The Neon Demon: Press conference with Nicolas Winding Refn, Elle Fanning, Cliff Martinez and crew
After having split critics over his jaw-dropping The Neon Demon, Nicolas Winding Refn held an engrossing press conference with lead actress Elle Fanning, editor Matthew Newman, composer Cliff Martinez (ex-drummer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers) and producer Lene Borglum. The trio of director, editor, and composer praised each other warmly, confirming their partnership and explaining how their creative connection is at the base of their work.
Profoundly dyslexic, Winding Refn described how images, together with sound, have always been his vehicle to understand the world: his urge is to bring to life what he would like to see and what excites him, making films in an instinctive way, sometimes very puzzling even for him, but always satisfactory. He defined his own feature as “beautifully perverse”, with its total sexualisation, and talked about the erotic fantasy many have identified in The Neon Demon. According to the filmmaker, inside every man is a young girl, as a fantasy and desire, and goes back to the moment he met Elle Fanning and thought “Oh my god, you’re me”.
The Neon Demon goes to extremes in portraying the world of fashion as a dangerous meat market; many questions revolved around Elle Fanning’s own acting career (to the point that her character Jesse shares the same birthplace as Fanning). The blonde beauty started at the age of two and has grown up within the LA film industry environment. A humble girl who attends an ordinary high school, Fanning did make a link between Jesse’s character and herself. Nicolas Winding Refn also insisted The Neon Demon was built for and around Elle Fanning. Regarding the modelling world, when asked if he considers it crueler than the film industry, the confident director answered with a charming “Not an expert, baby.”
A few striking scenes from the film got special focus. Ruby’s character, played by an exceptional Jena Malone, was also complimented by Winding Refn during the press conference; her solo necrophiliac erotic scene was an effective metaphor for The Neon Demon and the director’s view of today’s beauty-obsessed society. He defined it as “very exciting, thrilling, intoxicating, terrifying” and ultimately dead, because of the unreality the digital revolution has accustomed us all to. Despite this, he stood firmly behind his wish not to make a politicised film, but rather to enter the sparkly LA world through Elle Fanning. The other vivid echo of the film was the line “Beauty is not everything, beauty is the only thing.”, which contains its essence in an aphorism: an “uncomfortable thing to think about”, it explains nonetheless the “glorious, glamorous, vulgar, and beautiful” message of The Neon Demon.
A female-driven film, the masculine characters (Winding Refn about Keanu Reeves: “Keanu with a knife in someone’s throat is just exciting; he’s the f***ing best, he’s the king.”) were intended to look like “the girlfriends in other films”, representing certain approaches of fear, control, or predatory attitude. All in all, Winding Refn returned to the idea of beauty and obsession, and as “longevity no longer exists and seems to become younger and younger” in the contemporary world, he wished to make a “horror film for teenagers”. To the negative critics, the auto-defined “Sex Pistol of film” declared: “We’re Search and Destry, man. Fuck the establishment, it’s youth culture, you can take it or leave it, but you can’t deny it. (…) Reaction is the essence of experience. Integrity, take no prisoners, no compromise.”
Photos: Clemens Bilan/Getty Images
Read our review of The Neon Demon here.
Read more of our reviews and interviews from the festival here.
For further information about Cannes Film Festival 2016 visit here.