As he gears up byNWR.com, a new curated platform of films and more that’s billed as “An Unadulterated Expressway for the Arts,” Drive helmer Nicolas Winding Refn described the reasoning behind the site, telling me it’s “like a Rubik’s Cube in outer space, full of culture inspiring the world to be a better place.”
In a piece he earlier penned for The Guardian, timed to the July 4th holiday, Refn wrote, “This is a frightening time to be alive,” but “certainly, we have to embrace such an apocalyptic time, because the alternative is hand-wringing inertia and that’s perfect for those in power.” And what’s needed, “is art: good, challenging art, not good-taste art, which is the chief enemy of creativity.”
An expert on cinema of different genres and eras — he’s developing remakes of some classic horror pics — Refn has acquired and restored old movies as a hobby. His byNWR launches officially this month and will share the films for free.
The Danish filmmaker, who has been heralded by and caused division among critics, has lately been shooting Too Old To Die Young, a series for Amazon, in Los Angeles. He wrote Wednesday that being in America, “it seems increasingly clear we’re now living in a dystopian reality TV show. America has always had a tendency towards the operatic but, fueled by the hand grenade of insanity that is Donald Trump, it’s reached new heights of hysteria.” Still, “out of earthquakes come opportunities” and that’s where art comes in.
Among the titles that will be available on byNWR are Curtis Harrington’s Night Tide which Refn calls “one of the most important films of the pre-counterculture movement”; Bert Williams’ The Nest Of The Cuckoo Birds, “a strange, singular example of an unidentifiable genre”; Ron Ormond’s The Burning Hell, “a fantastic marriage of extreme propaganda and lowest-common-denominator pandering”; and Dale Berry’s Hot Thrills And Warm Chills, “a prime example for the argument that art doesn’t have to contain a single drop of good taste.”
In August, Volume 2 of the site will appear. The way it works, Refn explained to me via email, is that there will be a new guest editor each quarter so the site constantly evolves.
In the Guardian piece, Refn concluded that setting up byNWR has helped reconcile him “to a different concept of culture than the traditional, romantic one I was raised with. People of my generation – I’m 47 – want tangible tokens of mortality to cling to. But nostalgia is artistic suicide. You have to accept the fact that everything disintegrates in your hands… Trump was elected on the promise he’d make America great again. Older voters rushed at the chance to return to a comforting fairy tale. But they are not the same people who will inherit the U.S. and have to heal its divisions. And the past was rarely this scary.”