Available today on Netflix, Copenhagen Cowboy is the new series from Nicolas Winding Refn. He signs a fantastic odyssey with a heroine as strange as it is disturbing. An often frustrating series that stands out for its aesthetics.
What is it about ?
After a life of servitude as a human lucky charm, a woman with strange powers seeks revenge on those who have wronged her.
Copenhagen Cowboy, a series created by Nicolas Winding Refn with Angela Bundalovic, Lola Corfixen, Zlatko Buric… Episodes viewed: 6 out of 6
Who is it with?
For his return to Denmark after several years in Hollywood, Nicolas Winding Refn shoots in his native language with Copenhagen Cowboy and naturally calls on local actors. Series buffs may recognize Angela Bundalovic who plays the main role – that of the intriguing Miu – seen in particular in the Danish Netflix series The Rain.
As for Refn fans, they’ll probably recognize Yugoslav-Croatian-Danish actor Zlatko Burić who played a drug lord in his Pusher trilogy (and its remake!). Here he plays the infamous Miro, a crooked lawyer who has known Miu since early childhood.
Nicolas Winding Refn even offers a cameo at the end of the season. But above all, it calls on a whole gallery of actors who are playing for the first time on screen: Li Li Zhang as the cunning Mother Hulda, Jason Hendil-Forssel as the brutal Mr. Chiang, and Andreas Lykke Jørgensen as serial killer Nicklas.
Well worth a look ?
Copenhagen Cowboy is distinguished from the outset by its aesthetic biases. The series opens with a pigsty and pigs crammed into their cages. After a long tracking shot, the camera comes to a young woman being strangled by a man. This is an image that inspires Nicolas Winding Refn where the omnipresence of pigs serves as a parable throughout the six episodes of this first season.
Here, men make pig noises when injured. Surreal? Barely. We are at Refn who spins the metaphor. Given the misery of its lowlands, Copenhagen itself is filmed as a filthy enclosure. Pigs – as humans often do – mindlessly devour. And vice versa.
Inspired by westerns, fairy tales and what Refn called the “metaphysical power of womanhood”, the series is a chilling, sometimes fascinating odyssey through the circles of Copenhagen’s hell. In typical Refn style, Miu is a character of impenetrable mystery. A boyish, cunning young woman with a bowl haircut and eyes wide as saucers.
A unique heroine
Her face protruding, all in cheekbones and jaws, she walks around with her childish face and walks around with all her phlegm, her arms hanging down, as if her muscles had prematurely anticipated rigor mortis. Dressed throughout the series in a zip-up jacket and tracksuit bottoms, her disconcerting stillness is only interrupted by small flashes of elasticity in martial arts scenes.
We follow this neo-cowboy, without a past and with an uncertain future, in his journey through the criminal world of Copenhagen. From seedy underground brothels to fluorescent Chinese restaurants, corporate back rooms and a mansion inhabited by Evil, she embarks on a quest for truth, redemption or revenge? And she finds herself in a delicate situation every time.
Refn reviews all the plagues of underworld Copenhagen: dirty money, drugs, sex workers victims of human trafficking, mafias from China and the Balkans, and a sadistic and neurasthenic villain when he does not rush in in his murderous quest.
Miu, our traveling avenger, has been bought and sold throughout her life, first by her mother when she was seven years old because she has powers. Today, she has been bought by a middle-aged woman, Rosella, who believes that Miu will be her lucky charm in her quest for fertility.
Throughout the six episodes, one gets only droplets of information about this enigmatic gift that Miu possesses – the kind of gift for which “40 years ago she would have been burned at the stake” Rosella told him. Of course, the fact that no one can put their finger on the nature of this gift is a great source of frustration. It is clear, however, that Miu is using her curious powers to get out of the most more explosive.
The series’ supernatural elements are elucidated somewhat in the final episode, when Miu meets her nemesis and alter ego Rakel, played in her first on-screen role by Refn’s daughter, Lola Corfixen, a kind of hyper-feminine princess. with a steely gaze.
Back to basics
It is the first work Refn has shot in his native Denmark in over 20 years. But we find there the same neo-black aesthetic, impregnated with neons that he declined throughout his career. Contrasting colors abound: pinks, purples and blues light up the world of Miu.
Its path is lit by LED strips and the garish glow of slot machines like storefronts and cavernous basements. Terrifying sunsets outline its distinctive silhouette in backlight. Unsurprisingly, too, the stylized, synthesizer-heavy score of regular Refn collaborator Cliff Martinez is superimposed on the elegant on-screen violence.
Impossible not to recognize his leg so identifiable. Too much perhaps. Because Refn recites his scales with (too many) circular tracking shots in rooms where the action always takes place at the moment when the camera flees it. He films the impassiveness on the faces of his protagonists to probe the existential void there. And always seems to seek the hidden meaning of these violent silences.
Some will find this relentless distancing excessive. And she is. But Copenhagen Cowboy can also be a source of satisfaction for those who like Refn’s acidic and obscure films. With no certainty about the next few seasons, it’s bold of the director to only start setting up the superheroic elements of the story in the final episode. But until then, it’s been far too dragging a journey, even if it’s visually arresting.
Copenhagen Cowboy is currently available on Netflix