“Only God Forgives” and the spaghetti western

I really enjoyed Nicholas Winding Refn’s recent Only God Forgives (2013), though I guess I am in the minority. The movie was mezmorizing in the theatre with its rich visuals and incredible score. The movie makes obvious references to the spaghetti westerns of the 1960s and 1970s, so I thought I would poke around on the internet and see what I could find on this.


Interesting comment
in a short review Nicholas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives by M. Faust at ARTVOICE:

Gosling is also in Refn’s newest film, but don’t be expecting Drive II. Only God Forgives has a title recalling the 1968 spaghetti western Chiedi perdono a Dio… non a me (God Forgives, I Don’t). It concludes with a dedication to Refn’s friend Alejandro Jodorowsky that should have been put at the beginning of the film so that audiences familiar with Jodorowsky’s hallucinogenic oeuvre (El Topo, The Holy Mountain, Santa Sangre) would have some idea what to expect.

Looking more into this, I find this from an interview of Refn’s at We Are Movie Geeks by Melissa Howland:

You’re films kind of have a Spaghetti Western feel to them. A kind of Clint Eastwood, Sergio Leone quality – where your leading man is a “man with no name”… the strong, silent type. I’m curious if those types of movies influence you? Where do you find influence and inspiration?

NICOLAS WINDING REFN: I get influence from everywhere, of course. I’m a child of cinema. I like cinema. I can’t get enough of it. But then again, I could be looking out the window, I could be staring out a plane, I could be going on a bus brining my kids to kindergarten. I could be hearing a piece of music. Music a lot! It’s very inspiring because I don’t do drugs anymore, so music enhances my emotion, which is what you tap into to be creative. You tap into your emotions. So, it’s all over. I try not to be dogmatic about anything. I don’t get up at 9 o’clock every morning and start working unless I have to. If I don’t have to I do it at night.

From Brent Mcknight at Beyond Hollywood:

With films like “Drive,” “Bronson,” and “Valhalla Rising” on his resume, anything Nicolas Winding Refn does immediately leap frogs to the top of my must see list, especially when it involves teaming up with his handsome man muse Ryan Gosling. You can imagine that as soon as I heard about their new collaboration, “Only God Forgives,” described as a Muay Thai spaghetti western, my anticipation meter went through the roof. The trailers, posters, and pictures, all indicate a quiet, tense film, punctuated by sharp bursts of brutal violence.

Ryan Latanzio at Thompson on Hollywood:

Before the film started, Winding Refn told us that while “Drive” was like “doing cocaine all night,” “Only God Forgives” is more of “an old school acid trip.” But this film — nocturnal, deathly quiet and far more sinister — is also a more sleepy psychotropic experience. It’s David Lynch goes to Thailand to direct a spaghetti western on quaaludes

Rebecca Baker, Rushes Magazine:

The latest creation from the Dutch film maker is the red-fluorescent-twin of Drive, Only God Forgives,where Martinez’ noted piece, ‘Wanna Fight’, combines influences from the Spaghetti Western scores by Ennio Morricone to the minimalist pieces by Philip Glass. “Morricone was a strong influence in the ‘Wanna Fight’ piece, as the pipe organ is the acknowledgment of the God element,” he laughs, “while Philip Glass was an influence through his style of repetitive-minimalism with the Synthesiser.”

Glass and Morricone were not the only influences to be added to Martinez’ soundtrack, “Nicolas kept talking about these Italian horror films, so I watched a couple by Dario Argento,” who is best known for the Giallo sub-genre. “I think Brian Eno and some other composers wrote the scores for those films. That’s what I like about O-G-F the score is a mixture of influences and not just one.”

Russ Fisher, Film: Blogging the Reel World:

It’s easy to hope for, or insist on a declaration. For this movie, “I am a spaghetti western.”

Refn: Then you’re like “With my knowledge, I can categorize that.” Then it’s like, you define it, but then where is the fun? Where is the experience beyond that?

Andrew Johnson, In Reel Deep:

This is a bit of a shame because the rest of the film is captivating.It’s not just Thomas and Pansringarm, but also the city of Bangkok itself and Winding Refn’s bizarre, fascinating fixations on hands and hallways and karaoke that give it some great moments. Winding Refn is a near-master at this point of the post-Western. There are no cowboys or Indians or horses, but the Spaghetti Western influence is painfully obvious and well-crafted, whether it’s mysterious, almost nameless characters, visceral scores or exotic, seemingly limitless locales.

This is the best review that I have seen yet on the film:

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