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Nicolas Winding Refn offered an ambivalent Independence Day message in an opinion piece on Wednesday that slammed Donald Trump and promoted the director’s upcoming free content platform, byNWR, as a mental stimulant in a messy political and cultural time.
In The Guardian on Wednesday, the Danish helmer of Drive, The Neon Demon and Only God Forgives wrote that the “insanity that is Donald Trump” has created both a “terrifying” and “thrilling” culture. (The director has been shooting in the U.S. for several months for his upcoming Amazon Studio series, Too Old to Die Young.)
His explanation: Americans must “embrace this apocalyptic time” because otherwise they would do nothing active to change the political situation, which would be worse. “We need to be pushed out of our comfort zones — of complacency, and, for most of us in the west, an easeful life,” Winding Refn wrote. “I’m not advocating physical pain, but I do believe mental pain can be a way to stimulate and reset the brain.”
To help keep people’s minds critical and active in such a moment, Winding Refn recommended art — specifically, a few art house movie titles on his upcoming content platform, byNWR. Winding Refn wrote, “Over recent years, I’ve bought and had restored scores of old movies as a hobby. I wondered what to do with them. Then I realized I should share them for free, so I set up a website where they could be streamed.” He added, “There’s no catch; you’re not being sold anything. Take it or leave it.”
Among the titles that will be available are the 1961 Curtis Harrington-directed thriller Night Tide, Bert Williams’ 1965 horror The Nest of the Cuckoo Birds, Ron Ormond’s 1974 preacher film The Burning Hell and the Dale Berry-helmed 1967 heist film Hot Thrills and Warm Chills.
Winding Refn further connected his site to Trump’s politics in the conclusion of his piece: “I hope my site will inspire people to see the world a different way,” he wrote. “Setting it up has helped me reconcile myself to a different concept of culture than the traditional, romantic one I was raised with.”
Winding Refn then called nostalgia, which he said is still largely experienced by his generation, “artistic suicide.” Trump, he added, was elected on the notion that he would restore America to a place in the world it once had. “Older voters rushed at the chance to return to a comforting fairy tale. But they are not the same people who will inherit the U.S. and have to heal its divisions. And the past was rarely this scary,” he concluded.
Winding Refn first announced byNWR at the Lumiere Film Festival in Lyon, France, in 2017. There, he said that he paid for at least one restoration by directing “commercials we don’t want to watch.”
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