Archives for posts with tag: Nicolas Refn

The_Grand_Budapest_Hotel_Poster

Not since Nicolas Refn’s Only God Forgives has this reviewer seen such a shameless triumph of style over substance. Overrated Rushmore auteur Wes Anderson, the most artificial of all filmmakers, delivers in Grand Budapest Hotel a work that is less a movie than a succession of fetishistic explorations of elegant line and symmetry and fastidiously composed tableaux of actors making eccentric faces and striking unnatural poses. Anderson’s admirers will probably enjoy this nonlinear, tonally anachronistic account of the various characters – several big name actors in small parts among them – whose lives revolve around the titular luxury accommodation. Others are, however, advised to seek their lodgings elsewhere.

3.5 of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Grand Budapest Hotel is:

8. Anti-gun. An absurd and needlessly destructive gunfight erupts in the middle of the hotel.

7. Anti-slut. It is Agatha’s (Saoirse Ronan – worst name ever?) purity that makes her attractive.

6. Anti-Christian. Lobby boy Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori) pushes over a piece of religious statuary, breaking it into pieces.

5. Anti-fascist (i.e., pro-yawn). “I find these black uniforms very drab.”

4. Pro-gay. Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes) is a stylish and comfortable bisexual, prompting bigoted bad guy Dmitri (Adrien Brody) to call him a “fruit” and a “faggot”.

3. Anti-white. The hotel’s clientele is described as “rich, old, insecure, vain, superficial, blonde, needy.” “Why blonde?” “Because they all were.”

2. Pro-immigration and pro-miscegenation. “You can’t arrest him simply because he’s a bloody immigrant. He hasn’t done anything wrong.” Agatha’s marriage to immigrant Zero endorses the dissolution of national identities and, in view of her Mexico-shaped birthmark, advertises its relevance to the present Mestizo settler colonization of the United States.

1. Zionist. The Grand Budapest Hotel evinces a very Jewish sensibility, racking up a few extra shabbos goy points for the director, and The Jewish Daily Forward‘s review of the film is actually titled “How Wes Anderson Became a Jewish Emigre Director“. In a ridiculous reversal of the real world, Jeff Goldblum plays a Jewish attorney as an exemplar of moral rectitude who is mutilated and murdered by vampiric gentile Willem Dafoe. Alluding obliquely to the “Holocaust”, the film notes that Agatha dies of a “Prussian” disease. “Today, we treat it in a single week, but in those days, many millions died.”

Only God Forgives

Ryan Gosling, fresh off of a revelatory turn in the excellent Place Beyond the Pines, unfortunately chooses to squander his talent in Only God Forgives, playing Julian, an American expatriate in Thailand whose boxing club fronts for a narcotics ring. When his immoral brother Billy (Tom Burke) kills a girl and is murdered in turn, Julian’s disgusting mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) arrives from the States and insists that Julian seek revenge – even if this means eliminating a formidable police detective, Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm).

In a pretentious feat of style-over-substance showboating, director Nicolas Refn and his collaborators place so much emphasis on their ostentatious color schemes, self-conscious compositions, and generally gratuitous visual flourishes that they very nearly succeed in ruining what, in less limp-wristed hands, could have been a solidly gritty story of a family vendetta. Worst is that most of the actors in this nearly dialogueless drama appear to have been instructed to behave as robotically as possible, never smiling, as if every movement of every muscle is meant to convey existential angst, every second of every moment an endless Holocaust of the soul which, rather, screens as overly deliberate soullessness. The copious music of Cliff Martinez, a mixture of organic and synthesized sound, is both a blessing and a curse, as some lackluster scenes receive energy from these contributions, while others seem overly noisy where silence would be preferable.

The film does contain some very good scenes and in places achieves an adequate level of suspense. Those looking for action or for any kind of hero will be disappointed, however. An odd performance notwithstanding, the compulsively watchable presence of Ryan Gosling is, ultimately, at least half of what makes this idiosyncratic effort work to the modest extent that it does.

3.5 grudging stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Only God Forgives is:

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

6. Drug-ambivalent. The film passes no apparent judgment on the brothers’ drug trafficking. Different characters smoke in an indifferent manner, though Julian’s mother’s exhalations at a restaurant table would seem to be intended to parallel her disrespectful words.

5. Slut-ambivalent. While the film shows the physical danger that goes with a prostitute’s lifestyle, the representative whores are graceful and beautiful creatures who conduct themselves with elegant composure.

4. Pro-miscegenation. Julian engages in voyeurism and limited sexual contact with whores, not from any apparent apprehensions of disease, but out of a misplaced reverence for oriental pussy. His mother enjoys ogling Thai musclemen.

3. Pro-police. Chang, a karaoke singer, exemplifies the law enforcer as fetishized performance artist.

2. Anti-white/anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn). Several scenes juxtapose white characters’ rudeness, vulgarity, and presumption with Asians’ dignity, good manners, or superior fighting ability. Americans and Europeans, from a sense of their own superiority and Asians’ expendability, go to Thailand to exploit its people, causing them to prostitute themselves or hire themselves out as killers. Making no secret of her feelings, Julian’s mother refers to a “yellow nigger”. The film’s perpetrators also give clear expression to their European inferiority complex and belief in the awesomeness of things Asian by giving the title and credits in Thai, with subtitle-style English credits in smaller type beneath, so that no belching American privileged to enjoy Only God Forgives will get the mistaken impression that his entertainment is any more important than some Thai guy’s.

1. Anti-family. Grotesque family relationships abound in Only God Forgives. Julian, his lascivious mother relates, was envious of her sexual relationship with his brother Billy, and lives in exile after having murdered his father at her behest. A Thai man prostitutes his daughters and may be more aggrieved by the loss of revenue than the loss of his child after one of them is killed. The sight of a retarded boy, meanwhile, reminds viewers of the potential perils of unchecked procreation. Chang appears to have a loving relationship with his daughter, but the brief screen time devoted to this is too little to counterbalance the overwhelming abundance of family dysfunction. Julian acquiesces in his mother’s call for revenge only reluctantly, and with good reason, as his acknowledgment of a pointless blood obligation precipitates his downfall.

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