Critics have had a field day bashing 'Lost River' at Cannes.
Ryan Gosling is an actor-turned director for the gloomy Lost River, the film that premiered at Cannes Film Festival yesterday. The Drive star takes the reigns of an A-list cast for his directorial debut, which was shot in Detroit but is set in the fictional wasteland of Lost River. Billy (Christina Hendricks) is a struggling single mother with two sons, the teenage Bones (Iain De Caestecker) and a toddler.
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Matt Smith plays the aptly-named local psycho, Bully, who drives around down in a gold sequinned jacket bellowing into a loudhailer, intimidating Lost River residents and clashing with Bones. Billy gets offered a compere job in a freaky cabaret club where the entertainment is based on torture and mutilation.
Variety notes that the film feels like a patchwork of ideas "cribbed from the surreal cinematic imaginations of other, vastly more intuitive filmmakers," and highlights influence from Nicolas Winding Refn, Terrance Malick, David Lynch, Dario Argento, Georges Franju and Harmony Korine. Describing the movie as "derivative," Justin Chang states "there are no real characters here, merely shopworn hero/villain archetypes stuck in a grindingly monotonous and virtually plot-free persecution narrative."
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"Which would be fine, or at least tolerable, if Gosling had any real capacity for the nightmarish lyricism he admires in the directors who influenced," the reviewer adds. In a scorching one-star review, The Telegraph brands the movie "lousy" and states that that Lost River has taken the baton of 'worst film at Cannes' from Nicole Kidman's Grace of Monaco in a screening that drew a chorus of boos.
Robbie Collin echoes Chang's words in identifying Gosling's sponge-like directing style, adding Gaspar Noé. "a splash of David Cronenberg," and Mario Bava to the considerable list of influencers. "These filmmakers' ideas and imagery aren't developed, they're simply reproduced: think Wikipedia essay rather than love letter," he says.
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"Suffice to say that Ryan Gosling's directorial debut Lost River is the most enthusiastically derided entry so far at this year's Cannes Film Festival," derides TIME, adding "It will appeal to people who would rather be outraged than bored." Praising the cast's willingness to "accommodate Gosling's strange scenario," Richard Corliss says "Gosling gives them all plenty of breathing space, but this indie effort is not really an actors' exercise.
Focussing on the movie's production, he adds that the film is "choked on its own portentousness" yet concedes that "Benoit Debie's cinematography is impressive and so is Lon Bender's sound design."
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Lost River seems to truly gets up in The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw grill: "It is colossally indulgent, shapeless, often fantastically and unthinkingly offensive and at all times insufferably conceited," he states. However, the critic voices his frustration towards the moments that aren't so bad, saying "There is something in there somewhere - striking images and moments, and the crazy energy of a folie de grandeur."
However, the critic sees light at the end of the tunnel and, crucially, potential for Gosling's career as a filmmaker: "[He] has energy and appetite. [.] It could yet be that Gosling will mature as a director."