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Although Nicolas Winding Refn (one of my fav directors BTW) has been directing since 1996, it was the two punch of the 2008 flick BRONSON starring Tom Hardy and the 2011 DRIVE with Ryan Gosling that broke him out into the mainstream. And now we have this hour long documentary to take in, one that gives us more insight as to the man behind the work. It's called MY LIFE DIRECTED BY NICHOLAS REFN (watch it here) and it was helmed by Refn's wife Liv Corfixex during the pre-prod, the shoot and the Cannes Film Festival premiere of Refn’s DRIVE follow up ONLY GOD FORGIVES (2013). How did it go down? Well, it gave me an unflinching look at the making of the film, the director’s then mental state and his personal life i.e. all good!
I do think you need to know the man’s movies and be a fan of his work to fully appreciate this documentary though and yes having seen ONLY GOD FORGIVES is a must (there are some GOD FORGIVES spoilers in the doc... obvioulsy). Now that I think of it, if it weren’t for Cliff Martinez’s evocative score (reminiscent of the work he did on SOLARIS) popping in now and again; I would have forgotten I was watching a documentary and thought I was spying on Refn and his family via watching their home movies. That’s how earnest the film was in terms of what it showed me. As opposed to a standard “Arrow vomits his pointless thoughts” piece, this is going to be a stream of consciousness write-up. Here are some brain nuggets that popped up during this watch. It will give ya an idea of what you’re in for!
-Any documentary that starts with writer/director Alejandro Jodorowsky (of the 1989 Santa Sangre fame) pulling Nicolas Winding Refn’s tarot cards can’t be all that bad ☺
-Am loving Refn’s take on making a film with an audience in mind “it’s like a game of chess”. I gotta write that shit down!
-Why is Refn so damn insecure about ONLY GOD FORGIVES this early on? It’s like he’s going into it backwards. Not the right way to enter production man…
-I’m frustrated for Refn’s wife. Dude is too concerned about his new post DRIVE audience’s take on ONLY GOD FORGIVES than actually making ONLY GOD FORGIVES the beast that it should be. F*ck the audience man, make the film you want to make, some will dig, some won’t, you’ll never please everybody, so at least please yourself.
-The family dynamic here echoes that old saying: behind every great man there is a greater woman. Liv Corfixen is her husband’s emotional support system and THEN SOME. Without the lass around; the dude would crumble... on this shoot anyways.
“Violence is like sex, it’s all about the build up.” Man Refn is all about gnarly filmmaking analogies in this thing… keep em coming man! Am loving it!
-Ryan Gosling is too cool for school, even when he plays with kids.
-I really dig the chemistry between Gosling and Refn. There’s an obvious mutual love and respect going on between the two lads. And there's definately some man-crushing on Refn's part. Hey, I don't blame him ;)
-Any hope I ever had to see a DRIVE 2 (and to be honest, I never felt the film begged for a sequel) have been nixed out by Refn’s loathing of the idea. Hey, I’m all good with that!
-Refn has to stop being worried about what people will think and living up to freaking DRIVE in the eyes of the audience. Let it go bro! It’s the death of you! LET IT THE F*CK GO!
-Projecting ones insecurities and frustration on ones wife i.e. the one person that is backing you up through thick and thin = BAD IDEA. That’s how you lose a woman yo!
-I have seen this documentory titled in two ways out there: My Life Directed and My Life Directed By Nicolas Winding Refn. I think the latter title is more appropriate in relation to Refn’s wife's role in this doc and in his life. You see she has little life of her own. She’s a mother, living for her kids and a wife there to support her husband’s enormous career. So in that sense, her life is directed by Refn’s professional life. I wonder if the irony of the title was intended and I hope that her directing this doc was a first step as to Liv doing more for herself.
NOTE: Yes watching the doc made me feel as if I know these people. Always a good sign. END OF NOTE
Any negatives? Some. With a one hour run time, the flick felt too short. Another 15 to 20 minutes tagged to it all would have been swell. And for a doc that came off as so candid, I was surprised that it ducked so many crucial moments that happened in refn's ONLY GOD FORGIVES adventure. The awful Cannes reception it got (flick was booed) was one example of that. Moreover, at a certain point “drama on set” was brought up verbally; but we never got to see it. All that to bark, although what the film showed me was genuine, it also obvioulsy held back on some of the uglier moments and I didn’t think that was kosher. The way I always see it; go all the way or do don’t do it at all. But that’s just me. On the whole this Refn fan enjoyed this little behind the scene look at one of his fav filmmaker. I now wanna see ONLY GOD FORGIVES again that's for sure! It's been a while...