Xavier Dolan reacts on stage after being awarded with the Grand Prix for the film ‘It’s Only The End Of The World (Juste La Fin Du Monde)’ during the closing ceremony of the 69th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 22, 2016.
The problem in trying to critically assess Nicolas Winding Refn’s putrid atrocity of a film The Neon Demon is that regardless how much outrage is thrown at it, Winding Refn invariably wins, since that’s exactly what he’s after. The director has set out to make the most repellently misogynistic film imaginable, yet he’s disguised it as a postmodern feminist critique. By shattering every possible taboo, the film is supposed to be an attack against the very thing it represents. Really, though, any semblance of commentary is simply a posture for Winding Refn to cover his ass. This isn’t a case of épater les bourgeois, nor is The Neon Demon qualitatively comparable to the works of Paul Verhoeven or Harmony Korine – it’s much, much too stupid for that.
Set in Los Angeles, that signifier city for all things superficial, The Neon Demon aspires to be a sort of Faustian tale of the fashion world. 16-year-old Jesse (Elle Fanning) is the new girl in town, fresh from Georgia and dreaming to make it as a model. As everyone repeats ad nauseam, she’s incredibly beautiful. More importantly, hers is a natural beauty, unlike the plastically enhanced perfection of her peers who reel with murderous envy as she threatens to steal their spotlight.