From the very beginning of Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon, the protagonist, Jesse (Elle Fanning) is willing to sell herself to whoever’s buying. “I’m pretty, and I can make money off pretty,” she says baldly. Underage, on her own, fresh out of small-town America, and fixated on a modeling career in LA, she can’t afford to have scruples about who she works for, or how they present her for the camera. But one of the many fascinating, disturbing things about Refn’s film is just how suited Jesse is for soullessness. She starts off weak, but she’s never warm. She’s naïve, but she responds to predatory photographers and jealous models with what seems like an authentic eagerness to be exploited, if it gets her ahead.
Refn had his Neon Demon stars watch Russ Meyer’s infamous rock-star psychodrama Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls for inspiration, and that's no particular surprise: Neon Demon is lurid, lush, and overripe in the same sort of way, with a vulgar vapidity that's baffling and hypnotic at the same time.
Fanning's performance gives Neon Demon a lot of its queasy power. Jesse is never a particularly sympathetic character, and by mid-film, she's thoroughly divorced herself from humanity. But Fanning gives her an elegance and a cool center that's separate from the icy scorn of the film's other career models. There's a surety to Fanning's portrayal that makes her immune to the petty envy other women focus on her, and that helps her rise above exploitative situations. Fanning makes being bought and sold as a product seem almost exalting, which makes it even clearer why the lesser success stories around her feel so hurt when they put themselves on the market and get rejected. Source: www.theverge.com
"I'm not as helpless as I look," Jesse asserts. Under her natural blond curls and periwinkle peasant dresses, she understands that beauty is the promise of sex, and the promise of sex is power. Refn exuberantly extrapolates visually on two key transformative moments in Jesse's life and career – viewing an s&m/contortionist stage show, taking her first jaunt down the catwalk – and renders them explosively, vigorously symbolic, often abstract, occult and feminist. The director's approach is strange and original, and deeply personal, even when it's overtly cryptic. It's almost as if he's exploring the forbidden, irrational elements of his psyche, and compelling us to do the same. The film's core concept is rooted in longing – to touch what's on a screen or magazine page, to eliminate the competition with vicious territorialism. Source: www.mlive.com
The idea that ‘gender is a spectrum’ is supposed to set us free. But it is both illogical and politically troubling: since at least the 1960s, the word has taken on another meaning, allowing us to make a distinction between sex and gender. For feminists, this distinction has been important, because it enables us to acknowledge that some of the differences between women and men are traceable to biology, while others have their roots in environment, culture, upbringing and education – what feminists call ‘gendered socialisation’. At least, that is the role that the word gender traditionally performed in feminist theory. It used to be a basic, fundamental feminist idea that while sex referred to what is biological, in some sense ‘natural’, gender referred to what is socially constructed.
In reality, everybody is non-binary. We all actively participate in some gender norms, passively acquiesce with others, and positively rail against others still. So to call oneself non-binary is in fact to create a new false binary. It also often seems to involve, at least implicitly, placing oneself on the more complex and interesting side of that binary, enabling the non-binary person to claim to be both misunderstood and politically oppressed by the binary cisgender people. If gender identity is a spectrum, then we are all non-binary, because none of us inhabits the points represented by the ends of that spectrum. Every single one of us will exist at some unique point along that spectrum, determined by the individual and idiosyncratic nature of our own particular identity, and our own subjective experience of gender. Source: aeon.co
Lou Reed can express the dark side of life in songs like Sally Can’t Dance, he can then reflect on a friendship in Billy and he can also be the most sarcastic of them all with songs like N.Y. Stars. N.Y. Stars is a nod to being bored with everything and everyone. The lack of depth in others has proven a way to be successful, but don’t buy into it. Listen to what Lou is saying here - don’t sell yourself short and don’t fucking dumb yourself down to please others. If you have to do that to keep people around, then please let them go and strike out on your own. Sally Can’t Dance is a proper Rock & Roll record, what came after this was a record of feedback and beautiful noise. Source: www.jukebox86.wordpress.com
–AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
–"Transformer: The Complete Lou Reed Story" (2014) by Victor Bockris
Suddenly Lou Reed looked like a concentration camp victim, his other-worldliness exaggerated by a brutal crop of his curly locks, first dyed black then with World War One iron crosses branded into the side and finally bleached blonde. Reed introduced an R&B feel to the September 1974’s ‘Sally Can’t Dance’ album. Dismissed at first as flimsy, it’s now another fascinating piece of the Reed jigsaw with zombie ballad ‘Ennui’ and nasty ‘Kill Your Sons’ shining as twisted mini-masterpieces beneath the unsympathetically overcooked production. “I’m told that I’m a parody of myself but who better to parody?” he said. “I can do Lou Reed better than most people and a lot of people try.” Source: www.clashmusic.com
–A.O. Scott (The New York Times)