Finally from our roundup of tonight’s Weinstein Company 2013 preview reel (you can read about “The Immigrant” here and the rest of the movies teased here), and well, we’ve kind of saved the best for last. Or at least, the best received on the night. Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Only God Forgives” is without a doubt one of the most hotly anticipated movies playing at this Cannes Festival, promising to send a jolt of that amoral, violent, genre cool he does so well surging through a lineup that’s a little heavy on the “serious adult drama” side otherwise. And the scene selected to play, pretty much in its entirety tonight, entirely justified that hype, especially because it came from a slightly unexpected direction. It’s not Ryan Gosling handing out or receiving a beatdown, it’s not a neon-soaked street scene of gritty glamor, it’s actually a dinner scene, in which Gosling’s Julian is at the table with his girlfriend (Yayaying Ratha Phongam) and his mother Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas). The scene, however, totally belongs to Scott Thomas and she fucking kills it.
It starts with an acidic, foulmouthed diatribe at the pretty Thai girlfriend, sparked when Crystal asks what she does, and the girl replies “I’m an entertainer.” “Hm and how many cocks can you entertain in that cute little cum dumpster of yours?” snarls Crystal. She’s not your regular apple-pie and apron type of mom, it would seem. Having ordered for everyone at the table (“… and she’ll have a salad. With the dressing on the side,” she patronizes) she then launches into a vicious monologue which basically skewers the notion of the grieving mother, to the increasingly shocked silence of the girlfriend, and the mute brooding watchfulness of Gosling’s Julian.
The scene illuminates a little of the family dynamic that existed between Julian, his now deceased brother and their mother, with Crystal basically excoriating Julian for failing to measure up to his brother, in metaphorical, but also literal terms, claiming that in part Julian’s jealousy is rooted in the fact that his brother’s cock was bigger. Not that Julian’s was small, but his was “enormous.” The verbal/sexual hatefulness portion of her monologue spent, she goes on to spit bitterly “one thing I do know, if the tables were turned your brother would get out there and bring me [the killer]’s head on a platter.” How much his mother’s scorn motivates his the revenge story that we’re told propels the rest of the film we can’t tell from Gosling’s impassive reaction here, but the scene played like gangbusters, with every barb from the against-type Scott Thomas landing and eliciting shocked laughter, and a round of applause breaking out at the end of the clip, for the first and only time during the showreel.
Of course, it also looked stunning, despite being essentially a dialogue scene in a single interior setting, there are still the slick dark surfaces set off by neon blues and pinks that we recognise as Refn’s recent aesthetic — in fact it seems extended to the nth degree here, with the stylization pushed even further than in “Drive.”
It’s only one scene, and one scene does not a movie make, but in giving us something that both meets our expectations (in crisp, slick visuals, dark motivations and spartan Gosling performance) and also confounds and surpasses them (we really hope there’s a lot more of Crystal…), we have to say we could not possibly be looking forward to next Wednesday morning, when the film screens for press, any more. Watch the scene below.