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#61 Ryan H.

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Posted 21 September 2011 - 01:38 PM

Steve Sailer @ Taki's Magazine:

Whatever happened to the femme fatale? From Mary Astor in The Maltese Falcon and Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity to Kathleen Turner in Body Heat and Linda Fiorentino in The Last Seduction, the silky seductress who lures some poor sap into her web of betrayal was the central element of the noir genre of moody urban crime films. But today, female characters tend to be either Butt-Kicking Babes or Passive Victims. . . .

There's an argument to be made that DRIVE is actually closer to a Western than it is to a Noir. But Winding Refn maintains that the story, for him, was grounded more in fairytale narrative than anything else.

Mike D'Angelo:

Aaaaand I believe we've now reached perfect DRIVE equilibrium, with the backlash reaching the same operatic heights as the original hype.

Wait a minute... really? Apart from Glenn Kenny, who else has been "backlashing" this film?

Ian Grey.


#62 Christian

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Posted 22 September 2011 - 07:34 PM

Shut up. That jacket deserves an Oscar.

Drive Costume Designer Erin Benach Answers All Your Questions About Ryan Gosling's Satin Jacket

It didn't answer all of my questions, but it's a start. :)

Pitched perfectly between immaculate throwback and haute hipster, the ever-present jacket — which becomes ever more bloody as the film progresses — was the work of costume designer Erin Benach, a veteran of films including Half Nelson, Blue Valentine, and even a few not starring Ryan Gosling.

Edited by Christian, 22 September 2011 - 07:35 PM.


#63 Overstreet

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 04:30 PM

My first impression review (repeating some of the things I've said here) is up at Filmwell.

#64 Scholar's Parrot

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 05:02 PM

My first impression review (repeating some of the things I've said here) is up at Filmwell.


In regards to the lingering complaint, could the title be referring more to the noun sense of "the determination and ambition of a person to achieve something?" (taken from Oxford dictionary)

#65 Overstreet

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 05:11 PM

Well, sure. But the movie's best when it fuses that with the most obvious definition...

#66 Nick Olson

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 10:35 PM

Jeffrey, I enjoyed your review and I think you're right on in terms of the film's self-awareness. I find myself somewhere in between your review here and some of the Christian "redeeming message" reviews only in the sense that I think the film's "redeeming value"--if we're going to use that phrase--is precisely its persistent irony via form. In my review, I pointed to that particular line you mention "A real hero...a real human being." The form, in all the ways you mention and more, says "isn't this ridiculous?!" And it is mostly complemented by the fairytale feel you mention...very dream-like.

Also, I enjoyed your commentary on how Driver is so endearing and even innocent to us. His relationship with Benicio made him feel like a little kid to me during a couple of scenes. And I believe his garage boss even refers to him as "kid." Of course, Gosling is so boyish looking...

One more thing about the film's self-awareness about vengeance-badguy-hero-masculinity: I think there is a powerful wink/allusion when we find out about the story of Irene telling Standard she was waiting for the Deluxe version. Driver is, of course, the Deluxe version of her troubled husband--and this is not a good thing...

#67 Overstreet

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 11:40 PM

Also, I enjoyed your commentary on how Driver is so endearing and even innocent to us. His relationship with Benicio made him feel like a little kid to me during a couple of scenes. And I believe his garage boss even refers to him as "kid." Of course, Gosling is so boyish looking...


And on top of that (I decided not to make my review any longer, so I left this out), Driver's immediate connection with the boy and concern for him makes me think that the movie is suggesting something about where his anger and violence is coming from. But I'm glad the movie doesn't make an issue of Driver's past or any possible "daddy issues."

Edited by Overstreet, 24 September 2011 - 12:58 PM.


#68 Nick Olson

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 10:09 AM

That's interesting, but I'm with you: I think Driver's mysterious past is part of what gives the film its effective unpredictability.

I thought the scene in the bar was telling - it was the one moment when Driver's past (dealings) was referenced, but in his own memorable warning, Driver effectively says to his former client Don't go there, or I'll make sure you won't.

#69 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 10:41 AM

Nicholas wrote:
: I think Driver's mysterious past is part of what gives the film its effective unpredictability.

I had the exact opposite reaction: The fact that the character is an utter blank made the unpredictability anything but effective: the fact that this driver is ALSO violent just seemed like an arbitrary construction. (He makes a big deal of how he doesn't carry a gun, he just drives, etc., etc., but then, we find out he's got this very brutal violent side as well, and how much actual DRIVING does he do in the film, anyway? Jeffrey Wells, I think, made the point that it might have been nice in a movie bearing the title "Drive" to see three car chases, rather than two, and I agree. I am vaguely reminded of how The Transporter made a big deal of Jason Statham's car, only to ditch the car about halfway through the film.)

Anyway. I've mentioned before that there were points in this film where I was very conscious of the fact that I was watching Gosling the actor and not Driver the character; this would be one of the reasons why.

: I thought the scene in the bar was telling - it was the one moment when Driver's past (dealings) was referenced, but in his own memorable warning, Driver effectively says to his former client Don't go there, or I'll make sure you won't.

That has nothing to do with his "past". It's just a previous job. Any "past" worth talking about would have to be the "past" that he had BEFORE he got into this line of work.

(As for Jeff's suggestion that the Driver has some sort of abusive back-story... Well, for whatever reason, Jeff, I find myself flashing back to The Dreamlife of Angels and Punch-Drunk Love and other films where you've "sensed" that a character had that sort of back-story. It may or may not have made sense to argue that those films were "suggesting" anything about their characters, but in the case of a pure exercise in style like Drive, I don't see anything to support that reading, absent any comments that the filmmakers might have made to that effect.)

#70 Nick Olson

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 11:54 AM

Hey Peter.

You'll have to better explain how "utter blanks" are not unpredictable? I know I'm not the only one to point out that the film went in unexpected directions. And how are these unexpected directions not tied to his brutal violence? And how is his unexpected brutal violence not tied to our not knowing about what may have happened to cause this unexpected brutal violence? And aside from that question, it seems like you're talking about the film from way too much of a plausibility angle. His "utter blankness" --his innocence, his not showing much in the way of emotional scarring from a troublesome past--is part of the film's fairytale rendering of the genre, isn't it? In other words, it seems like you're saying "none of these points are founded! That's completely arbitrary!" Um. this is a stylized, self-aware take on the "action" genre (broadly speaking), is it not? But, precisely because of the way the film approaches the "not typically about character" genre, the questions/points we're raising come into play. The film's irony/form/style/approach highlights what's not revealed to us.

His unexpected violence is a question that we don't have an answer to. I don't know how his anonymity makes this mystery less effective, because anonymity is tied to a mysterious past. If we know something about someone's past - even if we don't know his/her name - we know something about him/her in a way that lessens the impact of anonymity.

Regarding the bar scene, it does not need to refer to his pre-Driving days for the scene to still be effectively about Driver's threatening any reference to his past. Whether or not this has to do with his being over-protective about root causes is not really the point. In fact, to reference something pre-driving would go against the film's approach of being self-aware without stepping outside of what it is being ironic about.

And you've raised this point twice now about watching "Gosling the actor" as opposed to "Driver the character." Well, I don't know, I could be wrong here, but isn't that a necessary possibility when he's playing a nameless, "utter blank?" Intentionally, there really isn't much content to his "character." So Gosling the actor will necessarily be more noticeable in an anonymous, genre-mold of a character - stripped of any pretense.

In sum, I think what really worked for me with this film is how its irony/form/feel highlighted the silliness of many of the tropes often associated with the genre. In this way, it has us raise the sort of questions/points you're kind of railing against without directly addressing them.

#71 Overstreet

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 12:57 PM

...I don't see anything to support that reading...


I saw a guy who seemed to have an almost immediate, sympathetic connection with a vulnerable kid. I saw a guy who understood the boy's need for a father figure. I saw a guy who was willing to put his life on the line for that boy and his mother.

Okay, that's not persuasive evidence of anything. But it is intriguing enough to make me suspect that it has something to do with his history.

I didn't offer a "reading" as in "I propose that this is his history, and here is my evidence." I offered an intuition. A hunch. A maybe. And in a movie like this, that's more than enough for me.

I haven't seen Dreamlife of Angels for ages, so I don't remember those circumstances. But Punch-drunk Love? Paul Thomas Anderson isn't the sort of storyteller to deliver a main character without having given some thought to his history. And I think Punch-drunk Love has some interesting moments that suggest things or pose interesting quesitons about that history. It's about what gets Barry's attention, what triggers his emotions, and what we can learn about his family, his fears, his needs.

#72 Attica

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 11:35 PM

Just got back from seeing this film, and like many here I really liked it.



I went with my wife..... and the violence in the film was way to much for her. Of course it was to much. It was to violent for me as well, although I left wondering if violence that is handled this way in film desensitizes us to violence or ultimately sensitizes us to it. This movie certainly sensitized me to the fact that people get trapped into lifestyles and situations that can just lead on a downward spiral. I was wondering how we as a society can help people who get caught up in similar horrific situations out of them. I mean situations that are in some ways similar as this (in the sense of people getting trapped in gang or criminal activity) happen frequently.

The film was obviously about style and not interested in being all that reality based. I mean he killed a guy in an elevator and walked around LA with blood all over his jacket without getting caught. Yet somehow I thought that this films not caring about these details seemed to fit.

For the first half of the film I was completely intrigued with his "empty" character. I was wondering what had happened to him that made him like that? What made him tick? What happens in peoples lives that can make them so damaged?

While It would be hard to argue that the film was "redemptive" there was, I think, a strange insight into humanity present in it. It seemed to care about Ryan's character. Like Jeffrey had posted earlier on, this movie was a bit obvious in how it handled it's main theme song....... but it really worked. To be honest though Jeffrey (after reading your review)...... I didn't see the film as being at all humorous in it's intention. Anywhere. Maybe I missed something, or just didn't get it. To me the film just had this sense of the tragedy that can be in humanity with a sense of our brokeness, and desire to get it right, even when we know that we've royally screwed up.

I kind of gleaned something like that from Ryan Goslings character. Something in his past had happened to him that took him down the wrong path and he was a broken shell of a man that in the course of the film found more of his humanity. Then this kind of lead him to make the wrong decision of helping with the robbery, which of course led him on a completely destructive path. But yet at the end when he is driving with that tear in his eye there was still a flicker of humanity in him. There was still something in him that cared about life (including others as well as his own), realized that things had gone horribly wrong, and was grieved by what he had done. I found that scene along with the song that was being played overtop of it quite impacting..... even if it was to obvious for some. He was a horrible human being...... but there was still that flicker, and the films ending indicates that Carey Mulligan's character might have thought this as well. There seemed to be some sort of hope for him..... but was he driving towards it or away from it?

I dunno.... I think this film was more than a self aware stylized film (although it certainly was those things.) I think it had some insightful things to say, whether intentional or not. Maybe if the graphic violence was toned down we would be more inclined to see these things....... but another part of me wonders if the violence helps some people to see it? I'm not sure? I know I certainly could have done without a few of those shots.

Edited by Attica, 25 September 2011 - 12:59 AM.


#73 Christian

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Posted 26 September 2011 - 02:25 PM

I loved this film in part -- can't lie -- because of its treatment of violence. Mine was a complex reaction that I'm not entirely comfortable with but which came from someplace rarely reached by current cinema. In a way, I'm grateful for that, even though I'm not sure it's a good thing.

I've read some reviews that express horror at this film's violence, and I've wondered why I didn't join with those reviewers. But it took David Thomson's review to jar me a bit and get me thinking more seriously about certain filmmakers who are known for their violence:

I don’t think I’m being squeamish, and I don’t intend to deny the excitement of violence. But on screen, brutality can be as stylized as dance. I don’t believe that directors like Refn, Scorsese, or Tarantino really know and live with such violence. I think they are protected softies, aroused by the fantasy of beautiful violence — like me, like so many of us. But I mistrust the macho swagger when the violence is ladled on like tomato sauce. Don’t use the infamous Jean-Luc Godard excuse—that the blood is merely red. The blood is life splashing in our face and it’s the commercial exploitation of cruelty done in the guise of a very “cool” movie.

Any thoughts on this?

#74 Ryan H.

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Posted 26 September 2011 - 02:30 PM

I've read some reviews that express horror at this film's violence, and I've wondered why I didn't join with those reviewers. But it took David Thomson's review to jar me a bit and get me thinking more seriously about certain filmmakers who are known for their violence:

I don’t think I’m being squeamish, and I don’t intend to deny the excitement of violence. But on screen, brutality can be as stylized as dance. I don’t believe that directors like Refn, Scorsese, or Tarantino really know and live with such violence. I think they are protected softies, aroused by the fantasy of beautiful violence — like me, like so many of us. But I mistrust the macho swagger when the violence is ladled on like tomato sauce. Don’t use the infamous Jean-Luc Godard excuse—that the blood is merely red. The blood is life splashing in our face and it’s the commercial exploitation of cruelty done in the guise of a very “cool” movie.

Any thoughts on this?

I think Thomson is spot-on regarding Refn and Tarantino (after reading through CONVERSATIONS WITH SCORSESE, I'm inclined to disagree that Scorsese belongs in this group).

Edited by Ryan H., 26 September 2011 - 02:30 PM.


#75 Attica

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Posted 26 September 2011 - 11:25 PM

Christian wrote:

:But I mistrust the macho swagger when the violence is ladled on like tomato sauce. Don’t use the infamous Jean-Luc Godard excuse—that the blood is merely red. The blood is life splashing in our face and it’s the commercial exploitation of cruelty done in the guise of a very “cool” movie


I just didn't see the movie as just a cool movie. I read it as a film that was very serious about the violence as the implications that can come from getting tangled up with this kind of lifestyle. I viewed this films use of violence along
similar lines as Cronenbergs a History of Violence. It does seem that my take on the film is out of step with a lot of people though.




:I loved this film in part -- can't lie -- because of its treatment of violence. Mine was a complex reaction that I'm not entirely comfortable with but which came from someplace rarely reached by current cinema. In a way, I'm grateful for that, even though I'm not sure it's a good thing.


I can understand that. The violence certainly took the film to a different level of cinema. It wasn't really violence that made ones heart race as much as it was violence that shocked, gave a certain atmosphere, drastically changed the storytelling (from the first half) and our responses to the characters. It was an intruiging filmmaking choice and I'm not entirely sure if it was a wrong one (except the headstomping shot - that was to much :shock: ).



:I don’t think I’m being squeamish, and I don’t intend to deny the excitement of violence. But on screen, brutality can be as stylized as dance. I don’t believe that directors like Refn, Scorsese, or Tarantino really know and live with such violence. I think they are protected softies, aroused by the fantasy of beautiful violence — like me, like so many of us. But I mistrust the macho swagger when the violence is ladled on like tomato sauce.



Interestingly enough....After watching this I was thinking something similar about my own response to violence. I have some friends who came from violent childhoods that just couldn't watch a film like this..... to many associations I expect, yet I come from a very nonviolent subculture and upbringing. Violence, if handled right, generally doesn't bother me to much. I mean sure it disturbs me but I think in a lot of film it's supposed to, and that's not always a bad thing. I also don't really get all that jazzed from violence but I'm very interested in what it can potentially say in storytelling, as well as it's affect on others. So if there isn't a point to hard R violence I don't really have much time for it, but like I've said with this film, I'm not entirely convinced that the violence is pointless or ladled on like a macho swagger.

This wasn't an 1980's ultra violent summer movie...... it was doing something different. I just didn't get the impression that it was "glorifying violence" as they say, but maybe using the violence as a means to direct our attention to the situation and the states of the characters. This wasn't the kind of movie that most people walk out of saying "Did you see how such and such happened.... man that was cool" this is the kind of movie where the violence is possibly intruiging, but also very unsettling. Maybe that's alright. I wonder if someone who is involved in gangs or violent criminal activity (or about to be) would see a film like this as a bit of a wake up call that might not happen if the violence was glossed over. I don't really see Tarantino's Kill Bill having the potential to influence someone this way.

Edited by Attica, 26 September 2011 - 11:39 PM.


#76 Overstreet

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 12:50 AM

If the violence in this film had been treated in a way that wasn't very, very disturbing, I would have found that... well... very, very disturbing. In a bad way.

#77 Attica

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 04:02 PM

If the violence in this film had been treated in a way that wasn't very, very disturbing, I would have found that... well... very, very disturbing. In a bad way.




Sure.

#78 Nathan Douglas

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 10:28 PM

I want to like this more than I do, given how much I love Michael Mann and dreamy urban night shots, but I spent most of the film becoming irritated by Refn's overstuffed frames. The backgrounds in this film are so full of distractions that I could barely focus on anything the characters were saying. This would make a fantastic coffee table book, but in motion, I couldn't handle it. Not to mention the negative space, which is where I find myself in agreement with Kenny's assertion, back in this thread, that DRIVE is just as guilty of the sort of affected Euro art-house style it supposedly rescued the Cannes critics from, only even more so by insisting that such a "style" (if it could be summed up so easily) revitalizes its material without bringing any of the rich humanism, wit, or insight that I've come to associate in varying degrees with that "style." Negative space seems to exist in the film for the purposes of reminding us that this sort of genre doesn't usually feature negative space, making DRIVE into something special. And perhaps that's fine if DRIVE just wants to be a commentary on movies and this particular genre, but it doesn't sustain that line of inquiry under the pressure of Refn trying to have it both ways - asking us to root for his stylistic choices as they happen, and also emotionally invest in the story. I don't dislike it as much as BRONSON, which I think suffers from a similar need to overcook its visuals (that one did it more with grain and contrast), but as I sit here trying to find positives (the soundtrack, for one) I'm pretty sure DRIVE has killed any remaining interest I had for Refn.

And I agree with Peter about Gosling's performance. Past the first five minutes (which were excellent), I was never not aware of him "acting." It all winking and nudging for the first half and then goes straight, which is also about where the movie began to lose me. Gosling's quietude is as self-aware as Tom Hardy's bellowing. Maybe that's Refn's emerging trademark: totally self-aware performances that get left behind when Refn decides around the third act transition that he's done being self-reflexive.

I'm going to go watch THIEF now. I don't think it bodes well for DRIVE.

#79 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 28 September 2011 - 02:32 PM

Mike D'Angelo:

Aaaaand I believe we've now reached perfect DRIVE equilibrium, with the backlash reaching the same operatic heights as the original hype.

Wait a minute... really? Apart from Glenn Kenny, who else has been "backlashing" this film?

Ian Grey.

Hmm, the story below seems to indicate the "backlash" is actually reflective of the audience, not the critics.

- - -

The "Drive" backlash: Too violent, too arty or both?
The Ryan Gosling thriller has great reviews but dreadful word of mouth. Salon writers discuss what went wrong
Salon.com, September 23

Post-Mortem: Why Young Guys Didn’t ‘Drive’
Younger males used to flock to such an original, violent, and stylized R-rated film that breaks a lot of rules. They didn’t. But now young guys who used to be Hollywood’s target audience are just not consistently (and indiscriminately) going to the movies anymore. The reason is either financial or too many other entertainment choices. That was the gist of internal conversations inside studios all summer when uncompelling fare like Conan The Barbarian, Fright Night, Cowboys & Aliens, and Green Lantern fell short with young guys. ”It didn’t dawn on us they weren’t coming to the malls,” one perplexed exec told me. “Instead, adults did.” . . .
Deadline.com, September 25

- - -

Nicholas wrote:
: You'll have to better explain how "utter blanks" are not unpredictable?

I didn't say they were not unpredictable. I said the unpredictability was not "effective".

: In other words, it seems like you're saying "none of these points are founded! That's completely arbitrary!"

Not so much that they aren't founded, but they aren't really connected. Or something. If Gosling's performance had been better, then at least some of these points could have been "founded" in THAT, at least. But as it is, I never bought into Gosling's characters as a character: he was just an actor caught on film. Apparently Nathan and even Jeff, to some degree, had the same reaction.

: And you've raised this point twice now about watching "Gosling the actor" as opposed to "Driver the character." Well, I don't know, I could be wrong here, but isn't that a necessary possibility when he's playing a nameless, "utter blank?"

Actually, no.

: In sum, I think what really worked for me with this film is how its irony/form/feel highlighted the silliness of many of the tropes often associated with the genre. In this way, it has us raise the sort of questions/points you're kind of railing against without directly addressing them.

Well, there IS such a thing as "the wrong question". I don't bother to answer questions that are rooted in false premises, for example. So while I don't know which particular questions/points you think I'm not addressing, all I can say is that the film could have done a better job of "raising" whatever sorts of "questions" it wanted to raise (assuming that it did, indeed, want to raise any).

Overstreet wrote:
: Okay, that's not persuasive evidence of anything. But it is intriguing enough to make me suspect that it has something to do with his history.

Well, he used to be a boy himself, of course. But unless you can point to something more specific, anything beyond that is reading INTO something, not reading BETWEEN the lines or anything like that.

: I didn't offer a "reading" as in "I propose that this is his history, and here is my evidence." I offered an intuition. A hunch. A maybe.

Sure. But it's a hunch that you've defaulted to on a number of occasions now, so at a certain point I begin to wonder if that sort of reading owes more to the critic than to the thing being critiqued.

: But Punch-drunk Love? Paul Thomas Anderson isn't the sort of storyteller to deliver a main character without having given some thought to his history.

Or hers, in this case.

#80 Overstreet

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Posted 28 September 2011 - 02:50 PM

If there is a critical backlash, Anthony Lane is part of it.