Hooray for Holly-Łódź: Cinema 5 – Charlie Kino, Movie 5 – Midnight in Paris (6/6)

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20:35pm Charlie Kino, Piotrkowska 203/205

Despite having the appearance of a rundown military barracks, Charlie Kino is a real temple of cinema and a deserved Łódź institution.

My Łodż cinema marathon ended up back where it all began for me in this city. Charlie Kino (or Kino Charlie) was the first cinema that I attended in Łódź, when I went to see a screening of Requiem for a Dream if memory serves. Back in 2001 Charlie Kino was outwardly no different from how it looks today, but back then it only consisted of one auditorium, whereas now it has three separate auditoria. The cinema is Łódź’s most important independent film theatre, having been founded by an organisation of film artists and enthusiasts back in 1994. The cinema is tucked away in a run-down looking courtyard off of the northern end of Piotrkowska, in the ‘Manhattan’ area of the city. It is actually housed on the second floor of a former government building and the owners of the cinema have gradually extended this upstairs space to allow for two smaller screens and a functional bar area. Much of the charm and pleasure of Charlie Kino is the ramshackle, almost homemade quality of the space, with lots of movie memorabilia and paraphernalia dotted around the compact foyer and the theatres themselves. The cinema has traditionally been the location of choice for minor film arts festivals in the city, as well as the more avant-garde cinematic fare that wouldn’t normally be picked up by the chain cinemas. In recent years to protect its niche in a more saturated multiplex market, it has focused much more attention on European and non-English language cinema.

Emotionally I have a strong bond with Charlie Kino, as it is so reminiscent of my favourite cinema spaces from back home, such as The Other Cinema in Soho, the Croydon Clocktower cinema, or the Filmhouse in Edinburgh. It acts as a miniature temple to film, a sacred public place in which film is taken as seriously as any religion and patrons unapologetically think of themselves as cinephiles. However, my faith in Charlie’s extra-commercial causes does not prevent me from harshly commenting on the rather woeful third screen (Sala Klubowa) in which I finally was able to catch up with Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. This tiny screen is no more than a home projector put up in an office that is separated from the foyer by a narrow sliding panel. There are no fixed seats in this space, but rather some horrendously uncomfortable Ikea kitchen furniture laid out in narrow rows. Due to the fact that the projector screen is placed fairly high up in the room, I had to crane my head uncomfortably upwards to watch, with absolutely no head support for the duration of the 90 minute running time.

The lovingly decorated interior embraces the film fanaticism of my favourite cinematic haunts such as The Other Cinema in Soho, London and the Edinburgh Filmhouse.

Yes, there are lots of lovely little quaint artifacts and objet d’art, such as an ornate coatstand, a glass chandelier and a post-war Warsaw produced television set, but this should not detract from the bum-numbing, neck fracturing discomfort of sitting through a film in this ill-suited space. Many of these complaints could have been ignored if at least the projection was clean and proportionate, but instead it was almost as bad as the Cinema City effort, with a hideously grainy quality throughout the first half hour, or so. The fact that Charlie charge 14 zł for such screenings doesn’t do it any favours, but I will say that my experiences on the two larger screens have generally been much more satisfactory with Sala Studyjna being fairly close to the scale and precision of Bałtyk’s presentations.

Cinema Experience: 4.5/10

 

I’d purposefully avoided this latest Woody Allen release, as I’d been so thoroughly disillusioned with the utterly objectionable Whatever Works (a film that felt both pretentious and lazy, as well as squandering the combined talents of two fantastic actresses in Evan Rachel Wood and Patricia Clarkson). Allen’s cinematic output has been in an interminable decline for many years now, with only a few brief upswings of the likes of Match Point to consider. The idea of Woody patronising Paris in the same way he had done with London and Barcelona didn’t make me any keener to see this latest ‘return to form’. The impact of Whatever Works had actually been so profound that I had significantly re-evaluated my attitude toward Allen’s oeuvre as a whole, coming to the unsatisfying conclusion that even at his best in the likes of Take the Money and Run, Sleeper, Manhattan, Zelig and Crimes and Misdemeanors, his movies were in essence nothing more than the extended miseries of a chauvinistic misanthrope, who already looked out-of-touch with the times in his 1970’s heyday.

Midnight in Paris by no means sets the world alight and I’d resist describing it as one of Allen’s best works, but it does at least entertain, which is more than can be said for almost any of his films since Bullets over Broadway. It’s in the same magical-realist mode as Play it Again, Sam, The Purple Rose of Cairo and Zelig, with Owen Wilson being cast as the most un-Allen of recent Woody protagonists. Wilson plays Gil, an American screenwriter in Paris with his bride-to-be Inez (played with privileged self-centredness by Rachel McAdams). One night whilst mooching around Paris trying to find his way back to the hotel, Gil is whisked off in a 1920’s carriage-car, by people who claim to be Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. What ensues is a delightfully broad comedy about nostalgia, which manages to excuse Woody’s whimsically romantic notions about European cities by making the romance of nostalgia a central theme.

Wilson is an effortlessly engaging presence, who strikes up the necessary chemistry with Marion Cotillard, who plays his 1920’s love interest a fashion designer who would prefer to be living in Belle Epoque Paris. There are also some amusing cameos, in particular Adrien Brody’s daft turn as a rhinoceros-obsessed Dali. Overall the comedy isn’t as witty as it things, but is nonetheless affectionate, which differentiates it strongly from Allen’s more resolutely downbeat and vindictive recent fare. The biggest disappointment about the movie is that it doesn’t explore in more detail the idea of Gil’s influencing the developments of the past (aside from a brief gag about The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie). My film night ended on a staggeringly coincidental note, as Léa Seydoux turns up as the possible love interest toward the end of the movie, having also been one of the first screen presences in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, way back at 9:30 this morning. One of Łódź’s great urban rhythms is this sense of reoccurring moments of serendipity. After all it was the home of that great director of coincidences Krzysztof Kieślowski.

Film Rating: 6/10

Film Review:- The Future (2011)

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Dir:- Miranda July

Starr:- Miranda July, Hamish Linklater, David Warshofsky, Joe Putterlik, Isabella Acres

Miranda July’s second full-length feature film cements her growing reputation as a quirky and infuriating talent to watch. Back in 2005 July completed her debut Me and You and Everyone we Know, which was generally received with highly positive critical reviews. The film managed to finally give the actor John Hawkes a vehicle worthy of his considerable talents and seemed to herald the arrival of an intriguing new voice in American independent cinema. With The Future July takes a similar narrative approach to her previous film, only this time it is more tightly focused on a smaller number of loosely related characters, whilst simultaneously appearing to have much more ambitious thematic aims. If anything this latest work comes good upon obsessions that were first crystallized in July’s 1998 short work The Amateurist. Uniquely amongst recent cinematic auteurs July seems all too aware of how the film lens, by its very presence, alters reality. Not only do her films have an obscure, elusive and indefinable quality about them, but they often address directly the way in which the process of filmmaking has insinuated itself covertly into everyday existence. As a performance artist July is an exhibitionist by nature, but rather than just dwelling upon the narcissism of this limited artistic dynamic, she seems to be more actively probing our internet-fed modern obsessions with the instant gratification of capturing an audience, as well as the difficulties that modern technologies pose to a sense of authentic human interaction.

In that early short, The Amateurist, July worked out a film within a film, that effectively saw a supposedly ‘professional woman’ (played by July) comment on the performance of an ‘amateur woman’ (also played by July) she was surveilling. An interaction occurs between the two women that is conducted in the most awkward and difficult of ways, and is almost wholly mediated through the use of abstruse technology and jargon. This latest work by July seems to dwell on a similar predicament, but embellishes it by adding the peculiarly crippling effect of time to the mix. Almost every single character in The Future is directly affected by the manner in which the very idea of ‘the future’ forestalls the taking of action in the present. The present is a particularly elusive concept to pin down, as by its very nature it is fleeting , utterly unknown and only definable only in retrospect. Furthermore there is a sense that computer technology serves as both an enabler and a handicapper within the present, offering a myriad of potential possibilities for creative and social fulfillment, whilst all the time increasing the likelihood that a person will be unable to decide what to do with their existence. July’s work is most adept at navigating the comedy that lies between this interplay of frustration and fantasy, anticipation and reality.

Central to the film are the thirtysomething couple of Sophie (Miranda July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater). They are the kind of modern-day American definition of the term ‘hipster’, yet with none of the success that seems to hover around that unfairly applied and oft-derided term. Sophie is a dance teacher, who seems unable to do anything of particular merit with her supposed skills. Jason is a phone adviser for an IT firm, who works from home and pretends to write a novel. At the opening of the movie the couple have signed up to care for a rescued cat, referred to as ‘Paw-Paw’ and voiced by a vocally distorted July. It is the imminent arrival of the cat, a first serious attempt at responsibility, that forces the couple to take stock of their relationship and their existence. Faced with the prospect of having to look after another living being, the couple suddenly realise that they have achieved so little and want to do so much more. Yet despite this realisation, and the setting aside of a thirty-day window to achieve ‘something’, the future is an oppressive realm and weighs heavily on the couples’ ideas of what to do, as well as ultimately coming between them and tearing their relationship asunder.

Can you remember when the spoken word actually mean more than an emoticon?

With a background in the creative writing workshop short story, as well as performance art, July tends to break her narratives down into little units of ambiguous meaning, that intersect with one another at various different points, creating a vague symphony of nuance that grasps for the poetic but occasionally comes away empty-handed. The Future, although stylistically similar to Me and You and Everyone we Know, is a much more difficult movie to warm to. There is an unevenness to its narrative that isolates little moments of the movie as particularly powerful and effective, whilst failing to make the film work as a satisfying whole.

The movie begins with a visually sumptuous and delightfully framed opening credits sequence in which all of the little bits of bric-a-brac that make up a life spent together are shown, devoid of the human presences that would make these things more than simply generic. In one of the more obvious visual gags in the film Jason returns to the flat after one of his many interviews with a strange, sex-obsessed, old man called Joe (Joe Putterlik), only to find himself looking at the objects in his own flat that are almost identical to that of Joe’s. There is a very intense fear throughout the movie that a person may not be as authentic as they would like to think they are. Many times over the film focuses on replicas of other people’s realities, as if all human experience is really just a shared amalgam of consumer products and hackneyed ways of interacting and creating.

Early on July explores the idea of time being brought to a standstill. Whilst Jason and Sophie are working upon their separate laptops at the movie’s opening – inhabiting the same space but utterly divorced from contact – they briefly discuss what secret powers they possess. Jason suggests he has the ability to stop time, which he then proceeds to playfully simulate. Later in the film Jason actually does stop time, at the moment where Sophie is about to break up with him. As befits the all-encompassing inertia of the film, Jason doesn’t actually magically transform the world in this infinity of stalled time, but rather simply fails to make any suitable decision that would help him ‘progress’. July is daring enough, or reckless enough, to allow the film’s slight narrative to almost entirely collapse in on itself at this point, as if she is taking umbrage with the very idea of ‘progress’ itself. In an intriguing structural decision July actually demonstrates that time is relentlessly mono-directional, by allowing Jason to freeze the reality around him and yet time itself remains unfrozen, so that when Jason brings reality back to motion, time has moved on and the couple have missed their appointment to collect Paw-Paw the cat.

The side-plot of the cat is overly twee and yet quietly affecting, as it demonstrates another facet of this waiting around for the future to come, namely the power that anticipation gives to hope. Paw-paw sees a future with Jason and Sophie and looks forward to the days when he will be outside of the rescue cage and living in the comfort of the couples flat. Like Sophie and Jason, Paw-paw projects forward, imagining a time of comfort and happiness as part of a family with them both. Yet this projection is simply a means of making the unbearable nature of the cats confined existence palatable, until that point when hope turns to disappointment, disillusion and death.

This is what it 'feels' like to let it all out.

Another element of the movie revolves around the distinct ways in which Sophie and Jason deal with the disintegration of their relationship, alongside their possible hopes and dreams. Sophie flings herself into an internet-mediated reality, but cannot bring herself to complete the dance film tasks she sets herself. Instead she makes contact with an older man, called Marshall (David Warshofsky) who is a single father of a daughter, Gabriella (Isabella Acres). Sophie gradually enters into the curiously cold and remote world of Marshall and Gabriella (the girl spends hours inexplicably digging a hole, in which she then buries herself up to the neck, one of the more powerful visual metaphors from the movie) and attempts to make a new and very different life for herself. Meanwhile, Jason divorces himself from the internet and embraces the first cause he comes upon, in this case replanting forests. In his door-to-door advocacy of this conservation project, Jason comes into direct contact with an assortment of different people through whom he experiences a sense of ‘authentic’, unmediated reality, which forces him to question what he is doing and what he actually believes in and cares about.

Throughout these various vagaries of the plot July somehow manages to prevent the film from falling into the alienating preciousness of unsatisfying fare like 3 Backyards. This is partly achieved by the carefully cultivated ironic humour of many sequences, of which July herself is the prime purveyor. More importantly however the film has individual sequences that are so powerful that they make it possible to forgive the film’s more self-indulgent moments. Perhaps the most impressive of these comes during Sophie’s visit to Marshall in the movie’s final third. Taking up residence in his bedroom she comes across the mysterious yellow shirt creature that has absurdly followed her around the film. Pulling the outsized yellow shirt on, she becomes enmeshed in its amorphous form and performs an achingly emotional solo dance, that resembles nothing less than the complete destruction and reformation of a human being. It’s a moment of inspired and arresting wonder and beauty, which absolutely justifies the film’s various eccentricities and infuriating narrative elisions. It also brings July’s concerns with that moment of audience capture full circle, as it bewitches and seduces the viewer into going along with her arch-whimsy. An ice-cold movie, with little eruptions of comic warmth, The Future suggests that humanity finds it impossible to live in the here and now and that the fleeting moment has been devalued and eroded by the proliferation of depictions of self via modern internet media. July, at her strongest, restores some of the profoundly enchanting quality of dream to an otherwise jaded reality.

Film Review:- Café (2010)

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Dir:- Marc Erlbaum

Starr:- Jennifer Love Hewitt, Alexa Vega, Jamie Kennedy, Michaela McManus, Daniel Eric Gold

The tagline for Café should serve as a warning of the ninety-plus minutes that are to follow. It asks, ‘What if the world you lived in weren’t real?’ and then proceeds to offer up an answer to that particular Philosophy 101 question that is so interminably twee and dull that it makes a years worth of Dawson’s Creek re-runs seem instantly preferable.

The film opens obliquely on a shot of the café that will serve as its sole location, just as it is being approached by four armed police officers. The clientele are evacuated from the premises and then a burst of gunfire sounds out, the scene cuts to the movie title and then the irritating, oft-repeated, motif of a section of butterfly wallpaper. It is no spoiler to mention that the film ends on this same shot, as the butterfly design comes to life and takes off. Quite what Erlbaum is intending with this shot doesn’t reward closer scrutiny. This is the key problem with quirky ensemble pieces like Café, they tend toward presenting some facile allegorical narrative, replete with cod-philosophising, that gradually untethers the characters from any semblance of reality. Occasionally such plot and character abstractions are a conscious product of the director’s story choices, with the mood evoked being worth sacrificing any attempt at verisimilitude. The resulting film may be difficult to watch, but at least it remains aesthetically coherent (3 Backyards for example). Erlbaum’s movie, however, in spite of all its myriad pretensions, comes across as a particularly callow and naive cinematic work, that explores its character’s lives with all of the acuity and perspicacity of a self-absorbed, twenty-something, art student.

It could have been so much better, as for the first twenty minutes the film develops an intriguing rhythm, shuffling through the various conversations of the easygoing coffeeshop community. In these initial exchanges it appears to be playing out like a well-lit, Starbucks sponsored rendition of Richard Linklater’s Slacker, but, oh how quickly such comparisons are forgotten. Veering away from a freewheeling, dialogue-heavy, eavesdropping approach to the café clientele, Erlbaum tries to crowbar ill-fitting plot dynamics into the limiting space of his single location (a feat that further demonstrates the ingenuity of a film like Buried). Before long the film becomes a series of non-events involving a handful of loyal customers, spread out over the week preceding the opening scene.

The most awkward role in the entire movie belongs to comedian Jamie Kennedy (looking somewhat paunchier than he used to), who seems thoroughly bored as the most unconvincing drug-dealer this side of The Trip. Whatever talent Kennedy possessed has long since evaporated and here his presence is the first significant indicator that Erlbaum’s film will ultimately disappoint. At the centre of the ensemble cast is the relationship between Daniel Eric Gold’s Todd and Jennifer Love Hewitt’s Claire. They appear to be the sole employees of the café, with one covering the morning shift, and the other the evening shift. Todd is a guileless young musician who is absolutely smitten with Claire. Throughout the movie he tries to overcome his romantic ineptitude and express how he feels, but Claire is already shacked up with an all too possessive boyfriend. Claire appears to be setup as an ‘interesting’ collision of recklessness and compassion (she has tattoos, buys starving junkies food and gives charitable donations from her tips), but, despite some reasonable work from a slightly world-weary JLH, the character never really develops beyond the level of cliché. Erlbaum does manage to elicit one powerful scene from Gold and JLH, when Todd finally verbalises a little of his attraction to Claire and they share a brief, but surprisingly tender, kiss.

The employees are unaware of who their boss, Mr. Green (played by English actor Richard Short), actually is, but it comes as no surprise when he is revealed to be an almost parodic representation of the coffeshop writer and pseudo-intellectual. Erlbaum clearly desires Green to signify some metafictional, God-like presence (something that Madeline Carroll’s precocious Elly ultimately fulfills), but once more the glaring obviousness of the script is not up to the task of subtly delineating a ‘magical realist’ reality in which this role might be invested with a faint whiff of profundity. An even worse offender, in this regard, is the geekish, obese, mentally unstable man, played by Hubbel Palmer, and referred to as Avatar. This character first sees the teenaged Elly on his laptop, where she appears to be talking to him on Skype, or some other video-call technology. Elly tells him that she is a programmer who has invented the world and all those people within it, thus Avatar, as this name might suggest, is no more real than a Sim. It is through Palmer’s Avatar character that we see the café breakout into an absurd dance routine, as well as hear an animated butterfly sing him the lyrics of Bow Wow Wow’s ‘I Want Candy’. These moments of visual eccentricity have been done to death within American independent cinema and as with the wallpaper motif, they offer little of even poetic depth. Avatar and Elly are also the central players in the risible concluding sequence, which attempts to suggest that unselfish self-sacrifice is the way toward enlightenment.

A further significant strand of the plot is taken up by three black Philadelphian characters – the film is nominally set in Philadelphia, although you’d barely know it. One of these figures is Kevin C Walls’s Officer Hesler, who is a patrol officer and cousin to the troubled junkie Tommy (played by Garett Hendricks). Once again Erlbaum fails to establish a meaningful relationship between these two supposed relatives. Tommy’s backstory is briefly outlined in supremely functional dialogue exchanges with both Jamie Kennedy’s Glenn (a friend from college, now turned dealer) and Cecelia Ann Birt’s patronisingly titled Earth Mother. This latter figure is interviewing young people to assist in some kind of inner city outreach mentoring scheme. Perversely some of the best sections of dialogue are given to this character, which helps to distract the viewer from further crude characterisation, in the shape of those people she interviews for the post.

Café seemed thoughtful and a little intriguing when it pencilled in the initial dialogue exchanges between the various members of its ensemble cast. However, by the time these figures come around for a second day of conversation, the dialogue is already running out of places to explore in this absurdly circumscribed non-existent world. Unlike the two moviegoers that engage in a momentary attraction to one another and opt to see the same film again as the foundation of their second date, it is doubtful there will be many repeat viewers of this aimless little failure of a film.

Film Review:- Drive (2011)

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Dir:- Nicholas Windig Refn

Starr:- Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brookes, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman, Christina Hendricks

With so much excellent dramatic content surfacing on television at the moment cinema is looking an increasingly moribund artistic medium. It is left to geekish stylists like the Danish-American filmmaker Refn to fill the void vacated by the vast majority of ‘independent’ auteurs over the last fifteen years. Rewind to the mid-90’s and it looked as if cinema was in impossibly rude health, with Steve Soderbergh and Quentin Tarantino bringing the ‘independent’ sensibilities of Jarmusch, Lynch and Spike Lee into the heart of the mainstream. Much as the late 60’s and early 70’s ‘independent’ American cinema eventually spawned a generation of talent that would make the ‘blockbuster’ a preferred studio vehicle, so the late 70’s and 80’s ‘new-wave’ reaction inspired the calculated cinematic cool of Tarantino and the endless self-referentiality of Soderbergh. Just as ‘indie’ film seemed to be an omnipresent feature of any money-hoovering studio release roster, cinema entered the economic spiral from which it is still struggling to emerge. Around the turn of the century it became increasingly difficult for young filmmakers to find avenues for cinematic expression outside of the hothoused studio conventionalism of Hollywood. More money was being generated, but from fewer pictures, with studios seeming increasingly reluctant to finance anything that didn’t have the requisite ‘pull’ of a big star, or a SFX gimmick, and very few features being made at all outside of the Hollywood/Bollywood film factories. In this environment a director of Refn’s visual prowess may look as visionary as a Tarkovsky, or as stylish and coolly cerebral as a Kubrick.

Whilst nowhere near as powerful as intricate cinematic masterworks like The Mirror or Barry Lyndon, Drive’s synthetic, plastic, retro charms are without a doubt a challenge to the rest of North American and European cinema. Populating his fragmented Los Angeles urban sprawl with notable small-screen performers, such as Cranston (star of the superb Breaking Bad) and Hendricks (one of the many excellent qualities to be found in AMC’s Mad Men), whilst disinterring the likes of Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman from their usual smartmouthed, wise-cracking support turns, Refn has critically insulated his extremely capable star coupling of Gosling and Mulligan, making it almost impossible for their performances to fail. Gosling, in particular, as the laconic unnamed Driver, delivers a performance that channels the very best elements of Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen, reminding us of just how promising a talent he was when he first broke onto the scene in The Believer. Despite intermittent performances of subtlety and craft in the intervening decade (Half Nelson, Lars and the Real Girl) there has also been a lot of overblown nonsense clogging up his CV (Fracture, Murder by Numbers, The Notebook). Hopefully this movie (which looks set to mark the start of a rewarding period of collaboration with Refn) is the better indicator of which way Gosling’s career is headed, rather than the askew ‘dramedy’ of Crazy, Stupid Love. Likewise, Mulligan, who was simply exceptional in An Education, further reinforced the impression, that alongside Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, Jane Eyre, In Treatment), she will be at the vanguard of the Hollywood A-List for decades to come.

The movie seems to be almost timeless, with only a few technological references confirming that events are occurring in present-day LA. Refn enhances this sense of period drift by incorporating a primarily retro-sounding, synth-heavy soundtrack and wrapping the film up in the garish neon titling of mid-80’s works like Miami Vice and Footloose. The magpie aesthetic of modern Hollywood filmmakers is very much in evidence, with Michael Mann, Monte Hellman, Joseph Sargent, Don Siegel and Sam Peckinpah all being touchstones for the tone, look and feel of Drive. However, aside from the Mann-like clinical framing and pacing and a Hellmanesque obsessive visual detailing of cars in motion, the movies that it seems to owe the largest debts to are Richard C. Sarafian’s 1971 cult-classic Vanishing Point and the French neo-noir Le Samourai by Jean-Pierre Melville. Whereas Refn’s 2008 feature Bronson, starring Tom Hardy, seemed to revel in the paradox of the central character’s disconcertingly organised (and seemingly ponintless) eruptions of chaos and violence, Drive is a much more restrained, and hybrid, beast.

Gosling’s Driver is a stuntman and a professional getaway driver, who carries out both jobs with a control, meticulousness and precision that belies the risk and danger that they involve. There are reservoirs of rage and violence held deep in check within Gosling, that seep out as if being pressed from an ancient wound that will never heal. A man that requires such perfection and attention to detail in his everyday work has clearly been deprived of necessary structure at some crucial stage in his development. Do not expect Refn to signpost any easy pop-psychology for you though, as the Driver remains as impenetrable as Delon’s hitman, or Eastwood’s more mystic Western roles. During his first encounters with Irene and her son, who live next door to him, Gosling’s wilful, yet benign, silences seem to push certain scenes to the very limit of awkward tension, whilst increasing the enigmatic allure of the central character. Oddly the Driver and Irene never seem to fully consummate their relationship, with Gosling, despite his violent threat, appearing almost asexual and childlike, particularly in his interactions with Irene’s young son.

Bryan Cranston plays Shannon who acts as both father-figure/mentor and exploiter-in-chief toward his sullen young charge. Perhaps the most strongly realised relationship in the movie, alongside Brooks’ and Perlman’s  ‘Odd Couple’ business partnership, Cranston’s nervous energy and eagerness to please complements Gosling’s inward-reaching performance. Brooks and Perlman deserve a mention for inhabiting roles that we seldom see them drift into. Perlman’s doltish Mafioso is all lumbering heft and physical animal threat, whilst Brooks, so good at comically raging against the cosmos, here inhabits the coldly calculating numbers man Bernie Rose so convincingly that it is hard to believe nobody has thought of him for such a role before.

The film, with its pared down and lean narrative structure, barely wastes a scene and yet never seems to be rushed. Refn should be commended for demonstrating, against the current Hollywood trend, that a film need not be stretching to two hours, or more, to rival television in dramatic complexity or narrative power. In fact with its frequently ingenious chase sequences and disarmingly violent action sequences, the movie seems to fulfil Refn’s requirement of blending the sexual and the violent almost seamlessly, so that the two layers of tension are drawn tightly together around the small, fragile lives that are at the heart of the drama. Films like Drive  reawaken the pleasure of the cinematic experience within you. Forget the bovine 3D CGI gimmickry of Avatar, it is for movies like Drive that the cinema is ideally suited. A heist film that turns LA into a claustrophobic purgatory out of which seemingly no-one can escape, Drive is one of the most satisfying films of the year. Refn frequently amps up the hideous, unswerving tension by utilising expressive sound (the creaking leather of the Driver’s gloves, the distinct modulations in engine noise, the deafening sounds of close range gunfire) in a fetishistic fashion that locks the audience into the clearly defined parameters of this seductive, yet uncompromising, narrative world, till it has a velvet-gloved vice-like grip upon your jugular.