I always meant to give Only God Forgives a second chance. I saw it at 8:30 AM at the Cannes Film Festival which, while a thrilling experience, was also exhausting for a challenging film. I never did watch Only God Forgives but now I’ve seen the film about the making of Only God Forgives twice (at Fantastic Fest last year and now for the theatrical and VOD release Feb 27).
Liv Corfixen, Refn’s wife, brought the family to Bangkok while he filmed Only God Forgives, because as difficult as that would be, being apart for the entire shoot would be even harder. Corfixen captures some of the filming and publicity for the film, but she has exclusive access to Refn at home where he really broods about what he’s doing.
I think My Life delivers more Ryan Gosling than Only God Forgives did. Gosling is mugging for Corfixen’s camera during an analytical meeting with Refn, and he keeps playing to the camera behind the scenes. In Only God Forgives he’s holding everything back, perhaps holding back too much if my initial reaction holds true. I think he says a lot more about his character by goofing off. Granted, this character is the real Ryan Gosling.
Going behind the scenes of Only God Forgives tells us more than what remains in the film as well. We’re seeing the process of developing a look. The result of that process ended up being a somewhat plain and minimal presentation. Again, I owe the film a rewatch, and seeing the process makes me more inclined to hurry up.
Despite giving her husband directing credit in the film’s title, Corfixen knows how to frame a shot. Whether it’s just Refn in bed or a meeting with Gosling or even sitting in the limo signing autographs, she captures the scene with composition that draws the eye. At just under 60 minutes, her editing is keen also. These are the most intense and telling moments of the entire year her family spent on Only God Forgives. Not everyone could be that disciplined in distilling their own story.
When they go to Cannes, I was kind of hoping I’d show up in the background. I suppose I wouldn’t since I never ran into Refn on that trip, but I did meet Jodorowsky. Jodo appears twice in the film, so there was a chance we could’ve crossed paths, but I guess my cameo was on the cutting room floor. Corfixen did capture the rain which was indicative of my trip to Canned.
Given its length, I could understand taking advantage of the VOD option over theatrical. The film is so personal it works just as well being experienced in solitude. I always imagined Refn as a confident filmmaker who doesn’t care what anyone thinks of his films. I was wrong. He is as emotional and vulnerable as the characters in his films.