Rian Johnson Handles Nostalgia Better Than Almost Any Other Hollywood Filmmaker

In an interview with Film Freak Central, Rian Johnson explained his own relationship to nostalgia, which he feels is a huge part of his work and is often the starting place, but something he has to be careful to not just retread old ground: 

“Nostalgia can’t be the end of it, right? It’s an interesting place to start, but it’s by definition emotional. The challenge has to be, What can I do to it? How do I sort of shake the audience a bit, not to just provoke but with the intent of getting back to the initial pleasure that the genre tried to offer, as opposed to the kind of pleasure you derive from memories of an old-time artifact? Because all that stuff is still there. You can go back and, you know, and watch ‘Death on the Nile’ and ‘Evil Under the Sun.'”

Each of his films has an emotional connection to works that he loves, from Agatha Christie mysteries and “Columbo” to “Star Wars,” but he tried to take that love and do something interesting with it in each film. In “Glass Onion” and “Knives Out,” that translates as a love for murder mysteries that focused on the rich and powerful, stories that served as escapist wish fulfillment. Who doesn’t want to watch a cluster of filthy rich, beautiful jerks try to murder one another in a beautiful location? Instead of simply leaving it at that, Johnson used his wealthy characters to poke fun at the contemporary rich, with “Knives Out” serving as the world’s most awkward rich family dinner ever and “Glass Onion” working like an extended roast of the world’s richest and most powerful idiots, a different kind of wish fulfillment entirely. 

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