Three years after director Nicolas Winding Refn defended the theatrical experience before exhibitors at CinemaCon 2016, tonight at the Cannes premiere of his Amazon series Too Old To Die Young, the Danish filmmaker expressed his love for streaming before a packed house in the Grand Lumiere Theatre. Refn made these remarks following a roughly four-minute standing ovation for the series, of which episodes 4 and 5 were shown. Too Old To Die Young will stream on Amazon Prime on June 14.
“Today is year zero. The idea that streaming is a new canvas around us, it’s part of the digital revolution and it flows 24 hours a day, seven days a week, if we can just tap into it and experience creativity. And it’s for everyone. And this show represents the opportunities that can be done in the digital revolution of technology. I suddenly had this opportunity. My wife’s biological father is Fritz Lang, it’s true. I said ‘what would Fritz do today?’ Fritz would make a long movie. So I decided I wanted to make a 13-hour movie and it would be streamed in this beautiful domain called the internet, where you can tap into and let it flow out of you. From the bottom of my heart that Thierry would bring this to Cannes, because it’s a place for film, which is truly an art form. I can now with this co-exist in a whole new world of opportunities. So today, is year zero, the future is now.”
Refn is known for his bold remarks about, well, everything at the festival. His public comments come in the wake of Cannes sidelining Netflix following the streamer’s in-competition presence at the 2017 festival with Okja and The Meyerowitz Sisters. A public outcry from French exhibitors over the influsion of the streamer at the fest was made, and since 2018, a rule has been in place stating that for films to compete at Cannes, they must be shown in cinemas in France. French law, meanwhile, mandates that films can’t be shown on a streaming platform until three years after their cinematic release.
Keep in mind that Too Old To Die Young is not in competition, and Cannes, despite their shackling of Netflix has become more open to their auteurish alums’ TV projects, read two years ago Cannes fave David Lynch premiered the first two episodes of Showtime’s Twin Peaks at the Grand Lumiere.
Too Old To Die Young stars Miles Teller as a detective who leads a double life as a killer working in cahoots with a vigilante played by John Hawkes. Like Clint Eastwood’s ‘Man With No Name’ from the Sergio Leone films, Teller’s Martin Jones (like previous Refn muse Ryan Gosling who had a knack for playing loner heroes) combs the City of Angels and the outlying deserts for the worst kind of scum he wreck havoc on, some of them being rapists and pornographers from the looks of episodes 4 and 5. Why weren’t episodes 1 and 2 shown? Because apparently each episode is a standalone. Overall, the series feels like an extension of the gritty noir world that Refn has painted in Drive, Neon Demon and Only God Forgives. Refn co-created Too Old To Die Young with Westworld scribe Ed Brubaker. Refn told the crowd tonight that when he first met Teller, he was blown away by how much the Whiplash actor looked like Elvis Presley.
At CinemaCon three years ago when the emergence of the Screening Room, and it’s pitch for a truncated three-week theatrical window had exhibition in uproar, Refn was beamed into Amazon’s lunch where he dropped the trailer for Neon Demon. Even though Refn didn’t mention Screening Room, he spoke to the elephant in the room at the time.
“Even though we are in turbulent times with distribution, there will always be cinema,” said Refn seriously at CinemaCon, then quipping, “It’s where we go to be with the seniors who buy discounted tickets.”
“People can be depressing to listen to in terms of the future, but there will always be cinema. All of you who own cinemas, you’re not just showing great films, you’re showing experiences that make up our lives. That’s the power of being together and experiencing film together. If I can help you, I’m there,” he said at the time.
“You know me, I’m a cinema lover. I was born in a cinema, I’m from a cinema family.”