2008, Movies

Bronson (2008, Nicholas Winding Refn)

There are probably two types of people: people who think Winding Refn is a genius and people who think he is ponderous, boring and way too interested in style over substance. You can count me among the latter. Despite all the praise over Valhalla Rising and Drive, I found both movies to be flawed. I wanted to like the former more than I actually did, for example. Anyway, I appreciate someone who is trying to chart their own course, even if I don’t like his aesthetic, so I still watch his movies. And, for once, watching Bronson, I think maybe the hype is justified. Maybe.

This is a film that is kind of designed to piss off a certain type of person: a super-stylized version of the life of one of Britain’s most notorious prisoners which doesn’t outright condemn the man is bound to bother the same kinds of people who banned A Clockwork Orange.  I think that kind of outrage isn’t really a reasonable response to movies like this, but I can’t help enjoying imagining people losing their minds over this movie. For me, it’s far more provocative than his other films, which I like. This film is a ball of provocation which is, again, something I love, when done right.

The film is kind of incoherent, in terms of its narrative; it’s basically from Bronson’s perspective and he’s off in his own little world. He is presenting his story to an audience but that performance is more dominant in the early parts of the film than the latter. But, for me, that suits the inherent issue at hand, which is what does society do with a person they cannot break? A Clockwork Orange dealt with this issue (and related issues) in a much more nuanced, intellectual way, but it’s a question that still hasn’t been answered (and never will be) and we need bold visions like this to kind of slap us in the face that there will always be people like this. I prefer films that do this boldly, than mildly.

It’s a film like this, that is over-stylized, that is effective with such a character – whether or not that character is reflective of the real man, which I don’t care about, as this is fiction.

This is a film that I enjoyed much more than I was expecting, given how I generally feel about Winding Refn. I’m not sure I would like it the second time, but at least, today, I found it pretty funny and kind of brilliant, despite (or because of) its style.

8/10

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