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‘Neon Demon’ Cinematographer Says ‘It Was Sad’ U.S. Audiences Didn’t Understand the Film

Over three years after Refn's fashion world horror film bombed at the U.S. box office, DP Natasha Braier looks back at the reception.

"The Neon Demon"

“The Neon Demon”

Amazon Studios

Argentinian cinematographer Natasha Braier has emerged as one of the most exciting talents working in movies today thanks to her collaborations with David Michôd (“The Rover”), Nicolas Winding Refn (“The Neon Demon”), and Sebastián Lelio (“Gloria Bell”). Braier is currently in theaters earning rave reviews for her work on Alma Har’el’s “Honey Boy.” During an interview with The Film Stage to promote the Shia LaBeouf Sundance drama, Braier took a remote to express a degree of sadness over the U.S. reception of Refn’s “Neon Demon.”

“The Neon Demon” stars Elle Fanning as an aspiring model in Los Angeles whose youthful beauty ignites a disturbing fever of obsession and jealousy within the fashion industry. Backed by Amazon Studios, “Neon Demon” debuted to both rapturous applause and boos at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. The divisive response to the film was nothing knew for Refn, but the reaction failed to generate interest in the project. “Neon Demon” failed to ignite the box office with $1.3 million in the U.S. and just $3.3 million worldwide.

“I think a lot of people don’t get [Nicolas Winding Refn], and definitely a lot of people didn’t get ‘Neon Demon,'” Braier told Film Stage. “It was quite disappointing, because we were very proud of the process and it was sad to see. In Europe, it was seen as a masterpiece. In America, they didn’t say, ‘I didn’t get it,’ they said, ‘I didn’t like it.'”

“Nic is always interesting in polarizations, so it’s the best thing that could happen, having people who really love it and people who really hate it,” Braier added. “This is the one thing that he hates, the middle ground. In that sense it was still a good response. But yeah: it’s just fascinating how many in America didn’t get the humor, the irony that we were using those things of the fashion world in a sophisticated way to criticize themselves and laugh about it, and they are just so ‘in it’ that they couldn’t see that. That’s the reality.”

After “Neon Demon” proved to be a box office disaster, Refn temporarily left theatrical cinema behind in favor of television and streaming. The director’s Amazon original drama series “Too Old to Die Young” debuted in June, and Refn is next moving on to a limited series based on “Maniac Cop.” Head over to The Film Stage’s website to read Braier’s interview in its entirety.

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