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Manuel de Layet [Celluloid 09.09.16] thriller

"NWR is on his steady way to become for the Audiovisual Arts what Steve Jobs was for the tech world." This was my first train of thought once the opening credits of The Neon Demon rolled. These first minutes are visually equivalent to a "Marc by Marc Jacobs" tote bag, without the tongue in cheek attitude. Name plastering on every slide in case we weren't aware of the authorship, a concentrate of conspicuous branding so blatant it made me want to tear through the picture like an A-10 Warthog through a column of middle-eastern insurgents, just to puncture that Betelgeuse-sized cantaloupe of an ego.

The movie in itself being truly mesmerizing, however funny the outcome of giving into that initial impulse, we'll rather go down the Structuralist road: separating the work from its author in order to break free from "interpretive tyranny." Prejudice more than anything in this particular occurrence I'll have to admit, anyway, this approach is more dignified. The whole makeup of the picture also is a great example of Barthes' notion of hermeneutic enigmas and proairetic structures sequentially intertwining into a narrative canvas.

Perpetual strife is a hallmark of the human condition. Some people do fare better than others; the struggle to keep up, or surpass them, as a plot device might already have been in Aristotle's Poetics, and nothing is a better illustration of life's inherent unfairness than physical appearance. Hence the modeling microcosm as a natural setting to explore that theme. So how does one get ahead in that infamous race? Depending on your outlook on life you'll be inclined to answer along the lines of either Nature or Nurture - in our present case: talent or practice. Yet taken independently there are no assurance of success. More frustratingly, even used in conjunction there's no real guarantee. Enter Angela Duckworth's concept of Grit as a significant performance enhancer.

Quite the buzzword nowadays, you can come across it nearly everywhere but, however interesting, the concept of mixing perseverance with a goal oriented approach, is not without faults, as you can check reading Marcus Credé et al.'s study in the recent issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Without completely oversimplifying their work all this boils down to, in some ways, another Parallel of the Ancients and the Moderns.

Whether you side with the "Modern" mix of Perseverance and Passion or the "Ancient" Big Fives concept of Conscientiousness, the crux of attaining any goal stay the same: "How far are you willing to go and will you still be able to live with yourself?"

Now that we have our present object-of-study hermeneutic enigma, we will need some kind of anchor in time and space to navigate through it: the proairetic structure. If we more or less stick to Barthes definition of it, the proairetic is organized around small sequences, each having its own regularity and that despite being used to forward the narrative do not follow its logic. A sort of madness to a method. Now where it gets wonderfully interesting is that the script in its entirety follows said madness.

The main character is our anchor in time and space and, as we follow her into various sequences that barely relate to one-another, the real story develops smoothly in the background. The disjointed feeling you get while watching the picture is due to this.

Structuralism, like all other literary theories, has analysis as a purpose. It is meant to be applied at a preexisting object to dissect and understand it. To quote The Pale King: "The pie has been made, the contest is now in the slicing." Now, what we have here instead is pie being made from its own slices. As you read a story, mental images will form naturally some, more vivid than others, standing out, a by-product of your understanding of it. The Neon Demon uses that by-product to actually tell the story and for that alone it deserves to be seen, and since it is now available on VOD, do yourself a favor and buy it.

Recommended Release: The Neon Demon

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Genius (5 years ago) Reply

Hollywood eats it's self!


Lenny (5 years ago) Reply

Worst movie I've seen in a long long time. Love his previous flicks too. But oh man how I wanted to walk out of this numerous times. Never watching it again that's for sure...

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