Director Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive was a runaway critical success - and one of our favorite films of 2011 - but so far, it's proving a tough act to follow, at least for the crowds at this year's Cannes Film Festival. His follow-up, the Thai boxing crime thriller Only God Forgives, premiered to a scattering of boos in the audience. Early reviews suggest that the film is off-puttingly violent, but any film which is called "bloated, corpulent and borderline repulsive" yet also "magnificent" in the same review clearly needs to be judged individually.
Given Refn's attitude toward the films he makes - they are often idiosyncratic, occasionally slow and punctuated with scenes of brutal violence - we look forward to one particular project he has in the works: a TV series reboot of the 1968 film Barbarella starring Jane Fonda.
Based on a series of French comics by Jean-Claude Forest, Barbarella was directed by Roger Vadim (Fonda's then-husband) and followed the sexy adventures of the title character, a bounty hunter tasked by the President of Earth (now a peaceful, violence-free planet) with tracking down Doctor Durand Durand, who has built a deadly Positronic Ray.
When asked about the project's status - courtesy of Vulture - Refn said:
"We are just writing it still. I kind of went back to the original comic, and really began to close my eyes and fantasize about women in outer space and it looked pretty good."
As for who he might cast in the title role: "No, I haven’t started casting yet." Jane Fonda's original performance cemented her status as a sex symbol for that generation - the original film's opening credit sequence featuring a slow motion, zero gravity striptease might have had something to do with that.
The first reports that Nicolas Refn was involved in this project surfaced about a year ago, around the same time we learned he would be interested in making a Wonder Woman film starring Christina Hendricks. Since then, we learned that he has left the big screen remake of The Equalizer starring Denzel Washington, which is moving forward with Training Day director Antoine Fuqua at the helm.
Refn's comment on fantasizing about women in outer space is... interesting, and perhaps a bit troubling, given that later in the same interview he discusses wanting to make an all-female horror film (he has a two-picture deal which includes Only God Forgives, so it might actually happen). Why only women? "Because women and horror is so sexy." An all-women horror film has worked before - in The Descent, for instance, although that film was pretty far from sexy.
That said, the notion of an extreme stylist like Refn bringing his unique spin to something like Barbarella is very exciting. Considered the first mainstream "adult comic," the character became a symbol of the coming sexual revolution, and the film remains a cult classic to this day. The future of the project may depend to some degree on the success of Only God Forgives once it gets a wide release. Either way, stay tuned for more as details surface.