After watching Drive in theaters last year, the two running thoughts in my head were 1.) I have some problems with the film and execution of the structure and 2.) man, what a fun film. Pure candy for cinema enthusiasts. Usually when a film irks me on small levels but I see the digestible talent in the making, it’s very easy to predict excitement for the latter will win out with everyone else. More critics than not backed up Drive. The unexpected drop came from many general people I know in the audience who get excited over Tarantino levels of violence yet could not muster much enthrallment over Drive. The disconnect seemed weird to me.
While Drive seems like a simple revenge film highlighted in an anti-hero driven to violence (played by Ryan Gosling), the film has hallmarks in Robert Bresson’s mode of character isolation. Instead of have characters dispel loneliness by lamenting on their pain verbally, the characters gravitate through life in silence and mode their drama in facial contortions. Method of storytelling this is about focusing on technical realms outside narrative. Throughout his career, Bresson highlighted stories by pushing the idea that features considered inane before could be propelled to speak a character or environment in a film.
European based, Refn gravitates toward homeland musical inspiration. The heavy techno music flow reflects a numbing of Gosling’s character and an inability to silence the debris in his life. Calm during robbery heists, his mentality lives for the rush. Techo music is structured on the idea of never ending beats that not only lack conclusion, but do not have peaks or valleys. The continuation is its own metamorphosis. During interviews, Refn acknowledged his interest in creating a Frankenstein type of monster with Gosling’s character. The image is relevant enough, but the Bresson model is overtly staged and static. There is also hints of what Jean Pierre Melville did, too. Le Samourai rings true since he tries to find some element of normalcy through a profession (hired killer in Samourai and driver for criminals in Drive) that refuses the opportunity.
The rift seems to be in the tonal decisions in Drive. Not only off putting is a lack of characterization in any typical regard, but how comfortable Refn is to utilize European music as a heavy feature creating structural tone within his film. Nicholas Winding Refn is a European counterpart to Quentin Tarantino. Implication goes deeper than geography since at the beginning of Tarantino’s career, he was happy with film references but solicitous in telling his stories through appeasing tones which was more digestible for American audiences. The perspective for Refn (at least in Drive) is that deeper reference goes beyond just number of shot references and is more structured in how a story is told.
Tarantino isn’t completely adverse to tone over scene reference. In Jackie Brown and Death Proof, he risked some alienation by altering old habits to fit new tonal qualities. The pace in the stories seemed more suited to the films he was referencing before. However, Tarantino has enough good fortune in other more appeasing work that his career wasn’t determined by those two features. Refn is new and while Bronson is getting some nods on DVD rewatching, his career is still in first impression stage. As far as his American career is concerned, he is taking the chances it took Tarantino a few memorable successes to make.
The more simple presumption why the techno soundtrack in Drive was off putting is because it was not a typical sonic decision for a thriller. As much as people want to be able to rationalize their distaste for movies, a lot of disagreement comes down to stomach disagreement. If something does not mesh with subjective senses, there is little chance for acceptance.