Nicolas Winding Refn’s supermodel slasher movie Neon Demon premiered here in Cannes overnight - and the audience had conniptions.
Accredited press gets to see films first and jeez, they’re a very vocal lot. There's a long-running gag that has someone shout "Raoul!" - *with extra emphasis on the “oooul" - just as a film starts, in honour of a noisy latecomer some years ago, who was searching in the dark for their mate, Raoul. They boo afterwards. They hiss. They cheer. Often all at once. It’s a helluva way to watch a movie, I tell you.
No one gets the boo brigade worked up quite like Nicolas Winding Refn. Sure, he was the critics’ darling in 2011 when he and Ryan Gosling charmed with violent romance Drive, but when he returned two years later with blood soaked Freudian frenzy Only God Forgives, a few confused cranks let rip at the end credits and let everyone present – some of us who didn’t mind it, actually – know they were displeased.
Well, last night they went The Full Raoul over Neon Demon.
At the final frame of Refn’s gruesome fashion industry fairy tale, the Salle Debussy cinema erupted in boos, hisses, and barbaric yawps (behind me, someone actually bellowed “Filth!”). Some sat through the credits and then booed again. Others clapped and then clapped again. It was ridiculous. But then, so is the film.
An ‘if looks could kill’ rumination on beauty, vanity, envy and lust, Neon Demon shows a promising model getting chewed up and spat out by the she-devils of the LA fashion scene. Literally, metaphorically, anamorphically.
It’s preposterous and pretentious, epically pervy - and slow. It feels tailor made for the outrage it received (in a week of graphic sex and violence in the movies playing here in Cannes, now we can all tick 'necrophilia' off the bingocard). As interminable as it is, it's also very watchable, and every bit as fascinating and frivolous as the industry it depicts. Watching it here was a hoot, and now that I have, I never need to see it again.