Wider society seems to be entirely absent. Fire trucks go by but there's no law and order and a sense of dangerous isolation and vulnerability for those at the bottom. Orson Welles once said that being a film director was a little like having a train set. For Gosling it seems to be train set, a paint box and a whole crate of star studded action figures to play with and he throws them at the screen willy-nilly, in a way which - despite being rarely coherent and often indulgent - is at least exuberant and entertaining. Having sat at the feet of some brilliant directors, Gosling is unabashed at making their influence felt. Benoît Debie's (Irreversible) cinematography provides us with some Terrence Malick-inspired magic hours, Nicolas Winding Refn-shaded neon colour schemes and over it booms an industrial score by Johnny Jewel.
However, the influence most obvious here is that of David Lynch, filtered through the art of Edward Hopper. Streetlamps disappear into a reservoir, leading the way to a sunken town. The story doesn't bare much thinking about and the characters' names seem to single that this should all be viewed as some kind of twisted fairytale, but Gosling is much more interested in his visuals than in coherence. His actors give larger-than-life performances, with Mendelsohn's Dave relishing the opportunity to do more with more, singing and dancing and delighting in upsetting Billy. Perhaps on account of its superstar director, Lost River has received a fairly rough ride from an army of detractors, but this is the kind of oddball midnight movie that could easily gain a cult following and there are delights to be had in the midst.
This review of Lost River was originally published on 22 May 2014 as part of our Cannes Film Festival coverage.
John Bleasdale | @drjonty