Gosling's "Lost River", which was to premiere at Cannes on
Tuesday night, includes enough images of blazing buildings to
satisfy the most ardent pyromaniac.
But early comments posted on Twitter following an advance press
screening were overwhelmingly caustic. Tim Robey of Britain's
Daily Telegraph called the film - set in a near-deserted
community pockmarked by scorched houses - a "crapocalypse."
Gosling's movie, which he also wrote, is one of 19 to compete in
the "Un Certain Regard" category for emerging directors at the
prestigious festival on the French Riviera.
The Hollywood heartthrob has been a frequent visitor to Cannes
as an actor, most recently accompanying two Nicolas Winding Refn
films - the bloody slasher set in Bangkok, "Only God Forgives",
and pulp thriller "Drive".
The influence of Winding Refn - who this year is a jury member
in the festival's main competition - was palpable, said critics.
A young man named Bones (Iain De Caestecker), along with his
mother (Christina Hendricks) and little brother, are practically
the only family left that hasn't yet cleared out of the
community, visibly hit by tough times.
When their home is scheduled for demolition due to a mortgage
debt, Bones strips abandoned houses for copper wiring to sell
and his mother starts working at an underground fetish club
where a cabaret show features women being slashed and stabbed.
While Gosling appears at first glance to be interested in themes
such as attachment to home, or mortgage-lender greed, the movie
is sidetracked by its surreal and sinister elements, reminiscent
of David Lynch but without the psychological punch.
Neither the mysterious mute grandmother who sits and watches old
home movies in the dark in full makeup and black veil, nor the
discovery of a town submerged underwater, make much sense. A
violent sexual encounter between the mother and her new boss
feels purely gratuitous.
As if the community doesn't have enough problems already, a
foul-mouthed, street-wise character named Bully (Matt Smith)
rides around in his white convertible, bragging through a
loudspeaker that "I own this city". Those who don't obey find
their lips cut off with scissors.
Spewing blood, a severed rat head, and bikes and buildings
burning in slow motion impart a nightmarish feel as heavy,
brooding music substitutes for dramatic tension.
"The ultimate student film, made by industry pros," wrote Twitch
Film in a tweet.
(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.