Danish wunderkind NICOLAS WINDING REFN tells Kaleem Aftab that although he‘s never worked with compatriot Lars von Trier, he has just collaborated with literary hero, Hubert Selby Jr and ambient music creator Brian Eno.

Nicolas Winding Refn is that rare breed, a sassy Danish director who has had nothing to do with Lars von Trier. The filmmaker, who looks like the archetypal football hooligan with broad shoulders and an intimidating presence, has often been likened to American wunderkind Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream). By a strange quirk of fate, Refn’s latest film, Fear X, has also been written by cult Requiem screenwriter Hubert Selby Jnr.

Refn sought out Selby, who he describes as being ‘a man who lives in this tiny apartment writing some of the greatest books in modern literature’, sending him a copy of his earlier film, Bleeder, which Refn describes as his own interpretation of Selby classic text, Last Exit to Brooklyn. Selby liked what he saw and agreed to collaborate with the Dane.

It was a similar story with FearX star John Turturro. Refn describes him as ‘having that sensibility of resembling the everyday man. That was an important element for this movie.’ Turturro, best known for outrageous cameos in Coen Brothers films and Spike Lee ‘joints’, says: ‘I saw his first film, Pusher, which is why I wanted to do this. He is a really interesting guy and I really worked hard for him.’

Apart from his directorial skills there is much about Refn that intrigues. When he was eight years old, his mother divorced his father and Refn moved with her to New York. They lived there for a decade and he went to acting

THRILLER FEAR X (12A) 91 min 0..

The seemingly pointless murder of the wife of Harry Cain (John Turturro) in a Wisconsin mall is the setting for Nicolas Winding Refn's first foray into English language lilmmaking, a screenwriting collaboration with novelist Hubert Selby Jr. As with the Danish director‘s earlier efforts. the electric Pusher and Dealer, Fear X essays the psychology and social circumstance behind crime, but unlike these predecessors Fear X is shot at a far more slow- burning pace and is more concerned with the mindset behind crime than its violent external expression.

As with Antonioni's Blow-Up. the only lead to the murder is an innocently captured image.

film the moment of murder. and it's a security guard rather than a photographer who spends a chunk of the movie poring over the footage in a forlorn attempt to find a clue to the mystery.

It is exhilarating stuff as Harry 5 drives himself nuts trying to work out why his wife was killed. and in the process perhaps make a little sense of the world he inhabits. The pursuit takes Harry from Wisconsin to Montana where the secret to the crime seems to lie. Sadly. it's a I journey that also inexplicably r moves the perspective of the film away from Harry to Peter (James Remar), a guilt-ridden policeman all of a sudden the film's not so exhilarating any more. Worse still. the pivotal moment of the film is a special effects sequence that makes Doctor Who look state of the

school before they decided to return to their homeland. Refn says of the experience: ‘I know what it is like being an immigrant coming to a country where you don’t understand the language}

This experience is reflected in all three of his films, each having focused on secluded central characters fighting against impossible odds. The stories all follow a simple theme that Refn describes as his directing style. ‘lt’s: how can I tell stories as simple as possible? I believe the route to all great art is simplicity. It basically means that less is more, none is everything. The simpler you can make it, the more challenging it is to achieve


ZATOICI-ll (18) 116min coco


Refn on Fear X: it’s like sex without the climax

it, the greater success you will have.’

Appropriately, Fear X also contains a great soundtrack by ambient originator Brian Eno, another person eager to work with Refn. The director says of Eno’s music: ‘I describe the soundtrack as having sex with no climax - it’s an everlasting process. The film is a journey that does not end, it just concludes. So it’s a very musically inspired film.’

A bit like its director, then. Inspired, thought- provoking and imaginative - not a football hooligan at all.

I Fear X is on selected release from Fri 26 Mar. See review. below.

Having reinvented the cops and yakuzas Japanese cinema genre. Takeshi Kitano makes a stab at doing likewise with the samurai film. and the writer-(‘lir'ector— editor-actor proves once again that he can slice through conventions like a knife through butter. Here Kitano brings his master strokes to the 19th century Japanese hero Zatoichi. a blind swordsman made famous by Shintano Katsu in a film series which ran 1962—89.

The new Zatoichi (played by Kitano under his acting moniker 'Beat' Takeshil wears a platinum—blonde crop. carries a blood-red sword cane and bears the stoney-faced expression of emotional detachment the actor's employed to 3 striking effect elsewhere. Beyond the fashion makeover. Kitano brings to Zatoichi

another of his trademark idiosyncrasies: abrupt tonal changes between comic

little dance routine.

The sword fights are fast, brutal and utterly thrilling (a rain-soaked one paying homage to genre- master Akira Kurosawa). Crunching sound effects and the judicial use of computer-generated blood sprays and flying body parts enhance imaginative choreography (‘Beat' performs his own moves with eyes shut!). The fights become ever more dynamic as Zatoichi. aiding the people of a remote mountain town that's being terrorised by the Ginzo gang. and his nemesis. the ronin Hattori (Tadanobu Asano) who's been hired by Ginzo to enforce his rule. draw closer for the final battle. It's

and violent. tender and graphic. A sword fight between the blind \.rvanderer and a gang of thieves. which produces numerous amputations and arterial sprays. sits beside a scene in which rural folk working in the field spontaneously break into an odd

Being 2004 and not 1966 it is CCTV footage rather than a photograph that captures on

art. (Kaleem Aftab) I Selected release from Fri 26 Mar. See interview above.

cutting edge stuff. (Miles Fielder) I Selected release from Fri I 9 Mar. See preview. page 24.

Master strokes

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