The 2013 Cannes Review Report: 'Only God Forgives'

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by Matt Singer
May 22, 2013 9:33 AM
6 Comments
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"Only God Forgives."

The Cannes Review Report rounds up each day's notable premieres, along with a sampling of their reviews and tweets from the south of France. Here's the reaction to "Only God Forgives," the new film from Nicolas Winding Refn, the director of "Drive."

"Only God Forgives"
Category: Competition
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm
Synopsis: "Julian, an American fugitive from justice, runs a boxing club in Bangkok as a front for his drug business. His mother, the head of a vast criminal organization, arrives from the US to collect the body of her favorite son, Billy. Julian’s brother has just been killed after having savagely murdered a young prostitute. Crazy with rage and thirsty for vengeance she demands the head of the murderers from Julian. But first, Julian must confront Chang, a mysterious retired policeman -- and figurehead of a divine justice -- who has resolved to scourge the corrupt underworld of brothels and fight clubs."

Reviews:

Mark Adams, Screen Daily:

"A mesmerisingly moody and stylishly violent crime drama."

Ryland Aldrich, Twitch:

"Get ready, the most badass art film ever is coming your way."

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian:

"An emotionally breathtaking, aesthetically brilliant and immensely violent thriller."

Dave Calhoun, Time Out London:

"Style over substance doesn’t really tell the half of it: you can bathe a corpse in groovy light and dress it in an expensive suit, but in the end that rotting smell just won't go away."

Peter Debruge, Variety:

"As hyper-aggressive revenge fantasies go, it's curious to see one so devoid of feeling."

Jessica Kiang, The Playlist:

"Delivers what we might have thought we wanted but with diminishing returns: Refn's trademark visual style is indulged to a dizzying degree (to an almost self-parodic extreme in the early stages) but is unmoored to any kind of satisfying or coherent narrative throughline."

Geoffrey Macnab, The Independent:

"Visually, this is stunning fare."

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter:

"A menacingly atmospheric mood piece that will not disappoint devotees of the Nicolas Winding Refn church of fetishistic hyper-violence."

Sasha Stone, Awards Daily:

"This film, 'Only God Forgives,' is a single layer deep. There is nothing more to it."

Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere:

"Movies really don't get much worse than Nicholas Winding Refn's 'Only God Forgives.' It's a shit macho fantasy."

Damon Wise, Empire:

"Larry Smith's cinematography is superb, and his crisp, sometimes hallucinatory visuals are complimented by Cliff Martinez's thrumming score."

Tweets:

Robbie Collin, The Telegraph:

"Only God Forgives is a beautiful disaster. Really doesn't work in the slightest, but very happy it exists. #Cannes2013"

William Goss, MSN Movies:

"Only God Forgives: despite a stoic Gosling, closer to what Refn's done besides Drive/Pusher - slow, surreal, occasionally violent. #Cannes"

Jordan HoffmanFilm.com:

"I am officially announcing that ONLY GOD FORGIVES gets better the more you think about it."

Guy Lodge, HitFix:

"ONLY GOD FORGIVES (C+) Sort of transfixing as lacquered blood ballet; as storytelling, it never shows up. Crushing on KST et Cliff Martinez."

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune:

"Hilarious number of journos at #Cannes2013 post-ONLY GOD FORGIVES now saying: "Well, I take back what I wrote about DRIVE/BRONSON etc etc."

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6 Comments

  • Luis | May 22, 2013 11:02 AMReply

    Wow, only American critics. How predictable! Insular to the bone, as always.

  • Michael M. | May 22, 2013 9:55 AMReply

    Haha I love how divisive the film's reception is, just gives it another layer of notoriety. Really though, why are all of the critics fixated on the narrative deformation of the film? it's a Winding Refn film. His film's cater towards heightened expressionism and subtlety. They're designed to be evocative experiences, rather than the usual formulaic structure of commercialized films. If you wanted a typical narrative film than I'd recommend Avengers, that's a film I'm sure the masses can all follow, lots'a pretty effects and obvious expositions.

  • @MICHAEL M. | May 22, 2013 3:02 PM

    No, film as an art form is a visual-aural experience. This idea that you can just frame shots well and light things elegantly without any consideration of the matter being filmed and edited is laughable. Rhythm, ideas, story (where applicable), acting, are all part of the soup, and Refn is a shitty conceptualist.

  • Michael M. | May 22, 2013 11:47 AM

    Maybe he's referencing to the actual physical representation of the format? or perhaps he's attempting to convince me that "Lincoln" was the greatest cinematic achievement ever accomplished.

  • @@MICHAEL M | May 22, 2013 10:32 AM

    What does "one dimensional" filmmaking mean? Photography IS film. And this looks better than 99% of the over-done, self-indulgent, mumblecore, tedium that gets praise from 20-something critics almost daily.

  • @Michael M. | May 22, 2013 10:20 AM

    More apologia for one-dimensional filmmaking. There's nothing evocative in lazy attempts to mask utter tedium with some stylish photography.

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