Danish auteur drives into Cannes best director slot

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Danish auteur Nicolas Winding Refn who won the best director prize for his high-octane film noir "Drive" at Cannes Sunday has a track record for blood-soaked crime films.

Based on a James Sallis novella, "Drive" is the tale of Canadian actor Ryan Gosling's solitary Hollywood stunt-car driver and part-time wheelman for armed robbers who morphs into a cold-blooded killer after a pawn-shop heist gone bad.

Refn, 40, who calls "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" his all-time favourite movie, is the son of Anders Refn who edited fellow Dane Lars von Trier's "Breaking the Waves" which won Cannes' Jury Prize in 1996.

In the same year, Refn, who grew up in the United States, made the first instalment of the "Pusher" trilogy of films about Copenhagen's criminal underworld.

He went on in 2006 to make the ultra-violent movie "Bronson" about a real-life prisoner in the English jail system.

Refn said at Cannes that he was inspired to make "Drive" by reading Grimm fairy tales to his daughter.

"While I was reading them, I thought it would be interesting to make a movie just like a fairy tale," he said, albeit one about a "psychotic" man of few words who drives the streets like a knight "looking for someone to save".

"Drive" makes the most of its bleak La La Land setting and an all-American cast of wheels including a plain-vanilla Chevrolet Impala, a pimped-up Monte Carlo and an elephantine Chrysler 300 that Gosling totals with a Ford Mustang.

"The film had to be shot in Los Angeles because the book is very much about movie mythology," said the director, who ironically has no driver's licence. "And my wife wasn't going to live in Detroit."

Refn was one of two Danes in the running for the Palme d'Or. The other was van Trier, who was barred Thursday from the festival over remarks he made about Hitler, although his "Melancholia" remains in competition.

Cannes jury president Robert De Niro no doubt saw something of Travis, his legendary "are you lookin' at me" character in Martin Scorsese's Palme d'Or winner "Taxi Driver", in Gosling's crisp portrayal of Driver.

Fellow juror Uma Thurman would likewise have felt at home with the shotgun blasts and gushing blood that recall her work with Tarantino in another Cannes winner, "Pulp Fiction".

© 2011 AFP

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