I’ve seen it before. It’s a cover.
I don’t mind covers. In fact, some of my favorite songs are covers. But, ones I get attached to do not replicate what was previously done. They reform it. Re-imagine its time and place.
Even when done poorly I prefer this to a well manufactured replication of a previous expression. Those feel like disingenuous captures of something that once meant a great deal, but is now subject to a Sprite spot.
Drive is in some ways a really fashionable reimagining, but it also doesn’t really do much more than eulogize. It’s beautifully shot, cut, scored, acted and directed and connected with audiences and critics alike because of its remembrance.
But, it’s not speaking to me.
Initially I got interested because of Gosling. I had been an on and off fan for a while, but then he released Dead Man’s Bones (also name of band) in 2009. The band is a creation of Gosling and his friend Zach Shields built on a love of ghosts and monsters. It’s a collaboration with the Silverlake Conservatory Children’s Choir which was started by Flea (bassist of Red Hot Chili Peppers).
The album is by far a favorite. It does the blues without trying to do the blues. It is not stuck in nostalgia, but uses a certain understanding of past ideas to unravel a new sensibility for a new world.
The album starts with the following intro:
My suitcase is packed
With all your heartbeats
So I walk to their sound
And head towards the sun
So my shadow will cover
The tears on the ground
I’m moving away from the place
Where you took your last breath
To find you, my love,
In the magic of life after death
Not unsurprisingly the album barely cracked the pop culture veneer (even with Gosling’s attachment), but that was probably by design. It was not marketed heavily as a project of Gosling’s and in the band he goes by the name Baby Goose.
Tracks like My Body’s a Zombie for You have gathered some attention due to the title (though the narrative is quite recognizable).
I can’t fit in this skin
It’s worn and useless thin
The size of the eyes and the flies in the sky
Make it hard to see, to the end
And then there are tracks like Pa Pa Power
Pa pa power, pa pa power
Please make me better
We won’t destroy you, no we will not destroy you
There’s something in the shadows
In the corner of your room
A dark heart is beating and waiting for you
There is no open window but the floors still creep
In the room where you sleep
which are some of the best pop songs I’ve heard.
It’s an original work. Not built on covers or retreads of past territory. Blending ideas and perspectives together to pronounce a view point attached to the past without disregarding an outlook on the future.
The originality of Dead Man’s Bones gave (and gives) me hope. It forced stock be given to an actor (and his projects) I otherwise liked, but had no real attachment. I now pay attention to any project where he has a part and have seen some films I might otherwise disregard.
With Drive I had high hopes. I continually read about its quality and was not put off by the continued reference to old Hollywood cinema. These types of descriptions are at times a way for critics to describe what they cannot easily describe.
But, the film doesn’t really do much. Yes it is beautiful and well made, but it is nothing new.
It leaves me empty like an inside joke. There are not the referential makings of a Tarantino film, but its value is heavily built on the arrangements of others.
And I have seen those films.
I’ve seen the quiet man who is able to act. I’ve seen the explosive moments of violence. It feels lifted. Not to directly reference and require an awareness for value, but redundant in that it doesn’t present anything new.
Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. But, I would like more.
I want new experiences. I want to be inspired! Leaving the film I want to go and make something just because it feels so good to do so after experiencing something previously unknown.
Nicolas Winding Refn’s previous film Bronson had a certain performance quality to it that I found interesting and took me somewhere. But, I didn’t see that in Drive. What I saw was beautiful production.
Being that this was Refn’s first Hollywood studio outing I wonder if he saw this as a way into larger pictures. Make something of quality that does not verge too far from the already known. Tap into the deep rooted nostalgia feeding the industry currently (as if the death bell has sounded) and subsequently produce something else once through the door.
This is not a riff against the film or anyone involved. I am happy when any film of substance more than Avatar or Fast and the Furious gets attention. But, I’m looking for other ideas and trips. I want doors opened leading to dark corridors where I can pull out a flash light and find wonders hiding.