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Drive, and the seduction of the smooth

I’ve been thinking a lot about Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive” of late, at least in part because the various pieces of music from the soundtrack have insinuated into my head, to the degree that not just I have them as earworms, but anything with that slightly retro early 80s electro feel to it I hear immediately garners the response “Is that on the Drive soundtrack? it should be”.

The problem is, the more I think of the film, the more it troubles me. It isn’t merely the sudden and explosive violence that gives me problems. I’m tending to find that in the post-Tarantino universe, that’s more than par for the course. Or the quite alarmingly borderline portrayal of Jewish gangsters (suffice to say, I think Ron Perlman’s almost alien looking villain belongs in a completely different cinematic universe). It isn’t even the slightly retrograde plot of damsel in distress, needs a violent man to save her (albeit, a violent man who can smoulder in a sensitive light). Actually, what bugs me most is how seductive it is, considering both the plot and the characters are wafer thin (with the caveat that, of course, the actors generally do the best they can with such limited material). Thoughts of the film tug at my consciousness, and I feel a tremendous urge to watch it again, even though I know I mainly disliked it, or felt it a narrative failure.

The reason this disturbs is, I know entirely why I do want to watch it again. It’s down to the visual skill and the melding of image with sound. It’s down to that, and that alone. And the narrative could be as objectionable, risible or laudable as it wanted – could push nasty horrible ideals or nice, pleasant ones, and that part of my brain, the part that appreciates that visual skill, would want to see it again.

Two words: Leni Reifenstahl.


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One thought on “Drive, and the seduction of the smooth

  1. I’m with you. The film is just GTA cut-scene cinematography, the characters are all affectionate stereotypes, the dialogue is Higgs-Bosun, there is very little actual “driving”. It relies heavily on being so derivative that the audience are asked to do all the work, filling in the long silences with better dialogue from better films. Weirdly, though, you do it gladly because the main protagonists look cute together. The music even has to remind you that the lead is “a real human being” and it starts to sound like a plead the last time you hear it. And yet………….

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