Midsommar Madness

I went to the cinema again this week.

I know! Twice in (a little over) a week! And by the time you read this, I’ll have been again. This could be the first month where my Unlimited Card has actually given me value for money!

Last week, I went to see Yesterday, the new Richard Curtis rom-com, directed by Danny Boyle, this year’s “feel good hit of the summer”.

The film I went to watch on Thursday evening could not be further from a feel good movie.

Here’s the plot: Dina and Christian are a couple on the edge of separating. In fact, were it not for the fact that Dina is having a very hard time indeed dealing with her bi-polar sister, then Christian probably would have ended the relationship long ago.

And then tragedy strikes Dina’s family, and suddenly her sister is no longer a problem. And neither are her parents. This is all in the first ten minutes, mind. A message is being sent by director Ari Aster: if you think this is a grim way to start a film, just you wait.

Christian and his college pals Josh, Mark and Pelle are planning on travelling to Sweden, to Hålsingland, the commune where Pelle was raised, to take part in a festival which only comes around once every 90 years. Each has their own reason for going: Josh is writing a thesis on pagan rituals, Mark wants to meet Swedish chicks, and Christian just wants to get two things: away from Dina and his shit together. But following the tragedy, he invites Dina to join them, much to the horror of Josh and Mark, and the creepy joy of Pelle.

Here’s the trailer:

The film moves, appropriately enough for a film set in Scandinavia, at a glacial pace, but that’s not to say it’s ever dull or that you find yourself wishing something would happen, because you know that when it does, it’s going to be gruesome.

For from the moment the group arrive at the camp and meet their fellow festival goers, you just know that something bad is just around the corner. They take natural hallucenogenic drugs within minutes of arriving, and the film moves into a suitably ephemeral dream-like state; these are not like any herbal highs I ever tried, for they make plant, flower and tree life come alive, you can see them breathe. It’s trippy beyond belief; on more than one occasion I found myself blinking, rubbing my eyes and thinking: did that flower just exhale?

And that’s the contrast at the heart of the movie: the everlasting sunshine on gorgeous green fields, all beautifully shot, the setting for some seriously unsettling shit.

The gang meet a young English couple, Connie and Simon, who may as well have the words “won’t last the whole film” tattooed on their foreheads, and then the festivities begin, and it all gets watch-through-the-gaps-in-your-fingers weird.

It reminded me of two films: 2017’s brilliant Get Out and the original 1973 Edward Woodward version of The Wicker Man; both seemed ground-breaking in the horror genre and Midsommar seems cut from the same cloth. And the reason for that is that in all three, all the way through, there’s a brooding sense of forboding, that something is bubbling just beneath the surface, that all is not quite what it seems, that something is not quite right here and, above all, that something utterly grim is about to happen.

And it does. Oh boy, oh boy, it does.

A large part of that feeling is down to the musical score, composed by Bobby Krlic (aka the Haxan Cloak); it’s always there, it seems, emphasising the beauty and horror as it unfolds, which, now I write it down, I realise is exactly what a musical score is supposed to do.

It’s minimal and then it’s complicated. In some places it drones, in others it soars; drums are rattled and pipes are blown, it’s eerily beautiful. Imagine Brian Eno in full-on ambient mode, but instead of any electronic musical equipment at his fingertips, he has a bunch of twigs, some harps, violins and a bunch of humming and howling Nordic nutters. (I’m no Eno afficionado, so I wouldn’t be in the slightest bit surprised to find out he has a whole back-catalogue of that kind of stuff that I’m blissfully unaware of.)

Actually, don’t take that as an accurate comparison at all, have a listen for yourself, but don’t expect to have a smile on your face after listening to these. They’re all exquisitely beautiful, bright yet dark, just like the film:

The House That Hårga Built

The Blessing

Gassed

Chorus of Sirens

Fire Temple

I came out of the cinema, a bit dazed and unsure what I’d just watched.

Did I like it? And if I did, is it okay that I liked it?

I think so, on both scores.

Put it this way: I haven’t really stopped thinking about it since, which I guess is a good sign.

Go see it. But not if you’re squeamish or of an even slightly nervous disposition.

More soon.

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Late Night Stargazing

I didn’t care for his work when he was in The Screaming Trees, and I didn’t even notice that he was in Queens of the Stone Age until he’d left, but now I just love to listen to Mark Lanegan’s growling gravelly voice.

He saves/makes this:

Moby & Mark Lanegan – The Lonely Night

A post related to this briefly appeared yesterday as I managed to set it for Saturday rather than Sunday. Apologies for any confusion.

More soon, hopefully in the order I intended.

Late Night Stargazing

After her initial impact with the utter glorious Video Games, which gave auditionees a new song to murder in the early rounds of The X Factor, I’ve been less than bothered about most of Lana Del Rey’s output.

And then in 2017, she released an album which had this, for my money her first truly heart-stoppingly gorgeous moment since that auspicious debut.

This is just beautiful:

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Lana Del Rey – Change

Oh but Lana, a word to the wise: it’s probably best not to call your album Lust for Life, it can only draw unfavourable comparisons….

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

I mentioned, I think, that after Llyr died I’d reignited some lovely old acquaintances, one of which had led to a suggestion of a collective camping weekend.

That’s been put on ice for a while, but, somewhat inevitably, led me to think of this, not least because when we worked together, one of the potential camping party, my old mate Mikey G (hello mate!), was often told (unfairly, in my opinion) that he looked like this chap:

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Badly Drawn Boy – Camping Next To Water

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

I should have posted this long ago in my Sunday morning Country series, but whilst it’s undoubtedly a Country record, I don’t think it really sits there.

Rather, if ever there was a song that could make me grimace, mull over my mistakes and weep, it’s this one, a simply told tale of love lost, which makes it much more suited for late night introspection:

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Kris Kristofferson – When I Loved Her

Just beautifully sad.

More soon.