Corey Trench's Blog: My Growing Life


Do You Drive?
February 26, 2012, 10:59 am
Filed under: Film, Life | Tags: , , , , , , ,

If there’s one thing I know about movies, it’s that no one can account for taste. Some people just prefer certain films to others. I have yet to meet anyone who can tell me without a hint of irony that they simply loved Dude, Where’s My Car and the works of Federico Fellini in the same breath. I know people who like the former and I know people who go more toward the latter. So what makes one better than the other? Does the sheer absurdity and stupidity of Dude forgiven because it’s meant to be that way? Does the fact that Fellini’s 8 1/2 showcases his sense of cinematic surrealism in favor of telling a cogent story make it better because of his flair for style? What is this rubric that we give films to judge whether they are “good” or not? Well, in my opinion, it really depends on who you’re talking to.

I had a lengthy discussion with a fellow filmmaker about whether Drive was a good film. He felt the lack of certain story elements and character development really hurt the film’s effectiveness, and thus, considered it to be a bad film. I felt that the overall stylization of the film carried it along and gave me a real sense of satisfaction. The performances, art direction, sound design, cinematography, and score all felt like they were serving the style of the film. It’s a 70’s throwback with levels of grittiness and beauty. I love seeing the juxtaposition of beautiful people doing horrible, unspeakable things. I hadn’t seen anything like that since American Psycho.

I considered Drive one of the best films of last year. This statement received a major balking from my peers, everything ranging from, “But it was awful!” to “I have to question whether you’re a good filmmaker after saying that”. You get a bunch of passionate filmmakers together debating a film, it starts to get emotional. How can it not? Films ARE emotional! But, again, what makes them good?

When we go see a film, we’re really going for an experience. You sit in a darkened room with a bunch of strangers in the hopes that you’ll feel a sense of emotion from light and sound coming off the screen. Drive gave me a highly stylized and emotional experience. It was visceral, not intellectual. I wasn’t asking myself what Ryan Gosling’s motivation was because it was very simple: he’s in love with a girl and wants to save her. You know what this sounds like? A fairy tale. This is something the director has gone on record for wanting to achieve with this film. Okay, so let’s break down a fairy tale in terms of story. “Little Red Hiding Hood”. We get a lumber jack towards the middle of act 3. We don’t get any explanation of who he is or his backstory. He just comes in and saves the girl. Even “Red Hiding Hood” herself doesn’t have much in the sense of character development and motivation. She wants to see her grandmother. There we go, a story with archetypal characters. So does that make it bad? I guess you could say “The Great Gatsby” is superior to “Little Red” in certain elements of story. But it seems funny to say “Red” is bad based on that template. You could actually break down that story in such a way to where you could make it an argument for feminism. Most people would say, “Huh? How can you see that? It’s just a children’s story”. Yes, a children’s story that’s lasted for centuries. If it were bad, no one would remember it. “Little Red” is interesting because it’s grim and terrifying (Elements that contemporary audiences want to experience when they see a horror film. They want to be scared!) It gives the reader that emotional experience. “Will it turn out all right in the end?” It does. Spoilers.

So if Drive is a fairy tale with archetypal heroes and villains, is that enough to make the argument that the film is good? We still feel a sense of distance from the main character due to his lack of backstory, but, in my opinion, that only made him more interesting. He gives us the unexpected through his actions. It seems like his persona is as unrelenting as the film’s style. The director definitely didn’t wimp out on this one. He was going to make this film this way. Given to another director, they would just made it a regular action movie that looks like other action movies. Some would of called passé. Drive just isn’t. So, again, I would go back to the elements of craft that he employed throughout the film that gave the audience a ride, one that went backwards and forwards, and then spilled them out onto the floor. I was soaring with the characters when they were having a picnic to the tune of College’s “A Real Hero” and I was horrified when characters started getting killed off, and then felt a sense of release at the very end.

Whether or not I could convince you that Drive is a good film is really up to you. What do you really look for in a film? I like a good story, but sometimes I want more than just that. I want something I’m not expecting on a visual and aural level. I value a experience that will my blood going and stir something inside of me, reminding me that I still have my primal instincts intact. I want a film that takes risks with its audience, such as giving us a main character who rarely speaks.

“I just drive,” says the Driver.

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