Each week, Dom plumbs the depths of podcast nation to bring you the best in cinema-related chats and programs. If writing about music is like dancing about architecture, then writing about movie podcasts is like listening to someone describe someone dancing about architecture.
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Nicolas Winding Refn will tell you all you need to know about Nicolas Winding Refn, which is that Nicolas Winding Refn makes absolutely no sense. When Nicolas Winding Refn speaks, every word slips out piquantly, performed with great respect for the human mouth and for human language and for the way in which people look at him when he speaks—or at least that’s how he sounds. When Nicolas Winding Refn tells you that he has never had sex with any woman but his wife, that he worships women and believes the world is a womb, that he has never done acid, you can’t help but think, “How? How is that possible?” When Nicolas Winding Refn replies, “I do not know who that is,” to your mentioning of the term “Sausage Party,” you simply tell him what that means as empirically as you can and then move on with your conversation, silently basking in the ineffable glow of Nicolas Winding Refn’s mysterious, beautiful self-regard. You do not try to explain to Nicolas Winding Refn that you were making a joke.
But also when Nicolas Winding Refn speaks, a lot of gibberish comes diarrhea-ing out of his mouth. Granted, his shit really does smell like roses, but he’s also pretty fucking inept at using words to convey coherent meaning. He’s not a dumb guy, and I don’t think his movies are dumb either—they just can’t be—but I get the frustration people feel when they leave a Nicolas Winding Refn film tired and perplexed and also probably really sad. Nicolas Winding Refn will tell you that having such a reaction is an “experience,” and therefore demonstrates true cinema, of which he is an expert, and also from the future, which he explains by saying that he makes movies which are “experiences,” and that makes him a man from the future.
So this week let’s eat up the world of Nicolas Winding Refn like a sex-crazed cannibal would eat a sexy corpse, and then digest that corpse, and then crap out that corpse later and admire that corpse crap. Here are my Nicolas Winding Refns for the three most Nicolas Winding Refnest Nicolas Winding Refns of the Nicolas Winding Refn.
“Why Don’t We Love Nicolas Winding Refn?”
Very good question. This week, Will Sloan and Justin Decloux wonder with barely contained boredom why they can’t muster up more enthusiasm for the infamously divisive director. In fact, they get so bored discussing Nicolas Winding Refn that they muse about Keanu Reeves’ likability for a few minutes and then take thinly veiled amusement from Nicolas Winding Refn’s financial misfortunes because the film that led to his bankruptcy was Fear X, whose plot the two hosts can only manage to summarize and the describe by concluding that “nothing really happens.” Fun fact: The screenplay to Fear X was co-written by Hubert Selby, Jr., famed author of morbidly depressing novels like Last Exit to Brooklyn and Requiem for a Dream. Sloan and Decloux also went to see The Neon Demon, which they liked about half of, but the best part of this entertaining shrug of a podcast episode is when an anecdote about Ryan Gosling introducing a Nicolas Winding Refn film premiere ends in Nicolas Winding Refn getting super pissed at Ryan Gosling for reading an email during that introduction that Nicolas Winding Refn sent Ryan Gosling about introducing him, instructing Ryan Gosling to describe Nicolas Winding Refn as a visionary director and unparalleled creative genius and all that. Despite being an unparalleled creative visionary talent future man, Nicolas Winding Refn pouts just like the rest of us. Also, apparently while filming The Neon Demon, instead of “action” Nicolas Winding Refn would say: “Let’s fuck.”
“Nicolas Winding Refn and Elle Fanning / De Palma”
Nicolas Winding Refn tells Adam Kempenaar that he knew Elle Fanning was right for the lead of The Neon Demon because when he asked her if she thinks she’s beautiful, she said, “Yes.” It also happens to be the moment that The Neon Demon crystallized for Nicolas Winding Refn, the moment when he understood exactly what his film would be. Elle Fanning tells Adam Kempenaar that her and her fellow cast mates were encouraged to improvise, to explore their characters, that Nicolas Winding Refn’s set was a comfortable space for creativity. It’s easy to believe Fanning, but Nicolas Winding Refn is so laudatory of Fanning’s performance, so effusive about her young brilliance, a certain paternal tone hangs over Kemmpenaar’s interview with the two—which becomes even more unsettling when considering how sexualized Nicolas Winding Refn treats everything, especially his art. Nicolas Winding Refn isn’t a creep probably, but he carries himself like one. He’d probably point to that as evidence of his advanced future-ness. Most people are just kind of grossed out by it.
“Aaron Stewart-Ahn with Nicolas Winding Refn”
Nicolas Winding Refn proclaims his love for Michael Bay, Friends and women with equal fervor. “I think the most beautiful image in the world is the vagina,” he uses to punctuate his point about how much more calm he feels around women rather than around men, not long before that contemplating, “The world is a woman’s…”—here he pauses, and as a listener you die to finish his sentence for him with something sensible, something conversational, something normal, like “place” or even “world” or even better, just stopping there—“…womb.” Nicolas Winding Refn does not say what convention, what logic expects him to say, and this is why it is hard to get one fucking clue about whatever it is he’s saying. Here he says he is from the future, that he has never done acid, that Alejandro Jodorowsky is like a dad to him, that in The Neon Demon he wanted to remove all sense of “Now,” and so he removed alcohol? Like we’re supposed to think, “Oh yeah, that makes sense, alcohol and Instagram are pretty much equally indicative of the 21st century.” Though Nicolas Winding Refn openly remembers how difficult it was for him growing up with severe dyslexia, he makes no sense—and not because he has trouble putting sentences together, but because the internal meaning of the words he uses is somehow fascinatingly distant from the context of the sentence he’s constructing with those words. He makes no fucking sense, but what he does make is graceful, brutal, beautiful, dumb, and brilliant all at once, even if all that Nicolas Winding Refn makes is a lot of mellifluous words come out of his mouth.
Dom Sinacola is Assistant Movies Editor at Paste and a Portland-based writer. Like everyone on this planet, he co-hosts his own podcast, Pretty Little Grown Men, which is sometimes about movies but mostly about Pretty Little Liars. You can find it on Twitter.