Welcome to the latest edition of 24 Frames. Sahara Shrestha and Andrew Jamieson will be guiding you through the exciting, confusing and often brilliant world of 'film'. Expect news, trailers and plenty of opinion.

The latest edition is brought to you by Andrew Jamieson, who can be found on twitter over at @theghostwriterc.



24 Frames: The 'Fifth Gear: Another look at Drive' Edition

With Nicholas Winding Refn's new Ryan Gosling picture Only God Forgives hitting theatres in the United States (out in the United Kingdom on 2nd August) I watched the director's other collaboration with actor Ryan Gosling, Drive (2011). Refn's new movie has been widely derided by the critics as style over substance and was famously booed at the Cannes film festival (which sounds like a badge of honour to me!). As a UK resident I have yet to see the movie, but many critics have called it opaque, ambiguous and sadistically violent. The aesthetic criticisms were levelled at Drive too but in a more positive light. However, in watching Drive again I would say that it is a beautifully rich movie with subtle layers grounded in a post modernistic film-noir setting.

Drive is film-noir with many of the conceits and storytelling tropes of that genre that are familiar to cinema-goers; the opening sequence places the audience right into the action as music from The Chromatics: 'Tick of the Clock' spills out over the speakers. The aesthetic choice Refn makes here is comparable to Michael Mann's way of shooting urban landscapes as an organic part of the story which brings gravitas and elegance to both character and narrative (I make reference to the opening scene of Mann's Heat as a metro train slowly moves into the frame). Here Refn lets the camera, aesthetics, and Gosling's face do much of the heavy lifting. As we hear the Driver's voice in the opening scene and see the urban landscape outside of his motel room, straight away this portrays the iconography of the film's central protagonist and his eponymous jacket. Without exposition or introduction we are thrown head first into the narrative, as the director uses music and imagery to convey so much with seemingly so little.

One criticism levelled at Ryan Gosling is that he is largely just an attractive canvas who has little range - anybody who has seen Blue Valentine (Derek Cianfrance 2010) knows this not to be true. He is a charismatic presence on screen with many layers to his performances from the cocksure political fixer of The Ides of March to the arrogant womaniser in Crazy Stupid Love. However what Refn understands about Gosling is that when you ask him to play a withdrawn and largely silent character such as the Driver his expression and eyes hint at an inner turmoil, emotional intimacy and violently ambiguous threat. Thusly when asking the actor to utilize these natural skills Refn can let the music, fellow cast members and Newton Thomas Sigel's marvellous cinematography do the talking.

With Drive, all people seem to talk about is the stylistic beauty of the movie, when it is also such an intimate character piece. After the driver has started his friendship with Irene (played by Carey Mulligan) and her son, eventually her former lover is released from prison and she informs the Driver of this. While many directors would opt for a scene with some emotional exposition, Refn simply switches on the stereo again and lets 'Under Your Spell' by the group Desire play out as the driver modifies car parts alone in his apartment. As the movie progresses into a violent thriller it is this scene that perhaps is the most important of the movie as much of the violence that ensues is the result of the Driver's need to protect Irene and her family.

  • Christina Hendricks in Drive

*Possible spoiler alert in the next paragraph*

The reason I describe the film as a post modern noir is the fact that all of the traditional elements of film-noir cultivated by much older black and white pictures are here, but they are out of place. The moll played by Christina Hendricks instead of being an enveloping part of the plot and character dynamics is violently killed early in the movie and is used to show the switch of the Driver from passive emotive to violent aggressor. The traditional masculine or machismo of the central male character is based on emotional responses that would commonly be associated with a feminine protagonist, again this plays on the effeminate beauty of Gosling and his ambiguously stunning looks.

  • Carey Mulligan in Drive

As Only God Forgives approaches, it is clear that in Drive the director has reigned himself in when considering the portrayal of his main character. It was Refn that allowed Tom Hardy to chew on the scenery around him in Bronson which is only the junior to Drive by three years. So while Only God Forgives may be a more traditional noir with little substance, perhaps this is because once Refn has Ryan Gosling in a movie he knows that he doesn't need much dialogue to do the talking, he lets Gosling be the driver for that.