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Showing posts with label Nicolas Winding Refn. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nicolas Winding Refn. Show all posts

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Edgar Wright's Baby Driver : A musical, in a Tarantino sort of way ?

This is a review, partly by Tweet, of Baby Driver (2017)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2017 (19 to 26 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


3 July

This is a review, partly by Tweet, of Edgar Wright's Baby Driver (2017)




Baby Driver (2017) palpably cannot be about what it seems, any more than is writer / director Edgar Wright's The World's End (2013), but did the audience seem to be missing that* ?


Here, there is a quantity of humour - wry, grim, and worse - that, if one is too believing of the film as story, will perhaps not have one snorting, or shaking one's head, at the audacity of the film-making (i.e. concept / script / delivery)... which is unfortunate, because these shots, the quality and precision that Edgar Wright gives us in the framing, wording, and editing, deserve our respect for what they are, i.e. not just part of, say, another 2 Guns (2013).



By contrast, Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive (2011) really does take itself so seriously [as does [ ] The Neon Demon (2016) ?], with Ryan Gosling (credited only as Driver, though one choice of garment** suggests that he models himself elsewhere) as the man who can not only be wholesome to Carey Mulligan*** (Irene = Greek for 'Peace'), but buck an approach to and use of violence based on retribution.



Nerdist also picked up on that use of colour(s) in its posting about the film's trailer(s) :

If the trailers are any indication, it would seem Wright’s been itching at giving us some beautiful shots with vibrant color palettes and, in the moment Baby and his girlfriend are talking, a shot that just screams 'EDGAR WRIGHT NEEDS TO BE DIRECTING EVERYTHING !'


Centre right, Edgar Wright evokes a grander place than My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)


[...]



[...]


End-notes :

* In Screen 1, at 6.30 on a Monday evening.

** As mentioned in the #UCFF review.

*** Also known as Mary Culligan... :







Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Some remarks about Mulholland Drive (2001) (and Mulholland Dr. (1999))

Some remarks about Mulholland Drive (2001) (and Mulholland Dr. (1999))

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2016 (20 to 27 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


19 August

Some remarks arising from a screening of Mulholland Drive (2001) at The Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge, on Thursday 18 August at 9.00 p.m. (and about Mulholland Dr. (1999))


Nowadays, Nicolas Winding Refn¹ seems to want to go by the cypher above (which, one learns, one may not rightly call a monogram)...




However, is he, by curating some films that have influenced him, for participating Picturehouses (@picturehouses), showing that he is not a worthy heir to Igor Stravinsky... ?


Whoever’s work they really were (or were then thought to have been), it seems that Sergei Diaghilev commissioned Stravinsky to turn some libretti and scores that he had from Naples and London, and which had been attributed to Pergolesi, into a ballet for his Ballets Russes. Again, whoever’s music Stravinsky’s Pulcinella (1920) was then thought to have been (or based on – and, not surprisingly, it does not appear that Stravinsky said otherwise), it has been known for at least the last forty years to be his adaptive reworking / re-composition of those originals (as well as being considered the first work of what is usually called his neo-classical period).









The relevance of alluding to Stravinsky above lies in a sentiment that, it seems (and in mutated forms), has been ascribed to, or adopted by, many since before T. S. Eliot, but which is here quoted of Stravinsky :

Igor Stravinsky said to me of his 'Three Songs by William Shakespeare', in which he epitomized his discovery of Webern’s music : ‘A good composer does not imitate ; he steals.’

Twentieth Century Music²



In fact, does NWR, commending films to us such as Mulholland Drive (2001) (which is arguably Lynch stealing from his own t.v. film and other antecedents), really just show that he has not dared to steal, only to imitate ?

In other words, is the faulty notion behind Nicolas Winding Refn Presents... this one ? That it is as if Stravinsky had not only done very little with the Pergolesi materials to re-embody them as his own, but had also, and without good reason, allowed those facts to be known before their time.

Whereas Stravinsky himself was too good a self-publicist¹ for that, and, first allowed the Pergolesi name ‘to stick’ by arranging the work (in collaboration with Paul Kochanski) for violin and piano, publishing Suite d'après des thèmes, fragments et morceaux de Giambattista Pergolesi (1925)³...



Postlude :










End-notes

¹ Interviewed by Danny Leigh (@dannytheleigh) for The Guardian’s Film section (@guardianfilm), in Nicolas Winding Refn: 'I bring the singular, the narcissistic, the high art', NWR told Leigh – seemingly inconsequentially, as Leigh’s next paragraph is about meeting him next in London, a year later – about a young man whom he found bleeding nightmarishly in urban Los Angeles, and whom, along with another man (already there), he attempted to help, but the man died (and He had never seen anyone die before) :

He told me this story a few weeks later, still in LA. I asked if he had felt emotional. ‘No,’ he said. Nothing ? ‘Strangely nothing.’ The next morning ? ‘Nuh-uh.’ He sipped juice through a straw. ‘But later,’ he said, ‘I was happy. Because I got a fucking great idea for a scene.’


² Twentieth Century Music : Its Evolution from the End of the Harmonic Era into the Present Era of Sound, Peter Yates. Random House, New York (1967). Pantheon Books, p. 41.

³ Later, as well as an eight-movement Pulcinella Suite (revised in 1965), he produced arrangements, in collaboration with Gregor Piatigorsky and Samuel Dushkin, respectively, called Suite italienne for cello and piano (1932-1933) and violin and piano (1933).




Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Watching Carlo Gesualdo, who is the transgressor ? : Breaking the Rules

The Marian Consort, Gerald Kyd, and Carlo Gesualdo at Jesus College

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2016 (20 to 27 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


3 August


An evening with The Marian Consort, Gerald Kyd, and Carlo Gesualdo (Prince of Venosa), in the chapel of Jesus College, during Cambridge Summer Music Festival, on Monday 18 July 2016 at 7.30 p.m.








Prelude :


This piece of writing – by way of an account or review of the music-event Breaking the Rules at Cambridge Summer Music Festival 2016 – should have been fully written up and finished much nearer the time, and so would have been more detailed¹ (and less impressionistic), but it is what it is…

The Marian Consort


With Breaking the Rules, it took no more than a flick-through the Festival's promotional booklet to establish that The Marian Consort (@marianconsort) were, as a creditable ensemble, working in tandem with an actor (Gerald Kyd), and that their collaboration was likely to provide an unusual experience, with a Cambridge college chapel as the back-drop...


Moreover, Cambridge Summer Music Festival (cambridgesummermusic.com / @cambridgemusic) has a tradition of such interpretations of composers in relation to their lives and works, one example being a one-man show around a decade ago where, in the chapel of Clare College (@ClareCollege), we heard a performer embodying Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (C. P. E. Bach), and playing his work, and with - to close, as the light outside faded - a composition by his father, Johnann Sebastian (J. S. Bach), his Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue, BWV 903.

Taken from The Full Monteverdi - LIVE SHOW 2004-2007


Or who can likewise forget I Fagiolini, with their theatrical Full Monteverdi, giving us the experience - right in the midst of us - of the love and passion of Claudio Monteverdi's madrigals ? [This at a regular Festival venue, Emmanuel United Reformed Church (EURC) : you can read here about director John La Bouchardière's film, made with I Fagiolini (@ifagiolini) and its music director, Robert Hollingworth.] Or that, in 2011, before presenting her programme Beloved Clara in 2016 - with its insights into the lives of Robert and Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms - Lucy Parham (@LucyParham) had brought us, amongst other things, a tea-time talk with Radio 3’s (@BBCRadio3’s) Sarah Walker (@drsarahwalker) about Liszt’s Women, also at EURC, and complete with an element of piano performance ?

Lucy Parham



An account of the performance / event :

One heard afterwards, from asking one of the members of the ensemble’s technical crew, that previous venues had been Brighton Festival (@brightfest) and Lichfield, and thus gathered that – for all – the experience must accordingly be a very site-specific one : at this venue, lighting the chapel of Jesus College had apparently been a joy, and from the nave one had been able to see the colours and shades of the chapel itself, thus giving energy to the different parts of Kyd / Gesualdo’s story.

Therefore, one assumes, variations to moves and to cues – and to where and how to project the moving images that were also such a part of the evening – must also have been determined in situ to suit the architecture (and how it is laid out at floor level), with cast and crew then practising and, as they had, making them highly cogent. (To an extent true, of course, with any ensemble that is prepared to explore the physical and / or acoustic properties of a place - including when The Hilliard Ensemble performed with Jan Garbarek in St Paul’s (@StPaulsLondon) or the chapel of King’s College, Cambridge (@Kings_College), with the former processing separately to a central point, and the latter wandering where he might, and weaving magic between their vocal-lines on alto (or tenor).)


Straightaway, The Marian Consort (@marianconsort) impressed both with the beauty that one could discern in the individual voices, and in the quality of the ensemble - working around and alongside their collaborator Gerald Kyd, and fitting themselves to this oft-used performance-space (the nave and transepts anterior to the chapel proper of Jesus College (@JesusCollegeCam)).


Sometimes as a choir à 5, rather than the full à 6², they were in a sharp and tightly defined relation to the words of Kyd (as to timing, ambience, etc.) and his demeanour as Carlo Gesualdo – or, at least, a version of him (or versions ?), as scripted by writer Clare Norburn (@clarenorburn) (please see below). This was assured performance, even more so in an unfamiliar context, and where, on the evening, they had to match the tone and mood of Kyd’s role.



That said, there are ways, and ways, of performing Gesualdo’s work, some of which seem to find it less necessary to prepare the ear for, or assimilate, his dissonances / use of dissonance : for example, when The Delphian Singers performed, in the chapel of Clare College (@ClareCollege)), for Easter at King’s 2013³ (@ConcertsatKings)) – as if what Gesualdo does were so extreme that it must be accentuated, and cannot be allowed to resemble that of his (longer-lived) contemporary, Claudio Monteverdi... ?


The Discovery of Bomarzo at Aldeburgh Festival (Solomon's Knot and Mira Calix)

After all, Monteverdi cited and spoke highly of Gesualdo⁴, and Solomon’s Knot, performing in The Discovery of Bomarzo - at Aldeburgh Festival (#AldeburghFestival / @snapemaltings), in collaboration with Mira Calix (@miracalix) - gave a concert without an interval that, amongst others, included works by both, but did not draw attention to Gesualdo’s use of dissonance any more than to that of Monteverdi [an excerpt can be seen on Solomon's Knot's (@solomonsknot's) web-site at www.solomonsknotcollective.com/the-discovery-of-bomarzo.html] :

At Aldeburgh, Gesualdo was represented by pieces from The Fifth Book of Madrigals (1611), and one from the Sixth (published in the same year). However, Glenn Watkins⁴ (op. cit., pp. 36-60) spends a chapter in considering the arguments and evidence for the composer's assertion that they had been written fifteen years earlier (i.e. when Gesualdo was in Ferrara (please see below)), and so not as a reaction to events to which notoriety has attached (please also see below). (Likewise, The Gesualdo Six (@TheGesualdoSix) perform a programme with Ligeti’s Nonsense Madrigals interspersed with madrigals by both composers (including The Sixth Book of Madrigals, but do not manage the dissonances in a different way, so that Gesualdo’s then sound extreme.)





The script for the performance did not seem over-developed (i.e. not 'too highly polished', since slickness can lie that way), and its raw humanity, and that of Kyd as Gesualdo (‘K/G’) - obliged to re-experience his music through his life, and his life through his music - fed each other : if we must search for emotional or literary parallels (and it is absolutely not necessary to know them at all to watch and understand Breaking the Rules), there is an affinity with much of Beckettt’s work, but, most nearly, an echoing of the structural interplay of Words and Music (Paroles et musique), his work for radio, as to the function of the musical portion and its integration into the operation of the text.

On another level, when in mid-speech (although we never did know when K/G might summon music - or, vice versa, it summon him away from us, and significantly often to the period when he was in Ferrara (please see below), K/G also felt like an imagining of one of the souls to whom Beckettt's beloved Dante had assigned a role in the Inferno. Not, though, the passive repetitive patterns of Beckettt at his most discernibly Dante-esque, in Play (not least since Gesualdo was not, at this time in the evening, the adulterer), but in the narrative energy of his trilogy of novels - or that of Winnie in Happy Days (Oh les beaux jours). (Even just a very little of Hamm’s superficially self-contented story-telling style in Endgame (Fin de partie) ?)

At The Lammermuir Festival 2016, Gerald Kydd with The Marian Consort in Breaking the Rules (photograph by Robin Mitchell, for the Festival)


Although, at the time, it may have seemed dramatically ‘unhelpful’ for K/G to ask, nigh at the outset, who we were to judge Carlo Gesualdo, [what we conveniently call] History does nothing but judge him - for ‘Murther’ ou des autres dissounances. (Sometimes with the most unlikely accomplices !) Yet, if, after an accusation against The Marian Consort’s and his explicit audience, we thought that going back and re-creating the so-called fourth wall was not easily done (a term also ill suited to theatre in the round), we had not reckoned with writer Clare Norburn's understanding of the effect of K/G's presence, or his dynamic within this work, and with live singers - present almost as part of the action, or of his psyche.


At that point, and for all that one knew (not then having reference to a programme), the evening might have run to one long unbroken act. Over the course of the second half, one also proved to have wrongly figured that K/G wanted to keep from us an account of what happened to his wife and her lover – he did tell us towards the end, and how it had not been a casual discovery, or acts that had been committed in the heat of anger.


Nowadays (please see the Tweets below), and ignoring that this was in the late sixteenth century (and that the Gran Corte della Vicaria did not find that Gesualdo had committed a crime), the concentration seems to be on the fact that he killed these people at all⁵ (not, which appears to have been what sensationally exercised people at the time, the manner of it). So there are casual comments on whether Gesualdo’s dissonances reflect his remorse, in the course of Elin Manahan Thomas introducing a concert, otherwise excellent, of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century European instrumental music by Il Giardino Armonico.



Whatever the reason why we hear it (and probably believe it - and all that it implies - just because we do), it is a much-told story, originating from the composer’s friend Ignaz von Seyfried, that when he acted as page-turner for Beethoven at the premiere of his Piano Concerto No. 3, von Seyfried saw almost nothing but empty pages. Too often, the stories that are readily told about composers, not least Gesualdo, are actually to the exclusion of the music and of meaningfully engaging with it. (Likewise, we hear time after time that Ralph Vaughan Williams professed agnosticism, but does that information get in the way of hearing his musical or other concerns in Job : A Masque for Dancing (1931), or Pilgrim’s Progress (1936) ?)

K/G (Gerald Kyd as Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa)

With excellent collaborators in The Marian Consort and Gerald Kyd, Clare Norburn’s (@clarenorburn's) act of Breaking the Rules is giving us a prolonged period to listen to the account that K/G chooses to give of himself and his life – all brought into the context of his music and of, musically, how he harks back to two years in the mid-1590s, when he was in Ferrara (whose elite musical world has since been adeptly treated of by Donald Macleod and his team on Radio 3’s Composer of The Week (#COTW)).

As we hear K/G, and also the music, what seems to have taken root most in his memory and feelings is his time at the Court of Ferrara, and the music that he composed there / then (please see above, concerning the date of composition of his last two books of madrigals), at the same while as enchanting him, imbuing him with a vivid sense of loss : as Norburn herself observes (in a full programme-note), Gesualdo’s ‘flowering as a composer is linked to a series of visits he made to the cultural hothouse of the day, Ferrara, which brought him into contact with other musicians and composers'.




Norburn gave us the moment in time when the piece is located. As well as in the programme, the piece itself sets out, in the guise of K/G, an understanding / interpretation of the significance of Gesualdo's earlier life. As she comments :

Like most second sons, his intended path was to enter the priesthood and cardinalate [...]. At the age of seven, his mother died and he was sent away to Rome to be brought up by Jesuits. When Carlo was 18, his brother died and his path suddenly changed. Suddenly he was expected to marry and carry on the family line.

Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales (around the age of 13)


One York Early Music Festival (@yorkearlymusic) considered the musical responses to, and historical consequences of, the death of Prince Henry (one of which was to bring Charles I onto the throne in Henry's stead, in succession to James I, Charles' and his father). As with the early and unenvisaged death of the Prince of Wales (19 February 1594 – 6 November 1612), Gesualdo’s brother Luigi, three years his elder, had been due to succeed and become Prince of Venosa⁶, but Luigi died in 1584 : Charles and Carlo had both been brought up with a different future in mind for them, and for their elder brothers, and Breaking the Rules took time to explore the effect that it had on the latter.

Following Henry’s death, the musical tributes alone, which include settings of ‘When David heard’ by Thomas Weelkes and Thomas Tomkins (thus making comparison with David’s grief at the news that his son Absalom has been killed in battle), were effusive. How difficult, Norburn and K/G suggest to us in this challenging work of drama, to be the one who has not been brought up to rule (or have a spouse), and yet be looked to do those things (knowing that the death of another, one's brother, brought it about and / or that no one had intended one to have that status)… ?







Postlude :








* * * * *












End-notes

¹ Which is to say, not relying overly on memories that had been meant to be recorded in words on the night, rather than becoming vague with time first...

As it was, it was always going to have these opening two or three paragraphs [their relevance, now, seems unclear], which were roughed out then (although then used, in between, in reviewing Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon (2016) (@tnd_film)) :

In other words, is the faulty notion behind Nicolas Winding Refn Presents... this ? It is as if, counterfactually, Stravinsky had not only done very little with the Pergolesi materials to re-embody them as his own, but had also, and without good reason, allowed those facts to be known before their time.

Whereas Stravinsky himself was too good a self-publicist for that, and, first allowed the Pergolesi name ‘to stick’ by arranging the work (in collaboration with Paul Kochanski) for violin and piano, publishing Suite d'après des thèmes, fragments et morceaux de Giambattista Pergolesi (1925). (Later, as well as an eight-movement Pulcinella Suite (revised in 1965), he produced arrangements, in collaboration with Gregor Piatigorsky and Samuel Dushkin, respectively, called Suite italienne for cello and piano (1932-1933) and violin and piano (1933).)


² Partly determined by the number of parts and / or getting in position for the effect of 'a voice off', from the choir. (The seating, in the chapel at Jesus College, was in the nave and transepts.)

³ Conducted by Toby Young in the programme Drop, drop slow tears, with Gesualdo’s Tenebrae Responsories (as well as works by Kenneth Leighton and James MacMillan), on Wednesday 27 March 2013.

⁴ In The Gesualdo Hex [W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., New York / London (2010)], by Glenn Watkins, we read (p. 56) :

Monteverdi countered [being charged with taking contrapuntal licences and making use of unprepared dissonances] that the older prima pratica of Ockeghem and Josquin des Prez hadplaced a premium on the beauty of the contrapuntal writing. The new seconda pratica, however, which he specifically attributed to Gesualdo and a small group of composers beginning with Cipriano de Rore and ending with Giulio Caccini, held counterpoint and rhythm as subordinate to the text [...]


⁵ Although, from the same period, do we take for granted in Shakespeare (from Othello to Leontes’ bloodthirsty jealousy in The Winter’s Tale), or in the execution of Anne Boleyn, that (real or imagined) infidelity came at a high price ?

⁶ On the death of his father, in 1591 (and a year after he had killed his first wife, Donna Maria), Gesualdo became the third Prince of Venosa (and the eighth Count of Conza). (Prince Henry, dying ten months before Gesualdo, was thus his exact, if younger, contemporary.)




Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Thursday, 21 July 2016

In a few sentences, casting out NWR¹'s The Neon Demon (2016)

In a few choice sentences, casting out NWR¹'s The Neon Demon (2016)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2016 (20 to 27 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


21 July


In a few choice sentences, casting out NWR¹'s The Neon Demon (2016)



Martin Creed ~ Work No. 232 (2000) at Tate Modern (@tate)



With a film, some will want to go into it, already knowing everything about it...




Or having (in its proper sense of reading every word) perused what Little White Lies (@LWLies) – or even Picturehouse Recommends – had to say (or did say, without ‘having to’ say it), and which will have determined them to watch - or to shun².





'when you were young, you dressed yourself and walked where you wanted'
John 21 : 18


Nicolas Winding Refn's (NWR¹'s) The Neon Demon (2016) is very deliberately mannered, and to the extent that his dialogue desires - in massive swathes of overly-delayed reaction - to be portentous. However, alongside its mise-en-scène³, instead it ends up just feeling very ponderous : nigh tediously so, with an affect that aims at insightful awkwardness, but largely conveys leadenness.

Music choices, as ever, are strong, but, having made a graphic point of doing so in Drive (2011), NWR seems unable to do other than try to shock his audience, as if crediting that it will have a lack of interest in the first-blush, well-worn premise of the traps of (the topos of) a beautiful young girl, come to California to trade on attributes that she knows herself to possess.





Prey on her what may - which, of course (and in order to provide the shocks), it duly does...



This is what [some] others said, at more length… :






[...]





End-notes :

¹ Winding Refn is now monogrammed, with the claimed status of the royal or the regal, at the head of his films. (Although, according to Wikipedia®, A series of uncombined initials is properly referred to as a cypher (e.g. a royal cypher) and is not a monogram.)


² Maybe it is the bane of many a film-maker (or distributor) that a book is judged by what is not even its cover, though those in the latter category do not entirely help their cause when a trailer makes an excellent film seem weak, or a poor film worth the watch, because of how scenes, snippets and elements of dialogue have been unrepresentatively mixed up and divorced from their filmic setting, in favour of creating an impression that the work itself does not substantiate (let alone footage that is in a trailer, but did not make the cut to appear in the film itself…).

³ Which obviously heavily evokes Tony Scott's Tarantino-scripted True Romance (1993) (whose being shot by Scott left Tarantino himself free to direct Reservoir Dogs (1992)).




Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Lack of Drive ?

This is a review of Drive (2011)

More views of - or after - Cambridge Film Festival 2011
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


14 October

This is a review of Drive (2011)

* Contains spoilers *

It took me a long time to seek to work this one out:

The lack of impetus for a review that I have experienced comes from no lasting impression of Drive (2011), in terms of thoughts that arise from it. It's not that one cannot choose to think about it, because I can, say, summon Carey Mulligan's face and demeanour (as Irene) to mind quite easily, but there is nothing in superficially recalling the fact that I have seen this film that makes me want to.

As with seeking to review Drive, it's not exactly that I have to force myself to revisit it, but that the film just doesn't seek me out unbidden and remind me of it (unlike, dare I say it, Tirza? - or Dimensions?).

Not that I think that anything is necessarily wrong, or, indeed that this isn't a good film (or that I wouldn't watch it again), because, unless there is a long list to be critical about, I would not find it natural to write as much about most documentaries than about most feature films - but without implying any superiority of one type over the other. Not having anything to say does not mean much, as the film may be eloquent enough on its own account (as is Charlotte Rampling in The Look, for example).

What I will say is this: Dirty Harry; restraint erupting into violence; Clint Eastwood. Those are all things that echo, not so much through Ryan Gosling's performance as Driver, as the character himself. A review in the Festival booklet TAKE ONE, of which I was a little and (I hope) no more than gently mocking, drew attention to the fact that, although we (I?) could swear that we hear him called something, we do not: Ryan Gosling is credited simply as Driver. (By contrast, in 1971, Eastwood was the Harry of the film's title.)


Does the lack of a name say more than Driver's prepared speech? Definitely, the speech is where I came in with thinking of Harry Callahan and his famous 'Do I feel lucky?' spiel.(Moreover, Harry is relatively nearby in San Francisco, where he is seeking a gunman calling himself Scorpio: and what is the emblem on Driver's light-coloured jacket?) For anyone who knows Harry, I cannot believe his formulation would not have been a touchstone for Driver's own, either because, as with Travis Bickle, Driver has modelled a persona, or (or as well) because the film is nodding to that sort of territory:

We first hear the set speech (as a recalled voiceover) where Driver is very much in control, dictating the terms; when we hear it again, he is trying to pretend (to himself, as much as anyone?) not only that he is still in control, but also that he knows what he has let himself in for - which he (clearly) does not. (Though there has been a foreshadowing of the violence in the scene where he is accosted, when drinking in a bar, by someone who recognizes him as having driven for him: it had not gone well for that man's accomplice and him, but he is told quite clearly where to get off when he makes a proposition to Driver.)

But is the attempt to be in control linked to, and just an aspect (albeit a central one) of, the namelessness? I think that it may be (don't worry, this isn't a review of the Eastwood film - trust me!): Harry asserts himself, asserts the role of chance, in confronting another man with a weapon that may (or may not) be out of ammunition, but does so through a set pattern of words - a mantra, a prayer, it doesn't matter what it is, it works for him, and that is what it is intended to do. After Driver's second utterance of his speech, he is more and more on his own in making choices, planning, seeking to regain control, to protect and survive.

Whatever his life exactly has been before, he has survived with work in the garage and, relatedly, driving. Yes, he does different sorts of driving (and there is a neat misdirection with the scene where he is about to do a stunt, and is dressed in LAPD uniform), but there is no detail, no feeling of a life led other than by a cipher.


When Irene asks him, he says that he has recently moved to the - unfurnished, unpersonalized? - apartment around the corner from her, but, after a hesitation, he continues that he is not new to Los Angeles (as becomes evident - from where he works, and from how he knows where he is going when he drives). (Yet, with the stunning night views of the city, I almost feel that we know LA better than we do Driver.)

So is what the film wants to say that meeting Irene and her son Benicio changes his life? - and, not necessarily for the better, vice versa? He wants to help and protect her - but in his chosen way, which involves exposing her to an epsiode in the lift that will surely gain a life of its own. However, as things happen (not entirely outside his own making - a self-destructive streak, consistent with the nature of the night driving that he does?), he cannot be with her, cannot do any more than further conceal his identity and who he is.

Maybe, if anywhere, that's where there is scope to wonder: what does he really see in Irene, and what is his vantage-point? Yes, she seeks his company (and, in doing so, is not being strictly honest about what her intentions are and what is possible), and she would - might? - not have sought it, if she had known the truth about him. He does more than go along, clearly enjoying spending some time (the film is vague as to how much or for how long) with Benicio and her, and becoming aware that they may be exposed to risk.

Regarding the timing of the second time that we hear Driver's speech, and where everything really starts to change, he tells Irene that he had offered to help Standard, her husband. That may or may not be true, as Standard is shown playing a line in innuendo and low-level menace that suggests that he thought ill of Driver's recent attentions to his wife and son, and that appearance seems more consistent with his having 'suggested' that Driver should help Standard with his problems.

In any event, whether he is free or not to do what he does, he assuredly does it for Irene and for Benicio, not for Standard. Maybe it seems likely that he would, maybe it doesn't, but he does, and that is just another part of his unknowability: the tender (but quiet) times in Irene's company, contrasted with the explosions of violence. Maybe more of Travis, along with Harry, after all...?