to compromise?” I just like my freedom too much. It’s more pleasurable going to work and making the movie I want to make without any hesitation at all. That’s a very pleasurable experience for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right experience. I’m not the greatest filmmaker in the world, but for the kinds of films I make I’m the best at.

Is it a misconception that artists like yourself don’t care about the commercial viability of their films?

NWR: I am very conscious of the commercial situation of my movies. Fortunately, I make very inexpensive movies. “Only God Forgives” made so much money that when it came time to make my next movie, which I’m in L.A. right now to do, I was given a blank check without even having a cast. They felt there was money to be made with me and they want to support that.

Only God Forgives

July 19, 2013 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm
Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn (“Drive”)
Written by: Nicolas Winding Refn (“Bronson”)

As much respect as a Danish filmmaker like Nicolas Winding Refn should earn for having the ambition to create something as polarizing and unique as the violent 2008 biopic “Bronson” with an unrecognizable Tom Hardy, and the 2011 art-house action film “Drive” with an always-smirking Ryan Gosling, there’s no reason any of his outings should ever be as purposeless and self-gratifying as “Only God Forgives.” Refn has made a movie for himself – a bizarre exercise in light, beautiful style and unnerving silence – and doesn’t seem to care if anyone else buys into the experience. Whether you enjoyed “Drive” on any level, “Only God Forgives” plays by its own set of absurd rules.

Reuniting with Gosling for the first time since “Drive,” Refn, who also wrote the screenplay, tells the story of Julian (Gosling), a drug dealer living in Bangkok who is coerced by his irritated mother Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas) to search out and kill the person responsible for his brother Billy’s (Tom Burke) death. The all-too-familiar revenge set up never becomes engaging as we watch Julian, playing some kind of modern-day samurai warrior, creeping through the Bangkok underworld like he was waking up at home at 3 a.m. to get a glass of water. If a giddy, child-like Gosling annoyed you in “Drive,” here he replaces his million-dollar smile with a brooding look of resentment. That’s about all you should expect from Gosling, who spends most of his time starring into the distance, covered in an eerie red radiance or hiding in the shadows. Cinematographer Larry Smith (“Bronson”) does a fantastic job making Bangkok look like the most picturesque rat-hole possible, and composer Cliff Martinez (“Spring Breakers”) is once again on point with his electronic flair, but that’s just about as far as “Only God Forgives” can be commended.

The film is so aware of its own joylessness, it has nothing else to do but sulk in it…and then sulk some more. There not much else it can do with characters so thinly written and relationships that are emotionally nonexistent. Maybe that’s the point Refn is trying to make with a character like Julian. He is disconnected from normalcy and will only come out from the dark if he is forced. But Refn should’ve given audiences something to latch onto – a personality for Julian, perhaps, or a reason to care about his end goal. Instead, Gosling grimaces and glares. And we groan.

Drive

September 16, 2011 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston
Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn (“Bronson”)
Written by: Hossein Amini (“Killshot”)

As the final frame faded and the credits rolled, the silence in the theater was deafening.  An almost palpable sense of confusion hung in the auditorium as moviegoers tried to comprehend what they just saw. Where was the adrenaline filled heist movie that all of the trailers and TV spots promised? What happened to the quiet and sweet Ryan Gosling from the first half of the movie? How many ways can a human head be split into pieces, and did we have to see all of them? In many ways, “Drive” almost feels like two movies, as it takes a pretty innocent, by-the-numbers first half and then catches you off guard with some of the most graphic violence seen this year.

Gosling plays an unnamedHollywoodstunt-driver who moonlights as a getaway driver. His mechanic friend Shannon (Bryan Cranston) decides to go to mobsters Nino (Ron Pearlman) and Bernie (Albert Brooks) to secure their investment in a racecar team headed by Gosling. As “the driver” forges a relationship with neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her young son, their bond is quickly threatened when her husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) is released from jail. In order to protect Irene and Benicio, Gosling agrees to help Standard with one last job. After the robbery is botched, Gosling is finds himself on the run from the mob, entangling all of the characters in a bloody mess along the way.

Ryan Gosling’s performance as “the driver” is a difficult one to evaluate. For the first half of the movie, he is a soft-spoken man of few words who can’t seem to stop smiling at the girl he is crushing on. But midway through, he exchanges his smiles for piercing stares as he morphs into a very familiar revenge-driven tough guy. The character comes off as shallow, as most of Gosling’s performance relies on emoting with his eyes rather than true character development, which is more of a fault of the script than his. Carey Mulligan isn’t given much to work with, but her beauty commands the screen and there is decent chemistry between her and Gosling. As for the other supporting roles, Albert Brooks and Ron Pearlman prove to be unmemorable as a pair of mobsters, with Pearlman being almost comical in his delivery at times.

One absolute positive about “Drive” is the skillful direction by Nicolas Winding Refn. His deliberate style is marked by perfectly-constructed shots with fantastic camera work and well-composed scenery. In a single scene, and in some cases a single shot, Refn shows beautiful images juxtaposed with brutal violence in ways that are completely unique to his style. The pacing of the film is purposely very slow and matched with plenty of lingering shots, sometimes of people just gazing at each other. The script itself is filled with clichés from several film genres, however Refn infuses stylized violence to break them up, a move that is executed well from a technical standpoint, but is perhaps better in theory than in the context of the film. One thing that is clear is that Refn was able to achieve his exact vision for the film, even if its results vary in success.

For a movie that boasts one of the most popular young actors inHollywood, and has a marketing campaign that implies a car-chase filled thrill ride, the unorthodox presentation of “Drive” leaves it with such minimal mainstream appeal. While Refn should be applauded and respected for attempting such a bold film, this strange and unique art-house take on a heist movie lacks the substance and character strength to match the level of quality of the direction.