starring Elle Fanning, Karl Glusman, Jena Malone, Keanu Reeves
Nicolas Winding Refn and Mary Laws & Polly Stenham
directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
by Walter Chaw There's a quote from The Right Stuff I love that I thought about constantly during Nicolas Winding Refn's The Neon Demon: "There was a demon that lived in the air." I found in it something of an explanation for, or at least a corollary to, the picture's title, in that the demon in The Right Stuff refers to the sound barrier while the demon in Refn's film refers to, perhaps, soft obstructions of other kinds. Artificially lit. Poisonous. The quote continues with "whoever challenged [the demon] would die...where the air could no longer get out of the way." The first film I saw by Refn was Valhalla Rising, an expressionistic telling of the Odin myth--the part where he spent time on Earth (went missing, basically) before returning--that touches on the scourge of Christianity and how that relates to feeling lost, or losing what you believe in. Valhalla Rising led me to Bronson and to Pusher and then I followed Refn through Drive, which talks about the difficulties of being male, and Only God Forgives, which talks about the difficulties of being a son. Now there's The Neon Demon, completing a trilogy of sorts by talking about the difficulties of being a girl becoming a woman and an object for men, eviscerated in certain tabernacles where women are worshiped as ideals and sacrificed to the same. It's astonishing.