'The Neon Demon' shocks Cannes with model-beauty obsession

Denmark's Nicolas Winding Refn said Friday his film about cannibal models, which shocked Cannes with a scene of lesbian necrophilia, was a commentary on the obsession with beauty. Starring Elle Fanning, "The Neon Demon" takes a look at the cutthroat fashion industry and women's willingness to go to extremes to be considered beautiful.

But it was Refn's extremes in a few gut-churning scenes which left the Cannes crowd slackjawed, drawing loud boos at a festival screening. "Beauty isn't everything, it is the only thing," says Fanning's character, Jesse, a sweet teenage beauty with the "It" factor who sweeps aside a bevy of supermodels when she arrives in Los Angeles.

Others have to go under the scalpel to achieve their good looks, such as one perfectly-sculpted model who refers to herself as the bionic woman and says: "Plastics is simply good grooming." Their jealousy and desire for Jesse eventually leads them to murder and eat her.

'The Neon Demon' shocks Cannes with model-beauty obsession

Refn said his film was about how the digital revolution had united death and beauty, and that as a father of daughters he found the obsession with looks "terrifying". "It is an obsession that has only grown," he said.

"Because of the digital revolution you can alter the look so what you are seeing is unreality. That means it is dead." He said the necrophilia scene between a make-up artist who works at a morgue and one of the corpses, was "the essence of the film, that beauty and death is the end of the line."

Refn said the scene was filmed in a real Los Angeles morgue, with "dead bodies next to us to build up the mood".

LA 'will spit you out'

The director took a jab at the rich and famous gathered for the annual American Foundation for AIDS Research (amFAR) gala in Cannes on Thursday night. "I guess we were in a room last night with a lot of plastic surgery at amFAR," he said.

Elle Fanning, who was in her first film aged two, said that to her it was Los Angeles that was the Neon Demon. "That city is so haunting but so enticing, it sucks you in but it will spit you out."

She said even in Cannes, with its whirlwind of parties and stardust, one had to be careful "to not get sucked in too much." Refn also took aim at his compatriot Lars von Trier, when asked whether he and the "Nymphomaniac" director were trying to out-shock each other. He described Von Trier as "over the hill". (AFP)

Photos: The Neon Demon, Facebook

 
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