Interviewing Nicolas Winding Refn is a lot like watching one of his films. It’s confusing, intimidating, fascinating, sometimes abrasive, but a lot of fun and always interesting. And most like his films, you also come out not really knowing what just happened.
Straight up, I should say that I am a massive Winding Refn fanboy, and I love all of his movies. I’d interviewed him once before, but that was for a side project, a book of old movie posters he was releasing. But this was different. This was for a proper NWR joint, for his latest movie The Neon Demon. Danish-born Winding Refn is still most famous for directing Drive, the ultra-sleek neon-tinged Ryan Gosling-starring car chase movie from 2011, but as time passes it more and more seems like that was less a breakthrough and more just an anomaly. Since migrating into English language filmmaking, Winding Refn has perfected a style of cinema where images and atmosphere are far more important than plot logic, and there’s usually a lot of neon, violence and pounding synths. Along with Drive, his other recent movies — the Tom Hardy true crime biopic Bronson, Mads Mikkelson Viking movie Valhalla Rising and Ryan Gosling Thai kickboxing flick Only God Forgives — form a very singular cinematic vision.
And the new one, The Neon Demon, might be the most Winding Refn-est of all. It stars Elle Fanning as a young girl heading to LA to become a model. Soon enough she’s the hot new shit of the fashion world, but that only brings the scorn and wrath of the older (early 20s) models who she usurps. And because this is a Winding Refn movie, that wrath takes the form of beautiful, horrific, and occasionally hilarious violence. It kind of feels like a cross between a million dollar Chanel advert and the sort of weird Japanese or Italian horror film your weird stoner friend shows you at 1am. Most people will probably hate it, but it’s incredible.