Cannes: Ryan Gosling's Directorial Debut Bows to Both Boos and Applause

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"Lost River" stars Christina Hendricks in a David Lynch-like fantasy set against America's economic collapse.

Hearty boos as well as a short burst of applause greeted Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut, Lost River, which was unveiled today at the Cannes Film Festival as part of the Un Certain Regard sidebar.

Filmed in a series of dilapidated homes on the outskirts of Detroit, the movie is a feverish fable starring Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks as a single mom who’s seriously behind on her mortgage and Scottish actor Iain De Caesteker (Agents of SHIELD) as her teenage son who’s in love with the girl next door, played by Saoirse Ronan.

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If that sounds like a conventional setup, the film is anything but. It's located instead on the edge of metaphor: If the blighted suburb is economically underwater, the surrounding valley, where an existing town has been swallowed up by a recently constructed reservoir, is literally drowning. Matt Smith (the former Doctor Who) terrorizes the place as a character called Bully, and Eva Mendes presides over a David Lynch-like nightclub where she performs bloody rituals.

Produced by Marc Platt Productions, Bold Films and Gosling’s Phantasma banner, with Sierra/Affinity handling international sales, the project was originally titled How to Catch a Monster and will be released stateside by Warner Bros.

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While the formal reviews have not yet been filed, the first round of critical tweets was decidedly mixed. “Just think,” tweeted The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw, “if Ryan Gosling hadn’t been such a star actor, he’d never have been allowed to direct *stares into space, screams*.” The Toronto Star’s Peter Howell countered, “LOST RIVER: Unholy Motors. Gosling’s Motown fantasy blitzes eye & mind.” Kate Muir of The Times of London dismissed it, saying, “Cripes. Ryan Gosling’s Lost River is a lurid mash up of Lynch, Refn and Edward Hopper. In a bad way.” But Hitfix's Gregory Ellwood enthused, "it doesn't all work but Ryan Gosling hits for the fences with #LostRiver and hits something gorgeous. An unexpected vision."

Twitter: @gkilday