I shall be trying The Non Demon on for size, looking at its patterns and judging its look to decide if it’s a runway hit or fashion weak. So read on only if you’ve already seen The Non Demon, or don’t plan to.
0:03:22 Note the contrast between the blue dress and the red blood. This is important because symbolism.
[N.B. Natasha Braier, the Director of Photography on The Neon Demon, says in an interview with The Guardian that the blue is symbolic of the myth of Narcissus (a Greek hunter who falls in love with his own reflection and stares at it until he dies) and that red is symbolic of danger. It’s also used to represent Ruby — every scene with her includes the colour (down to her name!)]
0:05:51 After the shoot, in the dressing room, the model Jesse (Elle Fanning) meets makeup artist Ruby (Jena Malone playing a shade of red). Jesse admits she’s newer to L.A. than the latest designer drug.
[N.B. Linked to the myth of Narcissus, the observant viewer will remark the abundance of mirrors in this film. The characters, like Narcissus, are obsessed to death with their own images/reflections. In this scene, for example, both Ruby and Jesse stare at their own reflections.]
0:07:32 The music playing as they enter the party is ‘Mine’ by Sweet Tempest.
0:08:41 In the bathroom at the party where Ruby takes Jesse to meet her model friends Gigi (Bella Heathcote, whom we saw in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) and Sarah (Abbey Lee, who was in both Mad Max: Fury Road and Gods of Egypt).
Gigi: God, I love this colour on me.
Ruby: Red Rum.
The colour red and a murder reference. There’s enough symbolism here to choke a model.
[N.B. Note the triangle necklace on Gigi’s bosoms. The triangle is a big theme in The Neon Demon as it represents the female pubic area (and the desires lying within) and femininity in general. You’ll also see the mirror motif is repeated here.]
0:20:07 Jesse goes to a modelling agency and the boss (Christina Hendricks as Roberta Hoffmann), tells Jesse she’s going to be even bigger than Kim K’s asset.
0:20:32 WTF!? Back at her flea bag hotel, when Jesse forges her parents’ signature on the permission form, she signs it right to left, not left to right! Is the reason we haven’t met her folks that they’re in Isis?
[N.B. The pose Jesse strikes is reminiscent of witchcraft and Wiccans, who worship the moon. There are other references to this belief in the film, including the triangle symbol.]
0:26:24 Jesse goes out for a drive with the young photographer (Karl Glusman as Dean) who took the shots at the beginning of the film. Here he takes a different sort of shot — even after learning she’s only just turned 16 — but has to settle for a handshake. Frustrated, her hand isn’t the only thing he’ll be shaking tonight.
0:30:26 After the date, Jesse returns to her cheap hotel to find her room is infested by a mountain lion. This is only the first pussy in this film.#keanureeves #catty 🐱
0:34:52 Jesse goes to be photographed by Jack (Desmond Harrington, whom I remember well as Joseph ‘Joey’ Quinn in Dexter). He insists everyone leave because it’s a “closed set”. The set may be closed but his mind seems open.
[N.B. The necklace Jack is wearing is decidedly more phallic than the one Gigi sported at 8:41.]
0:39:18 Jack instructs her to undress, turns out all of the lights and finger paints her body with more gold than Saddam Hussein’s trophy room.
0:42:52 Ruby meets Gigi and Sarah at a local diner. When she explains Jack photographed Jesse, the other models are surprised. Sarah is jealous, yet Gigi is in denial.
Gigi: Jack shoots me all the time.
Sarah: That’s not gonna last.
Gigi: What’s that supposed to mean?
Sarah: It means your expiration date is almost due. Who wants sour milk when you can get fresh meat?
Who wants sour milk even when you can’t get fresh meat?
[N.B. As to what the women represent, director Nicolas Winding Refn says in a Slant magazine interview, “You have Abbey Lee, who’s external beauty, Bella Heathcoate is a woman who tries to recreate beauty artificially, and then you have Jena Malone—who’s all about inner beauty, virginity, and innocence.”]
0:47:12 At a casting call for a fashion show, the designer (Alessandro Nivola as Roberto Sarno) ignores Sarah and falls in love with Jesse the moment he espies her. Sarah sheds a tear but Jesse fits his pattern.
0:50:24 In the lav afterwards, Sarah has broken the mirror and destroyed her photo book. Jesse tries to help her, and cuts her hand on a shard of glass. Sarah sucks as much blood from the wound as she can, until Jesse stops her. Sarah is hungry…for success.
[N.B. If you like the cannibalism here, you’re in for a treat later on! And here we have more mirrors!]
0:51:42 Ruby goes to her other job, making up bodies at a funeral parlour. It’s the same as her first job, except here the corpses are horizontal.
0:53:44 Refn decides to play that Facebook click bait game with symbols.
0:56:06 Dean pays the hotel manager (Keanu Reeves as Hank, and, don’t fret, I understand you readers hate it when I point out what a shite actor he is, so I’ll keep mum and go on pretending with the rest of you) for the damage caused to the hotel room by the mountain lion.
Hank: I just wanna make sure you’re getting something out of this deal. ‘Cause if you’re not, got plenty of other girls here. Take a peek in room 214 if you get a chance. Rented it this week to a girl from Sandusky, Ohio. Runaway. Thirteen years old. Real Lolita shit. Real Lolita shit.
Said the proctologist.
0:58:36 Note the red and blue makeup sketch, because this film is dyeing to be symbolic.
0:59:36 At Sarno’s fashion show, Gigi treats Jesse like a peasant and explains how she’s been re-modelled. But then Sarno chooses Jesse to close the show. Gigi’s indifference, like her surgery, is purely cosmetic.
1:03:03 During the show, the light on Jesse’s face changes from blue to red to signify her loss of innocence and her entrance into the ‘biz’. This entire scene with its cheesy music and cheesy lighting and cheesy experimental camera angles is so ugly 80s that my laughter sounds like a groan.
1:03:57 Even the triangles change from blue to red, just to let you know how seriously this film takes itself.
1:09:08 At a restaurant with Sarno and Gigi… After a debate on how inner beauty pales in comparison to physical beauty in the real world, the new, hardened Jesse mistreats Dean. She’s grown up and a set of balls
1:14:12 Because I loathe dream sequences and this film has it out for me, Jesse has a dream in which the manager sneaks into her room and slides a knife into her mouth while she sleeps. #sharptongued
[N.B. Director Nicolas Winding Refn has this to say about the scene, “…that’s where the movie touches upon Jesse’s fear of penetration, and that’s what she imagines. That’s her nightmare about the predatorial aspect of the film, because beauty is not about just what you look like, it’s also what other people want from the inside — youth, perfection, purity, and virginity.”]
1:16:16 Then, back to reality, the manager (we assume) decides to ‘buttonhole’ the child in the next room instead. Jesse decides to listen rather than call the police. Perhaps there was nothing on the telly.
1:17:14 Jesse phones Ruby…
Jesse: I didn’t know who to call.
Uhh, the police maybe?
1:17:38 Ruby tells Jesse to leave the hotel and stay with her in a creepy mansion.
Ruby: Come here. You’re gonna be safe.
Famous last words.
1:18:36 The way Ruby is dolling herself up and kissing the air while Jesse is in the shower, makes it clear the role Ruby’s playing in this melodrama is that of ‘obsessed fan’.
1:22:08 Jesse thwarts Ruby’s ardent advances and Ruby doesn’t just take it badly, she takes it stalker badly.
1:26:02 After seeing a dead face drawn with lipstick on a mirror, Jesse passes yet another savage cat, this one stuffed. There are more bad signs here than a deaf people’s bar at happy hour.
1:28:01 Ruby begins seducing one of the cadavers she’s prepping, and she’s not getting much resistance.
1:28:32 Meanwhile, Jesse decides to lose her virginity to the person she loves most in the world. Herself.
[N.B. Is the necrophilia actually happening, or is Jesse fantasising it as she masturbates?]
1:29:07 My favourite scene of the film. Ruby spits into the dead woman’s mouth to lubricate the kisses.
1:33:08 Back at the mansion that evening, Jesse stands on a diving board contemplates an empty pool of darkness.
1:34:18 Turning her back on Gigi, who’s arrived at the mansion, Jesse is caught off guard by Sarah, who jumps out of nowhere and punches Jesse. Jesse’s face is a hit.
1:35:54 Ruby pushes Jesse backwards into the empty pool, where the young woman dies from the fall. It’s only fair, Jesse did push Ruby over the edge, after all.
1:37:31 The women decide to bathe in Jesse’s blood, no doubt hoping to ingest some of her essence into themselves.
1:37:38 Gigi and Sarah shower together to wash away the blood. Intellectual soft porn.
1:38:08 Sarah and Gigi have a ‘hot’ shower 🔥🚿
1:39:00 The next morning, a topless Ruby waters the bushes. Because art.
1:41:08 Naked in the moonlight, Ruby lies on the floor and expels enough blood from between her legs to paint a nice-sized living womb.
[N.B. Refn explains this by saying, “Jena Malone’s character, who initiates this whole ceremony of beauty, menstruates again, has something flowing through her.” In other words, he has no idea what happened. Also remark, the feminine motif rears its ugly head here once again with the blood, the menstruation and the moon.]
1:43:28 Jesse and Sarah go to a beach house for a photo shoot and Sarah strikes up a conversation with another model [Dani Seitz as Young model/Annie] during makeup.
Annie: You ever had a girl screw you out of a job?
Annie: So, what did you do about it?
Sarah: I ate her.
And not even “out”.
1:45:24 Jack [the photographer from 34:52] spots Sarah waiting for Gigi and decides to fire Annie and replace her with Sarah. Sarah has that look of, “I am who I eat.”
1:49:16 Gigi runs off the set to throw up an eyeball. See what she’s doing there?
Gigi: I need to get her out of me.
She takes a pair of dress maker’s shears and jabs them into her stomach. This film has ‘pulled a Jesse’ and gone off the deep end.
[N.B. Refn explains “Bella Heathcote, who wants to manufacture her own beauty, dies — because that’s the one thing that you can’t do.” In other words…no, sorry, I’ve no idea what he’s on about. “You can’t have plastic surgery to make yourself beautiful because then real beauty will kill you?” WTF!?]
1:50:21 WTF!? Gigi dies miraculously quickly as Sarah watches on, yet no one (not Jack, not the makeup staff, not the technicians, not the lighting people) think to find out why one model ran of the shoot holding her stomach and the other disappeared just after?
[N.B. According to Refn, “And then there’s Abbey Lee, the supermodel, who felt like a ghost, but finds everything within her again, by eating the thing that Jesse is.” WTF!? Abbey/Sarah didn’t feel like a ghost, people treated her like a ghost.]
[N.B. The reason NWR dedicated the film to Liv Corfixen, his wife: “She was the idea behind the film. Two years ago, I woke up depressed one morning. I wasn’t born beautiful, but my wife was. And I thought, ‘I wonder what it’d be like to have been born beautiful.’ And of course, there’s a sixteen-year-old girl in every man. This is a way to do my version of her. It made sense going from Drive, which was the height of masculinity, and my own fetishization of a hero, and even Only God Forgives, where Ryan’s character is my own male obsession deconstructing itself and emasculating itself, trying to crawl back into the womb of the mother. And now, I am reborn as a sixteen-year old girl. In the end, beauty was what I was making a film about, and the only person I knew around me who was beautiful was my wife.”]
1:52:34 The song at the closing credits is “Waving Goodbye”, by Sia.
- WTF!?’s: 6 worn out ones
- When to Follow: When you want to see models’ milk sacks but your girlfriend won’t let you watch porn. Or when you’re 15 and want to pretend to be intellectual.
- Where’s This Found: The Neon Demon is the Kim Kardashian of art films, only wanting to be talked about for how camp it is. Where it tries to be like David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive it’s a dead end. Where it tries to be artistic, it’s kitsch. When it tries to be highbrow, it comes across as pseudo-intellectual. It’s over-stylised, artsy drivel that isn’t even new: director Ken Russell (Tommy, Gothic, The Lair of the White Worm) has been churning out the same genre of nonsense since 1971. Out of a possible 10, I have 4 F’s to give (and those only for the actresses)
- What To Feedback:
[N.B. One reader left the comment “enjoyed the weirdness and retro visuals”, so that has been added to the selection. Two other recent comments were also made recently: “should have read a review or synopsis – didn’t… regret” and a reader after my own heart wrote “WHAT THE FUCK”, so I’ve included those options as well. “Shite!” was also added recently as a comment, so I’ve given you some of that, as well.]
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