I done this as well. It’s heaps good.
Call me maybe, Marty?
Rober De Niro on the set of Taxi Driver (1976). Photographed by Steve Schaprio
Just wrote about this guy.
Drive just keeps getting better: more layered, more complex, more amazing.
I read the November issue of Empire in my back pain drug haze and the reviewer compared Drive to Shane. The city as a parallel to the frontier, bad guys and good guys inextricably linked by violence, a young man protecting a child from the violence he is unable to escape…yep, sounds like Shane.
It also reminds me of the way Taxi Driver uses a driver as a metaphor for the cowboy, the city the wild landscape filled with ‘the other,’ stealing innocent children. Taxi Driver has been described as a contemporary version of The Searchers and it seems the case can be made for Drive being a contemporary version of Shane.
And then there’s Winding Refn’s own summation of Drive. He sees it as a modern fairy tale. A white knight rescuing a maiden from the leader of a nightmare world. From the vulnerable maiden, to the white car the Driver drives, and that the city looks ethereal at night: a maze of buildings, shadows, lights - Nino’s death by the beach shrouded in fog. And the landscape by day is no less surreal - the woods that seem to appear out of some strange exit out of an industrial landscape, the magical film set, and the bright sun shining down on the pawn shop in the Valley.
Add to that my paltry link to the American New Wave and De Palma’s work from the 1980s. If this film gets ignored at the major awards ceremonies, it’s going to be a real shame. Gosling’s other powerhouse performance is in The Ides of March, an ‘Oscar Movie’ that’s already getting awards recognition. But Drive is a far superior film and it makes me sad that I don’t expect much love from the Academy.
Please prove me wrong, guys.
I’ve been thinking Drive deserves further analysis than the hurried Haiku-like chicken scratch of a post I wrote earlier.
So a work person, knowing my ongoing love affair with film (and in particular American cinema - yeah, before you judge, guess who else loved American cinema? Hitchcock and the Cahiers du Cinema critics, bitch), and, ahem, Ryan Gosling (I may/may not have printed out Fuck Yeah, Ryan Gosling and Feminist Ryan Gosling memes and put them on my wall at work), asked me if I’d seen Drive yet. I had not.
He said, if you put Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino in a blender, Drive would be the result.
Having since seen the film, it’s a fucking amazing analogy. Scorsese’s slick analysis of violence, masculinity and the American man, the visual articulation of a vast knowledge of cinema typical of Tarantino, and the shock violence that both directors are masters at. And it’s sort of a perfect analogy of the film itself - genre and style, homage but not pastiche, the mixing of American sensibilities and a European aesthetic, blended together, its contents sprayed across the screen and the spectator’s mind like blood. I may be straying back to Dexter here…
But I digress. Though I agree wholeheartedly with the analogy, I disagree on the directors Winding Refn has cited in Drive, his essay on 80s thrillers. Because he’s not talking about Tarantino. Tarantino’s too late in the story, you see.
There’s some rather obvious nods to Scorsese (I like to call him Marty. Because one day we’ll be pals. Or I’ll be the new Leonardo DiCaprio), but the other director he clearly owes a debt to on the stylistic front is Brian DePalma.
It’s in the stylised cinematography, the simple yet effective opening credits, the sudden violence, and the clear European influences. It’s also in the story - a Hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver. It’s the dark side of this investment in glamour, in the image, that perfectly encapsulated the 1980s. It’s textbook DePalma. The shocking violence the protagonist is plunged into. DePalma. The hero ruined by his own desire. DePal- well, that’s actually a lot of directors, particularly those who direct crime thrillers.
A lot of people have said this film is an American film with a European sensibility. To that I say, yeah, well, dude, it’s a bit more complex than that. Because this is an homage to American thrillers from the 1980s that are in turn an homage to the American New Wave and those directors, some of whom were making these films (like DePalma. There, said it again. DePalma, DePalma, DePalma). It’s those directors who introduced a European sensibility, complex antiheroes and an interest in juxtaposing smooth, almost languid pacing with shocking violence. Drive is obviously inspired and influenced by films like Scarface, Dressed To Kill, Body Double, Blow-Out, Bonnie and Clyde, Mean Streets, and Easy Rider. I think while Drive has a European sensibility, it’s also wanting to reject a direct homage - as I said, it’s more like a study of American films with a European sensibility and I think the scene in which Albert Brooks talks about his career as a film producer in the 1980s reflects an interest more in DePalma and company than Louis Malle and Jean-Luc Godard. Or at the very least, it’s an examination of Hollywood’s response to other national cinemas, and other approaches to narrative.
Ultimately, Drive operates as a prime example of a genre film, in this case the crime thriller, and moreover, it speaks the language of the cinema fluently. I was talking to another work person and he was stressing the importance of a shared vocabulary and how filmmakers should be able to draw on this core understanding of cinema and say to someone, ‘I want this scene to look like the breakfast table montage from Citizen Kane,’ and the other person knows exactly what they’re talking about. I think Drive is the perfect articulation of his wish for this shared knowledge. And I think someone soon will say, ‘I want this scene to look like the scene in the strip club where Gosling is about to hammer a nail into that dude’s head.’ It’s no breakfast table montage, but in its own way it’s just as elegant, controlled, and iconic.
I’m seeing it again tomorrow night. And probably a few more times after that.