Nicolas Winding Refn on the films that have shaped his style

Feature by Jamie Dunn | 28 Jun 2016

To celebrate the release of The Neon Demon, HOME in Manchester screen NWR Presents, a season of films personally curated by Nicolas Winding Refn, all of which reflect his aesthetic sensibilities. The Danish auteur talks us through the selection, and some other favourites

Night Tide (1961)

Dir. Curtis Harrington

Plot: Dennis Hopper has his first starring role as a young sailor who falls in love with a carnival worker who might also be a mermaid.

Nicolas Winding Refn: “Night Tide is one of those perfect fairytale movies, very poetic with great cinematography. It’s a very personal film in a way. Curtis, who I was lucky to be friends with before he passed away, was such a visionary filmmaker who was so, so undervalued. I love the film so much that I bought the rights to it; I own the negatives. It was made just before the New Hollywood wave kicked off but it’s a completely individual film that captures its own originality and will always be one of a kind because it’s beyond a certain political movement or film wave. It’s just pure cinema. This is a movie that’s forever.”

Man of Violence (1974)

Dir. Peter Walker

Plot: Crooks, a mercenary and a police inspector seek gold that's been stolen from a shaky Arab sheikdom.

NWR: “Man of Violence was introduced to me by a friend of mine called Sam Dunn, who runs the BFI’s Flipside label. I was hooked from the second he mentioned it; I just loved the title. It’s one of the best examples of those great offbeat gangster films that the UK made back then, it’s really peculiar. At one point Moon, the film’s macho gun-for-hire lead, has to seduce a gay guy to get some information out of him. You’d never see that in an American gangster movie. Peter Walker never got his due because of the type of genre films he made, but I really respect him.”

Man of Violence screens 15 Jul at HOME, Manchester

Valley of the Dolls (1967)

Dir. Mark Robson

Plot: Based on Jacqueline Susann’s best-selling ‘Hollywood exposé’, we follow three young women who meet as they embark on their careers, tracing the ups and downs as fame, drugs and men consume their lives.

NWR: “I actually showed Elle Fanning Valley of the Dolls before we made The Neon Demon. It’s a really interesting film, so complex. What I love about it is that you don’t know what you’re watching. Is it a melodrama, or a comedy, or a camp odyssey, or what? (What you do know is that it all looks fabulous.) That’s why so many critics hated it. When you can’t define a film most of the time you become afraid of it, and that’s the exact opposite reaction you should be having; you should be encouraged by it, surprised by it. The music is great too, by the way, from Dionne Warwick singing on the title track, to the closing credits.”

Deep End (1970)

Dir. Jerzy Skolimowski

Plot: Naïve teen Michael (John Moulder-Brown) gets a painful education in unrequited love when he becomes obsessed with his older co-worker (Jane Asher) at a crumbling public swimming pool.

NWR: “This brilliant coming-of-age story is a great view of London in the late 60s, but what’s so ironic is that it’s made by a Polish guy and mostly shot in Germany, which gives it this really unusual tone. I remember seeing the movie and I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is truly a unique film.’ And again, it has a very fairy tale-like love story, which I love. It’s also such a wonderful movie about adolescence. Anyone who’s been a teen in love with someone older can relate to Deep End.”

Deep End screens 17 Jul at HOME, Manchester

Planet of the Vampires (1965)

Dir. Mario Bava

Plot: An astronaut (Barry Sullivan) and his partner (Norma Bengell) flee from walking-dead astronauts on a volcanic planet.

NWR: “It’s one of those incredible films that’s a combination of all genres: it’s science-fiction, it’s a horror film, it’s a whodunit, it’s an existentialist film. The costumes are mind blowing; it’s very pop-art and fashion orientated. Bava was making films at the same time as those other great Italian directors like Fellini and Antonioni, but I think he’s equally as important. That’s why it was so cool to present the new restoration of Planet of the Vampires in Cannes Classics this year. It was an honour to help bring Bava that recognition he so much deserves.”

Planet of the Vampires screens 16 Jul at HOME, Manchester

Mad Max (1979)

Dir. George Miller

Plot: In a dystopian future, one highway patrolman puts an end to the violence of a berserk motorbike gang terrorising the rural roads of Australia after they attack his wife and child.

NWR: “This is just great cinema – it’s relentless. And it’s a great fashion movie too. George Miller is such a natural director, so stylish. He was on the Cannes jury this year, so I’m not sure he like The Neon Demon so much, but nobody’s perfect.”

Mad Max screens 9 Jul at HOME, Manchester

Mixed Blood (1984)

Dir. Paul Morrissey

Plot: A gang of underaged Brazilian kids attempt to seize control of New York's Lower East Side's drugs trade from a Puerto Rican gang.

NWR: “I think Paul Morrissey is one of the great American directors of the 60s and 70s. He’s a truly individualistic voyeur who really brings a whole new meaning to fetish. I love Flesh for Frankenstein – when I first saw it I thought, ‘Oh my God, you can do that?’ And this later one, Mixed Blood, is just a knockout gangster movie; a great action-drama. Actually, it’s an action-opus, very operatic. And it's also one of the great New York films. It depicts an era that isn’t well documented.”

Screening at HOME in NWR Presents:

The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (Rainer Werner Fassbinder), 6 Jul, 8.20pm
Mad Max (George Miller), 9 Jul, 4pm
Man of Violence (Pete Walker), 15 Jul, 8.30pm
Planet of the Vampires (Mario Bava), 16 Jul, 8.40pm
Deep End (Jerzy Skolimowski), 17 Jul, 6pm
Only God Forgives 35mm (Nicolas Winding Refn), 20 Jul, 8.40pm – read our interview with Nicolas Winding Refn discussing Only God Forgives

The Neon Demon is released 8 Jul by Icon – read our interview with Nicolas Winding Refn discussing The Neon Demon