The director of “Drive” and “The Neon Demon” returns with a series that looks like a long film noir, which we go through like a dream.
Of Too Old to Die Younghis first series released in 2019 on Prime Video, Nicolas Winding Refn said, not without a touch of sarcasm, that it was “a long film”, updating the insoluble terminological debate on the distinction between series and cinema, made murky by two decades of television peering unabashedly into the big screen.
It is not his new series, this time under the Netflix flag – a long hallucinatory trip that looks like a (very) feature film cut into six 52-minute episodes – which will make the director of Driveaccustomed to rhetoric, and reluctant to rekindle a debate that ultimately does not interest him.
A serial film
It will thus be necessary to take Copenhagen Cowboy for what it is: a long film divided into six parts. We follow Miu (Angela Bundalovic), a mysterious young woman invariably decked out in a blue tracksuit, of which we know nothing except that some attribute supernatural abilities to her. By a combination of circumstances as much as a hazy quest for revenge, Miu will cross like an apparition the criminal world and the slums of Copenhagen, crossing paths with fearless gangsters and prostitutes.
From Copenhagen, we only see a liminal space for a long time, a phantasmagorical periphery frozen in three places: a dilapidated country brothel where young women are slaves, a Chinese roadside restaurant where corpses are gobbled up by pigs and a castle sheltering a worrying family of pig farmers. Three places like three instances of a long waking dream (or rather a nightmare). With a sense of enigma and mystery, Refn unfolds his labyrinthine narrative, giving free rein to his patented formalism and his film visual artist’s inclinations.
It is question in Copenhagen Cowboy of trafficking in women, prostitution bordering on slavery, men like pigs (quite literally), and a patriarchal mafia with abominable methods. As usual, Refn probes the depths of humanity to come and scrape away the monstrosity that lays there, and transmutes this ultra-violent odyssey into a sensory and atmospheric experience.
Between grace and heaviness
The filmmaker’s full panoply is deployed: ultra-aesthetic lights, over-significant framing, neon festival, sometimes noisy sometimes maximalist electro signed Peter Peter and Cliff Martinez, actors with
frozen expressions like wax statues… Supporters and detractors of the director should not
change course to the vision of this series which brings the Refn style to incandescence, as much by the radicalism
of its deliberately fragmented narrative than by its greatly inflated duration.
For our part, we were sometimes dumbfounded by this series that we go through like a dream, and in particular its first four episodes and their disturbing strangeness, sometimes annoyed by the side effects of a filmmaker who encapsulates his own style with too many facilities. It’s that Copenhagen Cowboy is in the image of the filmography of its progenitor, crossed by dazzling and at times bewitching, but also dry and pompous.
At a time when Netflix is overcharging series in development for lack of satisfactory audiences, and
more than ever sees its editorial choices dictated by figures or hype on social networks, we
will be grateful to a UFO like Copenhagen Cowboy to somewhat pervert the algorithmic entrails
from the streaming giant. Even if one suspects that it is less the audiences than the prestige which have
pushed Netflix to sign NWR, whose three letters, like an acronym, have now become a trademark.
Copenhagen Cowboy by Nicolas Winding Refn. On Netflix.