Venice 79, Copenhagen Cowboy: Refn’s latest serial madness is a sadistic and magnetic artist provocation

In closing of Venice 79 was presented Out of Competition Copenhagen Cowboythe new madness of the Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn: one noir series in six episodes which tells of a young and enigmatic heroine, Miuplayed by the actress Angela Bundanovic. After a life of servitude, on the threshold of a new beginning, she wanders into the bleak landscape of the criminal world of Copenhagen, finding refuge at the keeper of a brothel with an adjoining pigsty. In search of justice and revenge, Miu meets his nemesis, Rakeland together they undertake an odyssey into the natural and the supernatural. Eventually, the past transforms and defines their future and the two women discover that they are not alone, but that they are many, in one Danish criminal hell also populated by Chinese, Serbian-Albanian and Arab mafias.

After Too Old To Die Youngmade for Amazon, the filmmaker of Drive And Only God forgives returns to the world of seriality, this time for Netflix, with a very original and unsettling project: a kind of time bomb placed in the heart of contemporary serialityaimed at shaking the public with something new and never seen before, crumbling all expectations and comfort zone. Copenhagen Cowboy was born from my revolutionary focus and at the same time seeks to seduce and entertain the senses. It is designed to stimulate the mind, eyes, tongue, heart and soulRefn said about the series, made in Denmark and whose work began with the arrival of the pandemic, when the author was forced to stay in his native country and put on standby some American projects that he had in building site.

The lead actress is another of Refn’s dearest alter egos, who virtually inherits the scepter from the various Bronsons (Tom Hardy) in BronsonOne Eye (Mads Mikkelsen) in Valhalla RisingDriver (Ryan Gosling) in DriveLieutenant (Vithaya Pansringarm) in Only God forgivesJesse (Elle Fanning) in The Neon Demon and the numerous characters of the show Too Old to Die Young. His name is inspired by the fashion house Miu Miu of the group Pradawith which a collaboration is underway that has led Refn to live in Milan to devote himself to various projects, while the physical connotation of the character is very different from the others of Refn, with a much more marked feminine fragility and a face that makes her resemble to a sort of small, thin bird in a cage, but only apparently defenseless.

In a press conference in Venice, Refn described his way of working and the way in which it has evolved: “Things depend a lot on the mood of the morning: a horror can become science fiction with a domestic tone, especially when I relate to my children, and translate into suspense in the afternoon. I like to create this spontaneous flow of reactions that attract me. Social media, which is perhaps the future version of cinema, is based on the heterogeneity of elements, which is also artistically stimulating. I like to destroy royalties“.

And he destroyed them and how Refn in Copenhagen Cowboywhich is in perfect continuity with all the director’s past works, even with his very first films, but seems to disintegrate and pulverize them one by one in an increasingly dilated audiovisual flowas if the denial of one’s past was the only way to die and be reborn as an artist and how brand (the now famous and recognizable signature at the bottom by NWR). Refn now seems to have definitively crossed the boundaries of cinema and seriality, to arrive at something frighteningly close to the perversion of contemporary artto the gallery installation, to the auteur provocation sifting through the manure – without any fear or self-censorship – in search of an obscene form of image transcendence.

Photo: Getty (Stefania D’Alessandro / WireImage)

The castration of the male and the relative impotenceone of the key themes of his cinema, here is no longer even a metaphor, a subtext, the objective correlative of an inverted symbolic order: brazenly and shamelessly exposed right from the dialogueswhich are mere furnishings of a gendered operation inhabited by witches and ghosts, murky and heterogeneouswhich takes every narrative development in counter-time, without fear of being at the same time perverse and romantic in the exposition of a casual and weightless violence.

For the nostalgic and the widows of the first Refn, it is clear that Copenhagen Cowboy can leave you speechless and be rejected, perhaps even in the trunk, with the risk of being mistaken for an exhausting and endless fashion advertisement. It is, however, about a very strong claim of discontinuity with respect to everything that can be seen and found around todayespecially on the small screen, because no one like Refn seems to have the courage to expose one’s artist nudity in the presence of one’s own demons and tormentsdisplaying them with a style that is all paced and extremely calibrated 360 ° panoramas (but also the split screen with tableaux vivants in motion and the cross fade of Copenhagen Cowboy are capitalized) and he doesn’t give a damn about being exhausting and irritating.


I don’t understand why mass entertainment has to be so fast– Refn explained at the press conference – in a museum maybe you stay an hour in front of a painting, even music and books can be enjoyed at different speeds, the same happens when we communicate with our children for learning, while entertainment is always expected to be frenetic. Time, on the other hand, is important, when we find ourselves looking at something we ask that it give us something in return, not simply that it repeats what many others already do. This series for me is like the origin story of a superhero, discovering an alien race living on Earth.

Like it or not, Refn has earned the status of on the pitch definitive provocateur and without return and his art is getting wider and wider in the repression of images, in vacuum tire that stands behind the surfacein hallucinatory impulses more sadistic than human beingsshown as a very slow dance of bodies filmed as gasping fish in a strictly neon aquarium. Sexuality is everywhere, because what is invoked is above all a carnal and sensual relationship of the viewer with images, but there is no trace of sex proper: all in Copenhagen Cowboy silenced, muffled, stripped of pathos and desire, sweetly mortified. I find there is also something erotic in the term cowboy, as well as referring to the western, and I liked to combine these two terms that have a sexual connotation to better reach young people “Refn told the Lido.


In the cast of Copenhagen Cowboy, in addition to Zlatko Buricunforgettable interpreter of trilogy Pusheralso his wife (Liv Corfixen) and his daughter (Lola Corfixen), proving how Refn also loves to move within an artisanal dimension from factory familiar:I also like to include my family because it inspires me. Liv was my first girlfriend and then she became my wife, so I strengthened our daily relationship. When I make a film I get quite sadistic towards people, but because somehow I get consumed by my work. At home I am dominated by women, my wife and my daughters, who control my life, so I am very submissive at home and quite sadistic at work “.

Photo: Victor Boyko / Getty Images for Netflix

Photo: Netflix


Venice 79, Copenhagen Cowboy: Refn’s latest serial madness is a sadistic and magnetic artist provocation