Jun 7, 2016

Lost River

Naturally, as someone that has an innate aversion to virtually all-things-Hollywood, I find it rather dubious when some huge Tinseltown superstar randomly decides that they want to become a ‘cinematic artiste’ and begin directing films, as if to prove to themselves that they are more than just glorified prostitutes. Indeed, Warren Beatty’s epically banal Bolshevik belch Reds (1981), Sean Penn’s badly botched Friedrich Dürrenmatt adaptation The Pledge (2001), Angelina Jolie’s culturally retarded piece of plodding plagiarism In the Land of Blood and Honey (2001), and especially George Clooney’s pointlessly black-and-white pseudo-arthouse comsymp joke Good Night, and Good Luck (2005) are just a couple examples of what happens when extremely rich and famous airheads get bored and decide that they want to play artist by using the seemingly limitless technical and monetary resources at their disposal to up their game in terms of shallow virtue signaling and lame leftist cheerleading, among other less than noble things.  One also cannot forget the fact that actors-turned-directors like Ron Howard and Robert Redford have probably done more to perpetuate the misguided stereotype that WASPs are humorless soulless dorks with their films than any of the films directed by their racially hostile Hebraic colleagues. Of course, some actors have proved that they had would it takes to be a great auteur as demonstrated by English character actor Charles Laughton’s sole feature The Night of the Hunter (1955) and Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider (1969) and Out of the Blue (1980), but these are mostly rare exceptions. Needless to say, when I initially discovered that Canadian heartthrob Ryan Gosling—an actor that I consider to be fairly talented, even if he has appeared in a number of supremely shitty films that are made to wet the panties of preteen girls—was directing his first feature, I was quite intrigued but also somewhat concerned.

While on one hand, Gosling proved early on in his career that he had an inordinate degree of emotional intelligence by managing to seemingly perfectly pull off the role of a self-loathing Jewish neo-Nazi in Henry Bean’s The Believer (2001) despite his totally non-kosher Aryan good looks, the unquestionably talented actor does not exactly scream fanatical auteur and seems more like a follower than a leader, thus making him seem somewhat unfit for the dictatorial duties of being a filmmaker (after all, film history has demonstrated that many of the great auteur filmmakers ranging from Stanley Kubrick to Rainer Werner Fassbinder have proven to be almost intolerable to work with).  After all, unfortunately for Gosling, it seems that many of the great filmmakers of history also tended to be quite nerdy, unattractive, and/or otherwise unlikable. Of course, if there is any contemporary actor that I would want to see direct a film, it is Gosling, so naturally I was quite excited upon learning about his directorial debut Lost River (2014). Although the film had the honor of premiering in competition in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, it was almost unanimously trashed by critics and received piss poor limited theatrical distribution (in fact, the film’s U.S. distributor Warner Bros. Pictures even considering selling it to another studio due to its poor reception). Considering the critics seem to love anything that is directed by absurdly arrogant white liberal psychopaths like Beatty and Clooney, I only became all the more interested in seeing Gosling after learning of its poor critical reception. Luckily, Lost River not only proved to be a legitimate auteur effort that hints that Gosling might one day become a formidable filmmaker with his own distinct cinematic vision, but it is also somewhat politically correct as a sometimes surprising flick that breaks with the mainstream white/Jewish liberal narrative, especially in regard to its rather empathetic portrayal of white proles and their rapid decline. 

 One of the most frequent criticisms that Gosling’s film has received is that it is ‘derivative,’ even though it takes a more subtle and seamless approach to honoring its influences than shameless negrophile Tarantino does with his films. Personally, I think many of these critics were offended that a brooding pretty boy like Gosling dared to make such an ambitious and oftentimes beauteous film that does not follow the mainstream leftist narrative and instead depicts a spiritually necrotizing dystopian realm featuring poor struggling white families, deranged black bums, disillusioned anti-American immigrants, and an ambiguously Jewish banker played by real-life Judaic Ben Mendelsohn that acts as a zany villain who tries to take advantage of a single mother that is desperate to support her two sons.  Seemingly completely apolitical and without any real agenda aside from the desire to create cinematic art, Gosling seems to have merely abstractly channeled his emotional response to the rampant societal decay that he encountered while visiting the post-industrial wasteland that is Detroit. Shot by Belgian cinematographer Benoît Debie, who has shot a number of important contemporary arthouse works, including Gaspar Noé’s Irréversible (2002) and Enter the Void (2009), Lucile Hadžihalilović’s Innocence (2004), Fabrice Du Welz’s Calvaire (2004) aka The Ordeal and Vinyan (2008), and Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers (2012), among other notable films, Lost River feels the result of Gosling attempting to make a Detroit Blue Velvet meets a pro-Europid Gummo disguised as an homage to Mario Bava and Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol, albeit with shades of Terrence Malick, early Tim Burton, and Derek Cianfrance, among other less conspicuous influences. Championed by Mexican Hollywood filmmaker Guillermo del Toro (The Devil's Backbone, Pan's Labyrinth) of all people, Gosling's film undoubtedly deserves comparisons to David Robert Mitchell’s excellent arthouse-horror flick It Follows (2014) in that sense that it is an intentionally visually anachronistic piece of slow-burning and foreboding celluloid Americana that portrays Detroit and American in general as a sort of perennial purgatory that has been plagued by some unknown metaphysical curse that has destroyed love, happiness, the family, and virtually everything else that makes life worth living. 

 While I do not want to succumb to Kael-esque puffery, Lost River is a great contemporary example as to why foreigner filmmakers oftentimes make more insightful and just damn delightfully damning cinematic depictions of the United States than native directors. Indeed, if Werner Herzog’s Stroszek (1977) depicted an America where even the most remote regions of the Midwest were afflicted with the alienating and dejecting effects of capitalism, Gosling’s strangely sentimental neo-fairytale depicts a rotting America empire on the verge of the apocalypse where love and romance seems to be a bittersweet memory from a time when romantic interpersonal connections were still possible and fathers and strong men still held society together.  In Gosling's film, demonic dickheads ruthlessly rule all segments of society as if they were placed in their places of power by the devil himself, virtually all young people seem to have already given up hope, and all old people either seem to be insane or in some catatonic state as if they cannot cope with what has happened to the world. At least partly inspired by Gosling’s upbringing as the scared son of an attractive single mother who was incessantly hit on by men, Lost River is also a rare contemporary film that demonstrates that single moms are oftentimes not the strong and independent ‘bad asses’ that Hollywood movies and the mainstream media and TV would have you believe, but instead vulnerable, desperate, and oftentimes damaged dames that sometimes have to subject themselves to degradation just to make ends meet. Additionally, the film reveals that single mothers are incapable of controlling their sons, as the male protagonist not only somewhat resents his mother, but also acts as both a surrogate husband and father as a young man that seems to spend more time raising and teaching his younger brother than his mommy does. Notably, in an interview with del Toro during the first day of the 2015 SXSW Film Festival, Gosling would confess in regard to the uneasy feeling of growing up with a beauteous mom that was always the center of unwanted male attention and its imperative influence on his film, “When you're a kid and you have a single mom, all men feel like wolves. Guys would whistle at her — it was very predatory and threatening. As a kid I felt helpless, so you start to imagine all these [scenarios] where you can do something. You see the world through the filter of your imagination.” Considering the film features a scene where a single mother assumedly brutally murders a posh pervert that attempts to get a little bit too close to her, there is no question that, in a sense, Lost River is an almost brutally incriminating auteur piece that hints that Gosling suffers from a somewhat strange case of modern misandry that seems to be the unintended consequence of being the son of a MILF. 

 Featuring a highly complementary original musical score by Johnny Jewel, who is the owner/producer of the great record label Italians Do It Better and who is probably best known for his music in Bronson (2008) and Drive (2011), Lost River predictably demonstrates that Gosling's collaborations with Danish auteur Nicolas Winding Refn have had a huge aesthetic influence on him as a filmmaker. In short, the Jewel produced Chromatics song, “Yes (Love Theme from Lost River)” is just as an imperative ingredient of the film as the Kavinsky, Chromatics, and Desire songs are in Drive. Of course, Gosling’s friendship with del Toro, who convinced Gosling to direct the film by telling the actor-turned-auteur that he would direct his script if he did not, also had a major influence on the genesis of the film. Luckily, Gosling’s film is not plagued with the lame and predictable sort of quasi-Marxist subtexts that totally tainted the Mexican filmmaker’s more notable cinematic works. While probably not a conscious decision, Gosling was not doing his career a favor by casting a Judaic actor with the quite famous Hebraic surname ‘Mendelsohn’ (although not related to the famous German-Jewish Mendelssohn family, Mendelsohn is indeed descended from Prussian Jews). Likewise, Gosling revealed that he was not a white liberal bleeding heart faggot when he opted to allow black crackheads who just happened to wander onto the set to appear in the film in fairly unflattering yet nonetheless humorous roles, or as he explained to del Toro, “In some cases we found ourselves in situations where it was easier to let whoever showed up to be in the movie as opposed to keep them out. The actors had to try to weave these strangers into the reality of the movie. There's one case where we were shooting in the gas station…and I think they were selling something else in the gas station, and some people really wanted it. It got really intense so at a certain point we said, ‘Fuck it, just let them into the scene.’” 

 In its quite quixotic combination of quasi-Fantastique imagery and gritty sub-prole realism that oftentimes feels disturbingly surreal in a sort of Korine-esque sense, Lost River is indubitably a strange celluloid beast that is sure to bother cinephiles and philistines alike due to its unwillingness to be ghettoized into any single genre or style, not to mention the fact that it oftentimes straddles the line between highly stylized high-camp kitsch and serious understated melodrama. Arguably more intriguingly, the film reveals Gosling to be, not unlike his characters in Drive and Only God Forgives, a lost soul with a lot of pent up rage, as it depicts forlorn characters that commit ultra-violent yet justified murders, thus hinting that the filmmaker is no pussy pacifist (in fact, when he was only in first grade, he was suspended from school for throwing steak knives at some bullies during recess). Indeed, the violence in the film is not the sort of soulless cartoonish Tarantino-esque sensationalism that works the same way as a cumshot does in a fuck flick, but is instead a seemingly sincere and therapeutic expression of the filmmaker’s own desire for revenge and poetic justice, which is ultimately cinematically unleashed on perverted Judaic bankers and psychopathic bullies. It should also be noted that Gosling opted to whore out his strong Latina baby-momma Eva Mendes and had her play the role of a sort of neo-cabaret scream queen that makes a living being brutally murdered in an glamorously gorgeous fashion on stage for admiring sadists. Undoubtedly, Gosling’s single mother background and choice in female partner says a lot about him as a person and thus it should be no surprise that Lost River depicts an innately morally and sexually inverted world where fathers are spoken of if they are mysterious ghosts, a chaotic matriarchy is the only form of family, and girls are oftentimes braver and more stoic than boys. Once somewhat curiously described by Gosling as “my version of Dark GOONIES,” the film took the director three years to complete after conception, but I believe it was worth the wait. In fact, before even coming up with a screenplay or storyline, Gosling began shooting footage of the ruins of Detroit with a RED digital camera (though most of the film would eventually be shot on 35mm film), thus reflecting his obsessive dedication to the project, which is quite apparent while watching the film. 

 Surely when I think of Lost River, the following Heinrich Mann quote comes to mind, “Aestheticism is the product of times without hope, of states that kill hope.” Indeed, like a Tim Burton flick on cheap hillbilly acid, albeit with a soul, Gosling’s flick features a foreboding forsaken netherworld where a certain repugnant and sometimes putrid aesthetic seems to engulf everyone’s life. From the flagrantly trashy neon graffiti on ruined buildings and homes in Detroit to a dimly lit demonic cabaret where decadent dimestore divas ply their trade and bring a sort of unhinged collective ecstasy to an abhorrent audience comprised of wealthy degenerates that get off to the sickly sordid sight of dead dames covered in blood to the strikingly beauteous destruction of ancient middleclass homes in flames during the blue hour, Lost River depicts an aesthetically atrocious yet nonetheless undeniably enthralling world dominated by corrosive colors and imagery that hardly brings solace to the soul yet cannot be ignored. While the aesthetically degrading graffiti seems like the modern-day equivalent of cave drawings as created by sub-literate urban neo-primitives, the cabaret shows and house fires give off the vibe of being Satanic rituals that entertain the wealthy psychopaths that have managed to succeed in the conspicuously corrupt sinking ship that is post-Christian multicultural America. Notably, even the sub-lumpenprole villain in the film sports a flashy diamond-studded Michael Jackson-esque jacket that seems to represent the sort of style-over-substance mentality that plagues not only Detroit but the country in general. Quite fittingly, virtually all the visuals that represent something loving are static and/or lo-fi, including seemingly ancient wedding footage of a terminally distraught widowed grandmother and the cheap keyboard of her inordinately soulful yet sullen granddaughter.  Undoubtedly, one of the most uniquely unforgettable moments of the film is when Irish actress Saoirse Ronan sings the absolutely haunting song “Tell Me” on her tiny electric keyboard. In many ways that the director probably did not consciously intend, Gosling’s film is almost like an artsy fartsy advertisement from Emperor Trump’s glorious “Make America Great Again” campaign.  On the other hand, the world depicted in the film is so forsaken that it seems completely beyond any sort of redemption, hence why the characters decide to move in the end.

 Lost Rivers begins with a little blond boy named Franky emerging from his family’s exceedingly dilapidated family home and crying to himself, “I’m gonna help you. A monster gonna eat you, Dada. The monster gonna eat me, Father.” Unfortunately, this poor little lad does not have a “dada” and instead relies on his young adult brother Bones (Iain De Caestecker)—a seemingly lost and confused fellow that could hardly be described as a strong alpha-male—for a paternal figure. While busty redheaded momma Billy (Christina Hendricks) loves her boys and would do anything for them, she is certainly no substitute for a proper patriarch and is on the brink of losing the family home to an evil predatory bank that is bent on buying every single house in the area and then burning them down. Indeed, Billy and her boys, who are one of the last surviving families in their neighborhood, watch in anxiety-ridden dread as their neighbors homes are regularly burned down by less than sympathetic guys that work for the bank. While his mother clearly needs extra help and support, Bones hopes to leave the area as soon as he finishes working on his car. To buy parts for his supremely shitty antique automobile, Bones steals copper pipes out of abandoned buildings and then sells them to a negro junkyard owner. Unfortunately, Bones more or less risks his life when he goes pillaging for copper as he is liable to be caught by a deranged ghetto Führer named ‘Bully’ (Matt Smith), who rides around in a supremely shitty white convertible with a makeshift ‘throne’ and shouts things out of a bullhorn like, “I put a sign up here that says ‘Don’t let me see your fucking face near my motherfucking copper.’ This is my fucking copper. I own this fucking copper. I own this city. I own this copper. This is my fucking copper […] This is my country, this is my city. I own this fucking city [...] Welcome to Bullytown!”  Undoubtedly, Bully's mobile bullhorn buffoonery seems like a savagely sardonic parody of the unorthodox political campaigning tactics of the fictional presidential candidate Hal Phillip Walker in Robert Altman's classic satirical country musical Nashville (1975).  Needless to say, when Bully spots Bones stealing copper, he declares him a dead man and demands that his underling ‘Face’ (Torrey Wigfield) hunt down the male protagonist. As the bombastic negro that owns the junkyard warns Bones, “Bully running everything now. You a dead motherfucker. You know, he caught that boy up there on St. Mary’s, that little Chinese boy. Cut his goddamn lips off with a pair of scissors. You think that motherfucker looked funny in the beginning? You ought to see him now, Bones. No more copper. No more you, Bones.”  In Fact, when ‘Face’ fails to catch Bones after the latter steals back a sack of copper that was stolen from him, Bully decides to cruelly punish him by cutting off his lips, hence his rather unfortunate nickname. 

 When Billy goes to the big bad bank to discuss a house loan that she is three months behind on, she is less than delighted to meet a new exceedingly arrogant banker named Dave (Ben Mendelsohn) who practically radiates sleaziness and who has been brought to the area to consolidate bank branches. When Billy willfully expresses her strong desire to keep her house since it belonged to her grandmother, Dave practically mocks her peasant sentimentality and tries to coerce her into giving up the house, stating, “If I were you…I’d make the payments, walk away with the money. Because I’m telling you, the wolves, if they’re not already at your door…they’re gonna be there very fucking soon.” After discovering that Billy has no job and thus no means of acquiring capital to pay off the loan, Dave gives her a business card for a schlocky yet sinister cabaret that he owns and hints that she should whore herself out by complimenting her on her beauty. Indeed, while Billy does not want to believe it, Dave wants her to be his whore and he is wholly willing to exploit her monetary desperation to get in her MILF panties. Naturally, when Bones eventually discovers that his mother is in dire need of money to pay for the family home, he decides that he must use his copper pillaging money for her instead of parts for his car. As the film progress, Bones must avoid ghetto quasi-wigger antagonist Bully and his henchman Face while his mother attempts to not be raped or molested by upper-class scumbag Dave, with both villains ultimately reflecting the fact that all level of society are controlled by innately evil and craven sadists that exploit the weaknesses and desperation of the protagonists. While Bully reflects evil in its most visceral, primitive, and savage form, Dave is like the devil in the form of an obnoxious Jewish comedian. In the seemingly perennial pandemonium that is Lost River, hope is nonexistent and love seems like a strange memory.  Additionally, aside from the sadistic glee that the villains derive from tormenting their victims, the entire population of the town seems plagued by anhedonia.

 While Bones seems to have some romantic interest in his beautiful and intelligent yet somber neighbor ‘Rat’ (Saoirse Ronan)—a girl whose unfortunate nickname derives from the fact her best friend is her pet rodent ‘Nick’—the two seem to lack the strength to declare their affection for one another and thus act like virtual children around one another.  Rat's deep love for Bones is hinted in a scene where she soulfully sings a song on her keyboard with the rather revealing lyrics “Whisper, that you want me / And I'll, love you always / Truly, you will be mine / For eternity.”  While Rat is a rather eccentric chick that enjoys watching vintage documentaries on a seemingly ancient projector, she seems perfectly sane compared to her borderline catatonic grandmother (British scream queen Barbara Steele in a role originally intended for Karen Black, who died of cancer before shooting), who has not spoken since her hubby died decades before and who spends all her time incessantly watching home movies from her wedding.  After running away from Bully and his goon Face one day, Bones discovers a road that leads to a somewhat ominous yet nonetheless stunning river that curiously has streetlights sticking out of the water, as if a lost aquatic ghost-town lies underneath. When Bones tells Rat about his strange discovery, she informs him that there is indeed a town under the river that was intentionally submerged with water during the building of a reservoir, hence the name ‘Lost River.’ As Rat explains to Bones, “My grandmother used to live there. She hasn’t been the same ever since. No one has. As soon as the last town was drowned…an evil spell was cast on Lost River […] That’s why this whole place feels like it’s underwater too.” Needless to say, Bones finds Rat’s story to be somewhat dubious, especially in regard to curse. The next day, Bones decides to dive into the river and gets the shock of a lifetime when he happens upon a large dinosaur, which is actually a display piece from an old amusement park. That night, Rat shows Bones a vintage doc about the building of the dam and flooding of the neighborhood and then remarks in regard to the death of her grandfather and how it effected her grandmother, “He died during the construction of the dam. She hasn’t spoken ever since.” When Rat asks Bones, “Now do you believe about the spell?” and he replies, “No,” she tells him “That only way to break it is to bring a piece to the surface.” Needless to say, it is ultimately up to Bones to end the curse, though it is going to have to take discovering that his mother is working as a quasi-prostitute for the male protagonist to get the gall to dive to the depths of the river, decapitate the dinosaur display, and use it to symbolically break the curse. 

 As revealed by his rather forward sleazily salacious confession to her, “I like to fuck. That’s my problem. And when I meet a bad bitch, it drives me crazy. I really, really…think about it,” degenerate Dave is desperate to defile busty Billy. In a scene where he sings the song “Cool Water” composed by Johnny Jewel at his cabaret for an adoring audience of bourgeois degenerates, Dave also demonstrates that he is the sort of rampantly heterosexual Jewish banker equivalent to Dean Stockwell’s poof pimp character in Lynch’s Blue Velvet. Needless to say, it is only a matter of time before shameless sexual predator Dave attempts to molest Billy, who practically bleeds vulnerability, or so it seems. Although a hopeless girly girl that likes to cry a lot, Billy has a somewhat fierce cabaret routine that involves her slicing up and peeling off her face in a marvelously morbid fashion that recalls both Georges Franju's Les yeux sans visage (1960) aka Eyes Without a Face and Jesús Franco's super schlocky quasi-remake Faceless (1988).  The main diva of the cabaret is a sassy Latina named ‘Miss Kitty Cat’ (Gosling's girl Eva Mendes) and she helps Billy with her act, but she also encourages her to get involved with an all the more unsavory side job that ultimately puts the female protagonist in a very precarious situation that debauched dickhead Dave takes full advantage of.

When Billy takes a special job at the cabaret at Cat's recommendation to earn extra money that involves her being locked inside a translucent purple ‘shell’ while paying perverts stand in front of her and do whatever they want, she does not consider that Dave has a special remote to open said shell. Unluckily for Dave, Billy is indeed a “bad bitch” and wastes no time in stabbing him in the ear with her prized switchblade in a Jodorowsky-esque scene that is somewhat surprising in terms of how the violence unfolds.  Indeed, Dave, who does a sort of eccentrically debauched mating dance of sorts before trying to hump the heroine, does not even get to touch so much as a titty before Billy stabs him in the ear (it should also be noted that Dave is already deaf in his other ear, so if he somehow survives the stabbing, he is probably left completely deaf).  Meanwhile, to protect her best bud Bones while he hides inside a convenience store, Rat more or less sacrifices herself in the name of loving by accepting a ride home from Bully. Of course, being the evil sadistic villain that he is, Bully violently murders Rat’s beloved rat by violently stabbing it multiple times. As a result of finding about his mother's degrading job after driving her to work one day and being unable to cope with Bully's increasingly sinister behavior, Bones decides enough is enough and decides to leave his little brother Franky with Rat so that he can dive into the lake and obtain the sort of ‘hobo holy grail’ that will supposedly break the curse. Unfortunately, while Rat is playing with Franky, Bully’s bitch boy Face shows up and sets her house on fire. While Rat’s grandmother is in the same room as Face when he sets her house on fire, the catatonic elderly widow barely pays him a glance and allows herself to be burned alive in the home after her wedding home movie ends. When Bully later attempts to run Bones over after setting the protagonist's car on fire, the protagonist takes the decapitated plastic dinosaur head that he has rescued from the lake and throws at his nemesis’ windshield, thus causing the psychopath to crash his car and ultimately drown in the lake in a fittingly horrendous fashion. In the end, Bones, Billy, Franky, and Rat leave their Detroit neighborhood with a foreign taxi driver (Reda Kateb) for good to assumedly start a new life somewhere else where psychotic negro crackheads, megalomaniacal wigger lunatics, and eccentric Jewish sexual predators are less prominent. 

 Notably, during one particularly telling scene in Lost River that seems to underscore one of the central themes of the film, Gosling reveals his true feelings about Obama era America in a scenario where the taxi driver played by Reda Kateb states regarding the grand illusion that is the American dream, “They like burning houses, you know. This is like a game. You know…in my country, in my place…when you heard about America, everybody said…there’s so much money there…and you’re gonna have a big car, a big house and a swimming pool…and you’re gonna catch money on the floor…and you just have to take it and pick it up. Um, finally, it’s different, but…you realize when you arrive here, it’s different. So everybody’s looking for a better life somewhere. It’s tied up. And maybe we’ll find some. One day.” According to Gosling in various interviews related to the film, he apparently used to have a “crush” on America and Detroit, but that all changed when he finally realized his dream of visiting the Midwestern city and discovered that it was an ungodly hellhole that is not fit for human living. Indeed, while Harmony Korine—a racist Judaic that, on numerous occasions, has expressed his contempt and hatred for whites—made the South seem like a post-apocalyptic white trash sewer in Gummo (contrary to being set in the small Midwestern town of Xenia, Ohio as described in the film, it was actually shot in the director’s hometown of Nashville, Tennessee) in a fashion that reeks of arrogance towards the Euro-American goyim, Gosling reveals a great empathy towards the surviving inhabitants of Motor City, as if he too, despite being a Canadian, nostalgically longs for a no longer existent America that was unequivocally destroyed by so-called civil rights, desegregation, multiculturalism, and deindustrialization, among other things. Instead of succumbing to the grotesque act of vanity known as virtue signaling or attempting to portray ghetto negroes as all-wise rocket scientists, Gosling presents an unhinged wonderland where both whites and blacks are under some mysterious curse that has destroyed the nuclear family and turned everyone into poor neo-serfs of some ominous faceless banking entity that is run by effeminate beta-bitches that have a thirst for blood and desperate single moms. While I somewhat doubt it was a conscious decision on Gosling’s part, Mendelsohn’s character can almost be described as a quasi-Lynchian equivalent to the titular villiain of Veit Harlan’s infamous National Socialist classic Jud Süß (1940 film) and that is just one of the many reasons why Lost River is both intriguing and highly relevant. 

 I would have never guessed that Gosling is a Fassbinder fan, but Barbara Steele’s character seems to be a clever subtextual reference to the tragic Teutonic auteur's classic film The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979). Indeed, aside from the fact that Steele dresses virtually exactly the same way as Braun does after she assumes her husband has died, the fact that the character incessantly re-watches a home movie of her wedding seems to be alluding to the title of Fassbinder’s film, not to mention the fact that both characters arguably commit (subconscious) suicide and symbolically suffer the same fiery fate as their homes. Of course, like many of the characters in Fassbinder’s films, Steele’s character suffers from great sorrow and the total incapacity to grieve, but I digress. If there is anything to be learned about Gosling simply by watching his directorial debut, it is that, despite his charm and cutesy behavior during interviews, he seems to be a covertly melancholic man who, despite his great success, is still deeply haunted by old wounds, as if he is still the scared boy who lost his father and ultimately suffered the horrible fate of being incessantly drenched in estrogen and ultimately learning “to think like a girl” (indeed, this is how Gosling described what happened to him after his parents divorced when he was 13 and he was forced under the dubious influence of his mother and elder sister).  In his directorial debut, Gosling certainly demonstrates has a sort of inordinate talent when it comes to choosing female wardrobes and makeup to the point where it seems like he watched a Werner Schroeter marathon in preparation for his film.  Like Schroeter and his Swiss pal Daniel Schmid, Gosling also seems to be diva obsessed, especially for a heterosexual man (after all, the actor could have pretty much any woman in the entire world, yet he is with Mendes, who is a somewhat rough alpha-bitch of sorts that can hardly be described as one of the most beauteous babes in the world). Either way, Lost River is surely the film that the millions upon millions of Gosling fangirls (and boys) need to see if they want to understand the real Ryan Gosling, who proved that he is not the mensch that everyone thinks he is by siring an allegorical neo-fairytale that transcends the brutality of a Brothers Grimm tale that arguably reveals that its creator is a troubled yet nonetheless hopeful young man who still seems trapped in an internal pandemonium of foreboding boyish melancholy.   Still, despite the film's melancholic tone, it radiates a certain dark childish wonder and intrigue, hence why the director has described seemingly unlikely fantasy movies as The Secret of NIMH (1982), Howard the Duck (1986), and Batteries Not Included (1987) as having an important influence on his film. Notably, during an interview conducted at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, Gosling expressed being somewhat disturbed as a child by a scene in Howard the Duck featuring a naked duck chick.

 When it comes down to it, Lost River ultimately features a simple yet timeless moral message of Arthurian proportions (in fact, Gosling once described the character Bones as being ‘Parzival’ and Bully being the ‘Red Knight’) where a hero must not only gather the courage to first identity and then confront an evil, but also put his life on the line and attempt destroy it. After all, protagonist Bones is initially too afraid to even acknowledge the ‘curse’ and is only willing to accept and fight it when both his ladylove and mother fall victim to this evil, but I guess one cannot accept much from the emasculated son of a single mother. Notably, as Aryan Christ C.G. Jung noted in his classic text Modern Man In Search Of a Soul (1933) in regard to the tendency of man to ignore problems like the plague, “The biblical fall of man presents the dawn of consciousness as a curse. And as a matter of fact it is in this light that we first look upon every problem that forces us to greater consciousness and separates us even further from the paradise of unconscious childhood. Every one of us gladly turns away from his problems; if possible, they must not be mentioned, or, better still, their existence is denied. We wish to make our lives simple, certain and smooth—and for that reason problems are tabu. We choose to have certainties and no doubts—results and no experiments—without even seeing that certainties can arise only through doubt, and results through experiment. The artful denial of a problem will not produce conviction; on the contrary, a wider and higher consciousness is called for to give us the certainty and clarity we need.” Of course, Lost River is a luscious and deliciously phantasmagoric arthouse fantasy flick and thus does not diagnosis the real curse that is plaguing America, but the very fact that it acknowledges the accursed state of America automatically puts it above virtually all contemporary Hollywood films in terms of importance and relevance, though I guess that that does not say much since Tinseltown thrives on gross lies and deceptions.  Thankfully, Gosling unwittingly opted to hire a Hebrew to play the role of a hyper horny and decidedly degenerate evil banker, thus the film is ultimately more realistic in terms of presenting the malignant virus that is eating away at America than the director originally intended.

 Interestingly, in Modern Man In Search Of a Soul, Jung also makes an attempt at art criticism and argues, “The personal idiosyncrasies that creep into a work of art are not essential; in fact, the more we have to cope with these peculiarities, the less is it a question of art. What is essential in a work of art is that it should rise far above the realm of personal life and speak from the spirit and heart of the poet as man to the spirit and heart of mankind. The personal aspect is a limitation—and even a sin—in the realm of art. When a form of ‘art’ is primarily personal it deserves to be treated as if it were a neurosis […] In his capacity of artist he is neither autoerotic, no hetero-erotic, nor erotic in any sense. He is objective and impersonal—even inhuman—for as an artist he is his work, and not a human being.” Judging by Jung’s opinion, Lost River is a highly successful piece of cinematic art that is only cryptically personal and thus hardly plagued by the autistic masturbatory idiosyncrasies that epitomize much of Godard and Tarantino's cinematic works.  In other words, Gosling has already demonstrated with his first film that he knows how to direct a fairly entertaining and aesthetically pleasing arthouse film for the masses that does not succumb to self-indulgent fetishes or frivolous postmodern film referencing.

Although just speculation, I am pretty confidant that, not unlike Richard Kelly's Donnie Darko (2001), Lost River will eventually develop a loyal cult following.  Personally, I can safety say that the film gets better and better with each subsequent viewing, as one certainly feels more comfortable the longer one spends in Gosling's world.  Indeed, for all of its flaws, the film is indubitably a respectable directorial debut from an actor that has proven that he has both an imagination and artistic integrity.  After all, had Gosling wanted to guarantee commercial success for his debut feature, he would have pulled a Warren Beatty or Zach Braff and directed a lame bourgeois drama with a romantic subplot starring himself in the lead role, but instead he hired washed-up European scream queens, strange Brits, and seemingly half-insane negro amateurs to appear in a somewhat enigmatic, fairly forlorn, and almost addictively melancholic movie that manages to find preternatural pulchritude in the death of the American dream and the rotting of the American middleclass.  Undoubtedly, Gosling has always given me the impression that he is a nice and charming young man with a very well hidden dark and melancholic interior, which I believe is elegantly expressed in Lost River.  While it seems somewhat improbable now since he has a half-Latino family to support, Gosling could probably evolve into a formidable auteur if he were to mostly give up on acting and dedicate most of his efforts to writing and directing. Like The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) meets Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010) meets a less phony Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) for America's declining white majority as directed by a closet cinephile that loves gorgeous guido Gothic horror like Bava's Black Sunday (1960) and early Tim Burton flicks like Beetlejuice (1988) just as much as the greats of European arthouse like Bergman and Fassbinder, Gosling's debut deserves to be seen by anyone that loves and respects the artistic medium of film.  Additionally, Lost River is probably the greatest and most deranged fantasy film to have ever been directed by a (lapsed) Mormon, which is certainly no small accomplishment considering some of the more bizarre beliefs that members of the religion hold.

-Ty E

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