So I went to see “Drive” the other night, found it many aspects of it quite remarkable. There are many influences at play here, notably film noir, or Martin Scorsese’s 1970’s crime films (among many others)
What I wanted to discuss was if Ryan Gosling’s character as “The Driver”. Silent, enigmatic, obviously moved by his relationship with Irene and her son, yet possessing a certain capacity for ruthless violence and cruelty. He recalls to me many archetypal film noir anti hero’s, like Robert Mitchum’s Jeff Baily in “Out of the Past”, or Raymond Chandler’s private detective Philip Marlowe. On that bear with me with the following quote from Raymond Chandler’s Essay “The Simple Art of Murder” as he describes this kind of hero:
“But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. I do not care much about his private life; he is neither a eunuch nor a satyr; I think he might seduce a duchess and I am quite sure he would not spoil a virgin; if he is a man of honor in one thing, he is that in all things. He is a relatively poor man, or he would not be a detective at all. He is a common man or he could not go among common people. He has a sense of character, or he would not know his job. He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him. He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness. The story is his adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. He has a range of awareness that startles you, but it belongs to him by right, because it belongs to the world he lives in.
If there were enough like him, I think the world would be a very safe place to live in, and yet not too dull to be worth living in."
It seems to me that “The Driver” in this film fits nearly all of these characteristics. Is this a coincidence, or has Ryan Gosling’s character revived the noir anti-hero? Any and all thoughts welcome, as well as your thoughts on the film and what other influences could be at play.
It’s a thoughtful and procative post, Mariel. Gosling’s probably the greatest mainstream actor of his generation: well and rightly acclaimed. But the paradigm of the anti-hero hardly needs reviving; from Dostoyevsky to Godard to Houllebecq, it has never faded from prominence.
Thanks for your reply Z, it’s true that the anti-hero has been and continues to be prominent in many forms. I guess that what stuck me by surprise was the appearance of this type of hero in a contemporary Hollywood or mainstream film. I don’t watch enough Hollywood films to say this with certainty, but it seems that this type of universally attractive yet dark hero is lacking in more recent mainstream pictures, or at least with such a specific set of specifications as Chandler supplies.
“has Ryan Gosling revived the noir antihero?”
Care to elaborate David Ehrenstein or are you just trying to prove a point?
Here’s a discussion we had a couple weeks ago, in case you’re interested:
Drive, An Art Film About Manliness
I’ll come back to this thread later though, as I loved the film and am happy to talk about it ad nausuem.
PS – Don’t pay any attention to David. He’s just being supercilious.
No. Even if we agree that noir has been dead for a long enough time for it to be revived. There must be more than one film for it to count as a revival. We don’t yet if because of this movie there will be more within the same vein.
Thanks for your comment Santino, will check out the other thread for sure:)
Malik, good insight. I may have chosen my words badly; I don’t assume that noir has been “dead” long enough for it to be revived, and I’m not as interested in coming up with a definition of what constitutes a revival. Sorry if this was how the question was phrased.
My intention was more to start a discussion on the innovative ways that Ryan Gosling’s character as “The Driver” have breathed new life into an old character. There are plenty of neo-noirs out there (and as a fan of old school noir I can be pretty critical of them) but I thought this one stood out. Many contemporary noirs either reek of nostalgia for a time which is over or merely try and capitalize on the aesthetics which are so old they’re new again (I’m talking about cheezy remakes like, oh, “The black dahlia” or even the slightly better “la confidential”)
I’m interested to hear thoughts on how the character of The Driver, while seeming to follow Chandler’s dated prototype so closely, can function in a contemporary setting. Is the character more or less believable or realistic than his genre forefathers? Do the same issues affect him, how has the environment changed, and how has the character evolved?
Or maybe he isn’t at all a re-interpretation of the noir anti hero at all, maybe I’ve mistaken it for something else but I’d like to hear for what, and why.
Well, perhaps it would be useful to consider the self-referential properties of Refn’s film, particularly the manner in which The Driver seems to want to embody someone along the lines of this Chandlerian prototype, yet is ultimately only a deeply unstable man. The film exudes a keen awareness of certain heroic male archetypes, and Refn seems to challenge their practicality and morality by portraying them through the means of a protagonist who ends up essentially deranged.
So, in light of this, I would consider Drive to certainly be part of the ‘neo-noir’ canon—oriented certain touchstones of the original style but in a modern context(in this case, self-referentiality and genre deconstruction)—as opposed to the sort of thing you describe(e.g. Black Dahlia); which makes up the realm of ‘retro-noir’.
Perhaps Gosling hasn’t revived the noir anti-hero. The film seems to suggest this prototype can’t be taken wholly seriously anymore—particularly in regards to its sexual politics. Maybe Gosling’s character, rather, is the manifestation of the neo-noir anti-hero—one marked by its preoccupation with and inquiry into the nature of the original noir anti-hero.
I’m not going to delve too much into this, but I personally felt that Drive shared great similarities with Melville’s films and characters – who himself was heavily influenced by American film noir. I found Gosling’s character to be suffering from an existential void, alienated, impervious , taciturn and mechanical in his movement ( very much like Alain Delon in “Le Samourai” and “Le Cercle Rouge”) on the verge of eruption.
This is a purely subjective way of perceiving the following and it might be coincidental ; but I thought that “The Driver”s jacket which had a scorpion on the back of it a direct allusion to “Scorpio Rising”.
I don’t know about reviving the noir anti-hero, but it certainly felt an homage to minimalist film noirs.
He’s more of a Western anti-hero. An urban John Wayne.
All these Drive threads are going to make even me backlash against the film and I loved it…. Can we please stop before someone posts a Carey Mulligan for Best Supporting Actress thread….
Carey Mulligan will get a best supporting actress award for Shame.
“I personally felt that Drive shared great similarities with Melville’s films and characters – who himself was heavily influenced by American film noir.”
Yes, Refn has explicitly stated that Le Samourai was an influence on the film.
“Can we please stop before someone posts a Carey Mulligan for Best Supporting Actress thread….”
You know it’s coming and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it .
Maybe we circumvent its occurrence and start a thread that one-ups it?
“Don’t You Think Carey Mulligan Should Have Been In The Tree Of Life?”
I was thinking Albert Brooks for BSA!
“Carey Mulligan will get a best supporting actress award for Shame.”
So Mulligan can play something other than the pixie ingenue?
For starters, Drive isn’t a noir film.
And secondly… well, my first point pretty much explains everything.
Drive borrows from numerous film subgenres. Noir is one of them. No, it isn’t a noir film, but I understand the point of the question. Gosling’s character is vacant, detached, and prone to sudden violence, just like many noir protagonists. Of course, I find Gosling’s character has more in common with the silent, almost mythical warriors in the spaghetti westerns such as Clint Eastwood in the “Man With No Name” trilogy. Again, ‘Drive’ isn’t a western, but it has elements from them.
Even the Man With No Name aka Blondie has a personality though…
Oh, don’t get me wrong… I do NOT think that Gosling gives a great performance here in ANY measure.