This wonderfully dark visual masterpiece will burn into your psyche.
| 11:04 a.m. June 29, 2016
Arts + Entertainment
Danish director Nicholas Winding Refn is not known for pandering to audiences. In his new film, "Neon Demon," Refn demonstrates that beauty isn't just skin deep — it's also edible.
The opening shot is one of a young girl with her throat slit being photographed. That girl turns out to be Jesse (Elle Fanning), a 16-year-old model who's just arrived in L.A. with dreams of being famous. Her naiveté doesn't bode well in the dog-eat-dog world, where "beauty isn't everything, it's the only thing." And if you're 21, you're over the hill.
Jesse lives in a seedy Pasadena motel managed by a sleazy lecher (a great Keanu Reeves). One night, Jesse comes home late and discovers that someone is in her darkened room. Turns out it's a wild panther. Is it a warning, or possibly an attempted murder? Youth is a priceless commodity, and jealously is plentiful in the City of Angels.
Refn ("Drive") assaults the senses on every level in "Neon Demon." Employing strobes, glitter and neon, he creates astonishing visuals. It's quite an extraordinary achievement, considering he's color-blind.
The look is David-Lynch-meets-Karl-Largerfeld, but it definitely has Refn written all over this malevolent masterpiece. Cliff Martinez (who won best composer at Cannes this year) employs a magnificent score, throbbing with impending intensity, elevating the horror that lurks around every corner of this very dark film.
Desmond Harrington is wonderful as a creepy, condescending photographer, and Alessandro Nivola speaks volumes without muttering much as a discerning designer. Fanning is fantastic, but it's Jena Malone, as a makeup artist/demented mentor, who steals every scene. Keep an eye on her.
"Neon Demon" is not for the faint of heart or those with weak stomachs. There's some very twisted and disturbing things going on in this killer film. Some images may be difficult to remove from your psyche. Audience members at Cannes were yelling abuses at the screen as credits rolled — but there were also many applauding.