The Neon Demon
"The violence is internal as well as on screen."

Watching the abuse of innocence is like watching a kitten explode in a microwave.

Growing up is hard to do. Growing anywhere, anyhow, means touching evil. Does the girl in the red dress expose her neck to the vampire, or does she spit in his eye?

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Jesse (Elle Fanning) has come to Los Angeles from the country. She is 16.

"I can make money out of pretty," she says when asked what she is doing there.

She has a look that the fashion world adores. You cannot define it.

"Is that your own nose?" asks one of the models.

In Fake City, genuine beauty is the golden promise. Photograph it, use it, love it before it breaks. Where are the good people? Where is kindness among this pack of vixens? Lick the blood off the floor if you must but remember that when you have the look, the one you cannot define, the one that everyone wants but cannot buy, you need protection.

Jesse learns that LA has no boundaries and no morality. Success is a weapon as well as a goal. Bodies of the hopeful lie forgotten on the sidewalk. Fashion snappers have the souls of dead people and the only god with the power to change is money.

Jesse is taken up as the next big thing. Her new found friends are necrophiliacs, lesbians and vanity prey. The history of Sodom & Gomorrah repeats itself. The fall of Rome echoes through the smog. Sex and death and torture. Better than drugs.

"You know what my mother used to call me? Dangerous."

"You're a dangerous girl. She was right."

She's dangerous because she has the look. Innocence before the fall.

This is a film that reeks of indulgence. It has originality in buckets, even in the slow passages when time runs out of breath.

Writer/director Nicolas Winding Refn has a reputation for violence (Pusher, Bronson, Drive, Only God Forgives). Here the violence is internal as well as on screen. It hurts inside and, as a result, is painful to watch.

"People see you," one of the aspiring models tells Jesse. "They notice."

In the City of Angels there are many demons and Refn writes from the dark side. To be noticed is to be marked. Perfection challenges imperfection.

And the only sound is envy.

Reviewed on: 01 Jul 2016
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A young model faces jealous rivals in LA.
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Jennie Kermode ****1/2

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Writer: Nicolas Winding Refn

Starring: Elle Fanning, Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote, Abbey Lee, Karl Glusman, Keanu Reeves, Christina Hendricks, Desmond Harrington, Alessandro Nivola

Year: 2016

Runtime: 117 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: France, US, Denmark


Cannes 2016

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