Saturday, December 31, 2011

BLEEDER, Nicholas Winding Refn's 2nd feature film

BLEEDER (1999)
D. Nicholas Winding Refn
Import DVD

After I saw the movie DRIVE this year I became a little obsessed with seeing other films from director Nicholas Winding Refn. I had previously seen BRONSON (2010) which I was very impressed with, and had caught up with his Viking epic VALHALLA RISING (2011) just before seeing DRIVE. But I had not seen any of his older films from when he was primarily still working overseas. So I took a plunge and placed a large order from Amazon UK (grabbed some other dvd's I had been looking for too) and picked up this one and his PUSHER trilogy. This was the first of that bundle I watched and I was suitably impressed.

BLEEDER is a street level drama about a group of friends and how their lives change when the core couple of the group become pregnant. Leo (Kim Bodnia) and Lea (Live Corfixen) have discovered they are going to have a baby, but Leo really lacks the maturity to handle the situation. He hangs out with his video store owning buddies Lenny (Mads Mikkelson who went on to play the villain in CASINO ROYAL) and Kitjo (Zlatko Burik) watching movies all night long, or trailing behind Lea's fairly dangerous brother, low level gangster Louis (Levino Jensen). Louis is not crazy about Leo anyway and he can sense that he is unhappy about the new situation. But as things progress, Leo begins to slip into a sort of psychosis, growing more and more reckless and dangerous, making bad decisions as if to purposefully cause problems for himself until it hits the middle of the film and a huge problem that will impact them all.

The second tier of the story is less tense, and what I suspect is more personal to the director. Lenny, who is obsessed with movies and practically lives at his job at the video story has fallen for the pretty girl who works at the greasy spoon diner around the corner. The problem is that he has no personal communication skills at all. All he can do is talk movies. His friends are used to him, but in the real world his is awkward, even backward to the point that he might even be suffering from Aspergers or mild Autism. His only connection to the real world is through what he knows in the thousands and thousands of movies he watches. So he struggles to connect to this girl, who is actually not too different than he is, because she loves books in much the same way.

The first part of the story grows increasingly tense as the characters play out the situations until it reaches the last act of the film and why it is called BLEEDER. It is not what you think, I guarantee it, and it is far more disturbing that you imagine, But it is thankfully tempered by the second story of Lenny's quest to connect with this young lady.

The movie is told with a constant roving camera, almost always on a steady cam, but never obtrusive, and like his later films, using modern music as a way to punctuate the proceedings and introduce characters and give them an immediate voice. This was Refn's second feature film but his vocabulary was already in place.As his acting company, almost all who were in PUSHER and return here playing mostly very different characters than in that film.

One thing that I will say I have found a little frustrating with his films is that they tend to be a little light on the female character's motivations. He simply doesn't write the most detailed females. His male characters are always fully developed and complex, while his females are always kind of by the wayside, or just plot mechanics to move things forward. With that said, BLEEDER is the one film of the bunch I have watched of his work that suffers the LEAST in this aspect with the two female characters being pretty close to fully formed here. Much more so than the women in BRONSON and PUSHER for sure.

Right now BLEEDER is the hardest of his films to see, but it is for certain worth the effort.

© Andrew Copp

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