Midsommar

Midsommar

Not a fan of Hereditary in the slightest, so I went into this with reasonably low expectations. But I want to like Ari Aster. I really do. We're living in a nightmarish hellscape of media creation, where probably 80-90% of people making movies don't actually watch any and branded content produced by grotesquely large corporations seems to have had more aesthetic influence on the shit coming out these days than anything from film history prior, so the fact that Aster expresses genuine enthusiasm for film and actively educates himself on film history like it's his job (because it is) gives him a considerable leg up in my book. But, despite Aster's ostensible demeanor as "the A24 guy who does his homework", I can't help feeling that his movies fall into the same category of Instagram filter fluff that makes up the vast majority of A24 house products. It's flashy and intense and goes for the throat with its visual flair and trickery, which is all so very "cool" in all of those ways you'd define the word if your aesthetic barometer was set by Instagram videos and Vimeo staff picks. I really don't think this guy knows how to stage a scene. All of his neat camera work (the long tracking shot through the house revealing the dead-by-suicide daughter and the unread email messages, the drone shot following the group's car that flips over the front of the vehicle and keeps the camera upside down as they make their way into town, the steadicam stuff in the field when they all drop mushroom first thing fresh off the boat, etc.) reads to me as a whole lot of filler employed to circumnavigate the whole ordeal of having real characters and actually developing them.

That might be a tough point to argue, but I think it's one that can be made if you don't view Midsommar as a horror film, because it's not, as Aster himself has been eager to let you know. In the last issue of Film Comment he has a small article discussing his influences on the film. I was honestly impressed by how wide ranging they were, particularly what he was saying about the influence of theosophy and the impact it had on painted art in the surrealist tradition of the early-to-mid 20th century and how that in turned influenced his development of the philosophy that the cult village operates on. But at the end he makes a real amateur blunder (the kind you wouldn't be surprised to hear from a young director lauded as the new art house It Boy following his debut feature) by saying something to the effect of "people think it's a horror movie, but really it's a dark comedy about a break up." Yuck. Just pack that shit up and take it with you, buddy... It's an unfortunate comment to make because 1. you don't prescribe your own movie like that; as a director that's just not your job. 2. a statement like that reads both condescending towards his audience, and displays an insecurity towards what his movie really is or going for.

So why all this pompous direction, for a movie that admittedly aims for cheeky laughs? Because of the way he treats his characters and the development of the relationship between the protagonists, I don't think you can really find this movie scary in any genuine way. And once you take away the superficial horror stuff, what else is left? I find this horror-movie-that-is-actually-not direction produces movie that feels candy coated and inauthentic. He seems to believe he needs the edifice of the horror genre to tell a story, but I'd love to see him come out from behind that barrier and just tell the goddamn story without all the gimmicks, as convinced as I am that I probably won't like those results either. But really, I want to like Ari Aster. I really do.

Ok I've now officially written too much about a movie that I found myself thinking in the middle of watching it, "There's so many great movies out there that I haven't seen and I'm sitting through two and a half hours of this shit?"