It is the last day of the Sydney Film Festival and it has been a successful 12 days with 190 films from all over the world.
Today I watched, what has recently just won the official competition at the festival, Only God Forgives. The latest film from Nicolas Winding Refn has divided critics and audiences because of its 'stylistic violence' as it is called by some. It is as violent as most Tarantino films, with just as much beautifully choreographed set pieces and harsh language. What makes it different from his previous movie Drive? Which also stars Ryan Gosling. Drive is violent, prettily shot and deals with criminals. So far so similar. Drive is structured as a heist movie gone wrong. The main protagonist, Driver (Ryan Gosling), has a code and sense of honour which gives the audience something to connect with. The love story helps as well. In Only God Forgives, the main protagonist, Julian (Ryan Gosling), is a violent mommy's boy who recognises a code of honour. He isn't really the moral centre of the film. Top policeman, Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm), has the code of honour, and he responds to the threats from Julian's drug smuggling family, headed by his mother, Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas) and his recently deceased brother Billy, (Tom Burke) with measured calm and justice. This is a western movie where the white man does not solve all the problems of the third world, or even finding himself in the wonders of a noble foreign culture. Chung and Thailand know what the price of money, class and corruption does. Women are commodities. People are so poor they will do just about anything for money and white people buy what they want, even if it is rape and murder. This is what makes it different from Drive. And will make it something most typical hollywood film audiences dislike it. In my opinion it is the only other reason to watch this film. The first being the fantastic performance by Kristin Scott Thomas. You can keep the 'stylistic violence'. I don't want to pay money to watch people treated this way, not even white male protagonists. I am over sitting through this type of thing for two hours. Even if it does have Ryan Gosling in it.
The closing film of the festival is the documentary Twenty Feet From Stardom. I watched it back in February in Austin. It is great. A powerful music doco that takes you into the lives of back-up singers. If you love music, you will find it fascinating.