Friday, October 14, 2011

Idling high. In which I put on the Gosling gloves and slap you up and down a cheap hotel room.

Drive vs. Cold Weather Round 1

Both films play with crime genre tropes.

Drive does so by framing its action in terms of previous films. Drive only makes sense in relation to other films (other sources, too: fairy tales, mythic heroes; but primarily how these stories have expressed themselves through motion pictures). It's also got at least half the right tone of a seedy pulp novel. It never rises above the sum of its parts. It's a Frankenstein monster. We're astounded to see such a creature, but we're gonna have to burn the thing before it kills any more of our children.

Cold Weather, on the other hand, roots its action in personal relationship and character.

In Drive, "what you see" is what you get. There's a cool superficiality (and I don't necessarily mean this in a bad way but I probably don't mean it in a good way either). Drive may say a lot about movies. I'm not sure that it has all that much to say about anything else.

In Cold Weather, "who you are" is what you get. It may or may not be rooted in "realism." I don't much care for that concept (see Bordwell on realism as fig leaf). It is definitely rooted in personality and personal relationships. Individual and community. One and the many.

Drive gives us fractures. Cold Weather strives toward integrity.

Katz does almost as much as Refn does to work within a genre and poke around the edges. Katz does it with warmth and personal devotion. Refn may as well be a machine.

So, Round 1?

Relational personalism trumps superficialism. I give the win to Cold Weather.

(A film-historical analogy)

Why do I prefer Cold Weather to Drive? The same reasons that Brandon prefers 400 Blows to Breathless.

Brandon may step up to defend Drive (and I hope he watches Cold Weather soon!). Maybe. I know he likes it. I like it. I also like Alphaville and Pierrot le Fou and I love Les Caribiniers.

Refn, like Godard, seems to only know how to disassemble and reassemble. Rearranging pieces, sometimes in new and even dazzling ways. Unfortunately, this dead ends in madness and despair. Godard cannot be Hawks so cinema must be dead. Refn, like Tarantino (another of Godard's bastard children), is heir to a walking corpse. They make zombie films.

Katz, like Rohmer, knows how to build on the past, both cinematic and literary, in a constructive way. There's a tiny hesitant step forward instead of a stationary dancing over graves. No matter how modest or slight his achievement may be. This is true rebel cinema that tells irony and endless recursion to go fuck themselves. Except it engages in this offense primarily by turning the other cheek. By refusing to play the game. Cynicism empties itself on the embarrassing altar of sincerity, sacrificing all bitterness and anguish in an attempt to shake out what, if anything, remains. A way forward.

Dargis nails it in her review of Cold Weather:
“With only the most natural of conversations and an exacting relay of close-ups, intimate two shots and meditative landscapes, Mr. Katz reveals how the self-knowing individual becomes known to others, and me turns into we.”

Drive, at best, offers a sick parody of this.

You guys ought to know that you're Driving waist-deep in a Godardian sewage drain while a Cold Weather current floats by lazily and peacefully at the intersection of the Rohmer river and the Truffaut creek.

(Note to self: You really need to check out Chabrol's thrillers.)

The sewage drain may be fun to play in occasionally, flinging poo at one another and soaking in the graffiti, but you aren't going to find any real sustenance there.

Ten years from now, most film nerds may be talking about Drive. And Cold Weather may be forgotten. So what? Today, Godard is reverentially worshipped and Rohmer is largely forgotten. Godard is important. He's a genius. I get it. I respect him and like some of his films. So what? In the end, Godard's films are cool; Rohmer's films are nourishing. Refn is putting on a good show. Katz is preparing a feast.

The culture of decay temporarily has the upper hand. So what?

After forty plus years, Godard has given us Film Socialisme. Rohmer gave us the sublime Romance of Astrea and Celadon before he died.

These parallels aren't perfect. We don't know yet entirely which paths either Refn or Katz will take. All things considered, I'm more interested in where Katz is headed than Refn.

Finally, a disclaimer. I've already stated several times that I like Drive. The whole purpose of all of this post is to try to express why I prefer Cold Weather to Drive. This is all offered in a spirit of playful antagonism. It's a happy accident that we're discussing these two films at the same time. I don't think that anyone else in the world is setting up a Cold Weather vs. Drive cage match. The two films are obviously trying to do different things. There's room in the world for both of them. It's still really fun to fight and I eagerly await the responses from you Driven hedonists.

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