He’s still at it. And so far the results are definitely curious, at times quite entertaining, and often perplexing. Welcome to the world of (almost) forgotten film.
Nicolas Winding Refn today announced that his “multimedia cultural platform” byNWR has been revived and rejuvenated.
Interested cinephiles and those interested in film history, cultural touchstones that marked key moments in the world of multimedia may want to take a look. As the announcement notes the intent is to bring “even more fascinating curios” to light.
Indeed, after spending some time digging through the byNWR film section (“WATCH”) I came away amused and intrigued. The quality may be uneven, but the presentation is top notch — with plenty of low budget projects restored and preserved for future generations to study and enjoy. All told, in this latest round, the team says there’s a total of 22 restored films available to stream. Best of all, you can access them via the web site.
Much of the content I checked out is free, while some, like a handful of the films, are available for rent. Prices seem more than reasonable with a rental I tried available for only $2 USD.
There’s more too.
In addition to the film streaming section, there’s three other categories of content labeled READ, LOOK and LISTEN.
As you might expect, in the READ section you can access archival articles linked to or inspired by the “cinematic experiences.”
LOOK contains visual items of note including galleries, behind the scenes photos and various multimedia items.
Finally, the LISTEN section is where you can listen to obscure recordings and various experimental audio experiences.
All told, this is an avant-garde rabbit hole of sublime quality. Working my way through the web site I could tell there is a lot of care and attention placed in the details. Preserving and presenting this content in the most engaging way seems to have been a key priority.
The byNWR web site could easily be an art installation in itself. Browsing the visual heavy site is a treat for those who enjoy aesthetics and typography.
As for the content, most of the films presented in restored format here are from the 1950s and 1960s. Most I doubt you’d recognize. If surfacing obscurity and preserving these otherwise lost films is the goal then I think so far this project continues down the right path.
Hot Thrills and Warm Chills (1967), for instance, is quite representative of content I’ve previously watched on byNWR. This one seems to be a key entry in the library as it was featured front and center under the streaming section. A low budget quasi soft-sex romp, shot in black and white, is an uneven, quirky and just as oddball of a film as I’ve ever seen. I say that as a diehard Criterion Channel subscriber who has pretty much completed the filmographies of directors like Bergman (Persona!), Godard (Band of Outsiders!), Fellini (8 ½!) and Antonioni (Red Desert!).
Our extensive collection celebrates the eccentric artist who defies and shatters cinematic convention.
But that’s what’s so great about traversing film history. All of a sudden I find myself digging into the background of the directory, Dale Berry. Who is he and why does he often seem to be wearing a cowboy hat? Why (and how) did he make this film? And that leads me to Letterboxd as always where, before you know it, you’re traversing various connections, in addition to reading what others are saying, good, bad, or indifferent.
Other titles now streaming include House on Bare Mountain (1962) where apparently “the nudies meet the nasties,” She-Man: A Story of Fixation (1967), Orgy of the Dead (1965), and Satan in High Heels (1962) among several others that make of what I can tell to be a total of 16 entries so far available to stream.
One film I did recognize is Night Tide (1961). Written and directed by Curtis Harrington and starring a young Dennis Hopper, the seaside fairytale is well worth a watch. I really appreciate the dreamy vibes and the unreliable narrator device. Is Mora (Linda Lawson) a mermaid or is something else going on here? Shot largely on location in Santa Monica, California there’s a lot of interesting locations of note as well.
No surprise that NWR manages to sneak in a few pieces related to his own film career. Copenhagen Cowboy Sound, for instance, features the entirety of the (stellar) soundtrack to the 2022 TV series. Very synth-y, very cool.
Interestingly there’s a stylish video piece featuring Amanda Gorman, the poet who rose to fame when she gave a stirring performance at President Biden’s inauguration. An unforgettable performance forever etched on American history. Her video hosted byNWR is bathed in beautiful deep blue and red lighting — did Refn film this? Ourselves Highfalutin’ Negroes (2:18) is available to stream — in Stereoscopic Vision no less — on the platform.
I find it fascinating that Refn would devote what seems to be a sizeable amount of effort on this project, to acquire, restore, and then share these mostly forgotten works. I’m not sure how many of the film negatives he owns (perhaps all of them?), but I really appreciate these types of passion projects that protect, and even enhance, what others have painstakingly created. In a world of blueprint super hero comic book blockbusters, the results feel even more important than ever. I mean, where else are we going to get a dose of these kinds of hot thrills and warm chills?!