Monday, June 1, 2015


Lost River. Ryan Gosling's directorial debut. Where do I even begin? First of all, this movie isn't as terrible as some people made it out to be (it was booed at Cannes last year). Personally, I thought it was pretty cool (well...the first hour at least, but we'll get in to that later). Lost River is pretty much the outcome of Terrence Malick & Nicholas Winding Refn rubbing off on Ryan Gosling in a major way (Malick & Refn were the last two filmmakers Gosling worked with). Lost River also deserves some comparison to the work of Stanley Kubrick & David Lynch. I normally hate when recent "weird" movies are compared Kubrick & Lynch because that's such a cliche thing to do, but Gosling mimics some of Lynch's work right down to the color scheme.  There's a night club scene in the first act of Lost River that is heavily inspired by Blue Velvet & Mulholland Drive. There's also a lot of Kubrick-esque hallway shots (like in The Shining) and there's always the threat of the unknown like in Eyes Wide Shut...

Mulholland Drive / Lost River
Mulholland Drive / Lost River

But Malick & Refn are the true inspirations here (for those of you confused at the Malick/Gosling connection, they recently collaborated on a movie that has yet to be released).

The Thin Red Line / Lost River
The New World / Lost River
Five minutes in to Lost River we see a red-headed mother in a sundress (Christina Hendricks) twirling around on her front lawn with her young son which is obviously something right out of Malick's Tree Of Life. A lot of the editing, dialogue & camerawork in Lost River is sprawling & "jazzy" and it's kind of made up of unfinished thoughts & ideas just like a lot of Malick's post-Thin Red Line work (that's not an insult either. I kind of like that sketchbook/unfinished style of filmmaking).
Later on we get scenes of neon-lit night clubs & synth-heavy background music which is right out of the cinema of Nicholas Winding Refn who's been synonymous with Gosling for the last couple of years.
I like Malick & Refn so you can imagine their styles mixed together would intrigue me. But no matter how much I kind of enjoyed this, it's still a train wreck of a movie that I could never defend or try to convince someone else to like. It's a pretty-looking train wreck, but still...a train wreck nonetheless.
Lost River does have a plot but it's really not all that important. This is visual masturbation at it's finest (something Gosling probably picked up from Nicholas Winding Refn). I guarantee if you asked someone what this movie is about they’d have a tough time explaining but they'd have no problem talking about all the cool-looking imagery...

Lost River follows “Bones” - a young man living with his mother (Hendricks) & younger brother in a sort of trippy post-apocalyptic vision of Detroit. Most of Detroit has been buried in a flood and what's left is a ghost town reminiscent of the exterior scenes in Eraserhead. Bones is at odds with the local sadistic Bully while his mother is forced to take odd jobs (...literally) so that she can keep her house.
Gosling has described Lost River as a fairytale when in reality it's kind of a nightmare both in a good way (some of the visuals are very striking & profound) and also a very bad way (in the last 30 minutes the plot kind of goes “bye-bye” and you're forced to sit through a messy neon nightmare of forced weirdness).

I find it problematic that a lot of filmmakers have this recent strange romanticized vision of Detroit as this rotting, ugly, dirty place. I know Detroit is a troubled city and has been for years, but filmmakers like Jim Jarmusch (Only Lovers Left Alive), Jose Padilha (Robocop), Camille Delamarre (Brick Mansions) & Gosling (Lost River) seem to think there's something “cool” about a post-apocalyptic/dystopian Detroit. With all these films set in the motor city, I wonder if anyone is putting back in to the community in order to give it life once again or do people want Detroit to stay fucked so they can have a cool location to shoot in. It's just like with The Beasts Of The Southern Wild in that the filmmaker wants us to think these dumb characters are happy dysfunctional drunks who look forward to the oncoming flood that's about to destroy what's left of their community.

Lost River is the perfect example of why directors are a key ingredient in filmmaking. Sometimes they're needed in order to tell an actor “No. That idea is stupid.” Directors certainly have their problems & insecurities but so do actors. They can be very egotistical & bullheaded. From Werner Herzog & Klaus Kinski to David O. Russell & Lilly Tomlin, we've seen plenty examples of directors clashing with actors over artistic freedom. The cast of Lost River is made up of Gosling's actor friends & former collaborators (Christina Hendricks, Eva Mendes, Ben Mendelssohn, etc). On some level this movie felt like actors trying to cut out the director so they can do whatever they want which is kind of problematic. Actors need guidance and that's definitely the case here. By the one hour mark this movie REALLY starts to drag to a grueling super strange finish (I found myself asking when & how is this going to end). I felt like I was watching a collage of acting reels. Ben Mendelssohn is a unique actor but at certain points Lost River felt like Gosling was just trying to showcase how creepy & menacing he can be. I'd be lying if, at times, I didn’t think Lost River would have made an interesting 20 minute short or a loose long-form narrative music video. With Lost River Ryan Gosling is an actor trying his hand at directing. I don’t know if I consider him an actual director/filmmaker yet.

I was still intrigued by this movie so much that I watched it twice in a 24 hour period (I did rent it off of Google play and I wanted my money's worth). Chromatics/Desire front-man Johnny Jewel really stretched as a film score composer and played an integral part in the film. While synthesizers still remain the backbone in his work, he played with more ambient sounds, didn’t stick to any kind of musical grid and found his “inner Brian Eno” (the music in Lost River is way more mature and less derivative than his music used in Drive & Bronson).

Lost River / Knight Of Cups

Lost River also has me anticipating Malick's Knight Of Cups even more as it looks like a combination of typical Malick (dreamy voice-over narration, off-kiltered cinematography, poetic ambiance, etc) mixed with the neon synthesized filmmaking style of Nicholas Winding Refn.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...