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CANNES — Nicolas Winding Refn’s much-anticipated Drive follow-up and competition entry, Only God Forgives, was met with polite but tepid applause after its world premiere in Cannes Wednesday night. The film received the Cannes standard-issue standing ovation, but “bravos” weren’t heard and the audience appeared somewhat numbed and uncertain about Refn’s hypnotic and ultra-violent neo noir set in Bangkok.
The Danish director received little help marshaling premiere-night magic from his star, Ryan Gosling, who was missing in action on the Cote d’Azure, having issued a message to a press conference earlier in the day saying he wouldn’t be able to make it to the Cannes world premiere due to a scheduling conflict with his directorial debut, How to Catch a Monster, which began shooting three weeks ago in Detroit.
The rest of the lead cast — Kristin Scott Thomas, who plays Gosling’s sinister mother in the film; Thai actor Vithaya Pansringarm, who co-stars as his nemesis; and Thai pop-star turned actress, Yayaying Rhatha Phongam, the love interest — appeared next to Refn and his wife, Liv Corfixen.
Refn’s reputation also attracted a few big names, such as Harvey Weinstein, who sat two rows behind the director during the screening. (The Weinstein Company is releasing the film in the U.S. on July 19 through its Radius label.) New Zealand director Jane Campion — the first and only woman to win the Palm d’Or (The Piano, 1993) — also walked the red carpet as did Chinese star Zhang Ziyi and Chilean-French director Alejandro Jodorowski, to whom the film is dedicated in the end credits.
During the standing ovation, it was Pansringarm who drew the loudest cheers for his performance as the stoic, brutal and morally slippery “Angel of Vengeance” character. The actor, wearing the flowing silk pants of traditional Thai formalwear, smiled and offered a few palms-together Thai bows to the crowd.
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