Refn and Martinez Bring 'Only God Forgives' to Austin

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Only God Forgives in Austin

Filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, Bronson) and composer Cliff Martinez (Drive, Traffic) stopped in Austin briefly last week for what was unofficially the North American premiere of Refn's latest movie, Only God Forgives, at Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter. I was at the first of two evening screenings and enjoyed a very lively post-film Q&A from Martinez and Refn (pictured above).

Tim League brought Refn on stage to introduce the film. The writer-director noted that if his previous film, Drive, was the cinematic equivalent of an all-night cocaine binge, then Only God Forgives would be "a really good old-school acid trip." (He said the same thing at the official premiere at Los Angeles Film Festival the next day, but why not? It's a great intro.) He then left the stage so we could find out exactly what that might mean.

You can read my review when the movie opens on July 19, but I will say that it took at least 12 hours for me to decide what I thought about the movie, and even now I'm not so sure. It is stunning in a very literal sense -- I got the impression I wasn't the only one who felt stunned as the closing credits rolled.

Also, I went into it completely cold: All I knew was that Refn directed it and Ryan Gosling was in it. As I got to the theater, people kept saying things to me like, "I didn't know you liked violent films," "Do you think I should eat during this movie?" and memorably from Eric Vespe of Ain't It Cool News, "In the mood for a bit of the ultraviolence tonight?" I was a little worried, being somewhat squeamish about certain depictions of violence. I remembered the time Scott Weinberg sent me to review The Collector when I knew nothing about it beforehand (dear God, the cat). Sometimes going in blind is risky. On the other hand, I loved seeing 13 Assassins at Fantastic Fest, so you never know.

And yes, Only God Forgives is an extremely violent movie, set among criminals in Hong Kong, but I felt there were clear signals before the more graphic parts were about to occur, so I could do my wussy peek-through-the-fingers move. I only actually shut my eyes once (dear God, not the eyes). Thrilling, rather than disgusting. Also, to say that this is an atypical role for Kristin Scott Thomas might be the understatement of the year.

Along with the movie, Alamo Drafthouse showed a brand-new "Don't Talk" PSA featuring Refn (probably shot hours before the screening). I don't have to describe this one, you can watch it right here:

The lively Q&A, moderated by League, covered a range of topics, from the score's creation to acid-trip tales (well, one from Martinez) to the origin of an unusual and nasty profanity uttered by Thomas's character. Many of the scenes in Only God Forgives are saturated in hues of one color, and it surprised me to learn that Refn is color blind.

If you haven't seen the poster yet, it's quite striking. Full disclosure: T-shirts with the poster graphic were given out after the movie and I took one, but I promise it will not affect my opinion of the film. A slide of the image is in the background in the photo below of Martinez, Refn and League.

Only God Forgives in Austin

[Photo credit: Jack Plunkett. Used with permission from Alamo Drafthouse.]