Only God Forgives (Nicholas Winding Refn, France/USA/ Thailand/ Sweden, 2013)

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If films had a smell, humid wafts of drug-propelled sweat, sperm and blood would emanate from Only God Forgives. It’s a feverish nightmare of a movie, like Blue Velvet but without the desire. Here there’s only the dread of sex and the wish for violence, as ritualized as possible but explicit. The film has a wonderful soundtrack where every sound is rendered distinct but all-enclosing; one feels entranced in a vacuum, a shared but private dream, already clammy with dank and damp. The film is dedicated to Alejandro Jodowrosky, and the violence makes one understand why this is so. But the film also made me think of the Fassbinder of Querelle, all fevered renderings of the forbidden, slow-moving and not fully intelligible,  on the verge of being laughable but prevented from being so by the potency of their presentation. Kristin Scott-Thomas, looking like Donatella Versace and acting like a real housewife of New Jersey, is the mafia Medea who might just as easily fuck her children as kill them. The film is like a fragment of a nightmare, a glowing neon-noir: hypnotic, entrancing, scary, disgusting. It doesn’t have anything to do with any world I recognize yet I’m already finding it hard to shake off. Kristian Eidnes Andersen designed the sound. Larry Smith was in charge of the cinematography. Both deserve applause.

José Arroyo

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