Midsommar ★★★

Watched at the Nitehawk Prospect Park, w/ Skye.

While being interviewed for IndieWire alongside Midsommar's cinematographer, Pawel Pogorzelski, Ari Aster said, "We never talked about this as a horror film, it was always a macabre fairy tale." The tricky question, that didn't really get any less tricky after this rewatch, and no matter how many other perspectives on the film that I read, is: what kind of movie is Aster making here? Do we give him the benefit of the doubt — he wasn't making a horror film, he was telling a different kind of story — or not — he was making a horror film, and he did it poorly?

I enjoyed the rewatch. I was just happy to be at the movies with Skye, for one thing. And then Midsommar is undeniably a hoot, or when it's not a hoot, it's intense. Aster made something which has seized the imaginations of many; even if the movie had only one scene, as long as it was the scene where the women of the Hårga breathe and sob and wail in concert with Dani, it could still land a spot on a list of the most influential films of the year. And apart from the film's content, there was always enough going on in terms of technique (Pogorzelski's work here dazzles and leaves me aghast from an overdose of light, color and clarity) to keep me intrigued even if I was feeling disengaged from the story. Finally, Skye asked me to give her a heads-up when things were going to get gnarly; I thought this would be a simple task, but I forgot that there were some truly distressing trip and nightmare sequences that are hard to anticipate. (Aster, you bastard!)

Still, I agree with Jacob that this just isn't very scary, and I persist in feeling that it should be. And I can maybe appreciate the distinction between a "horror film" and a "macabre fairy tale," but what's going on here could be as simple as the difference between an effective horror film and an ineffectual one. To return to Rosemary's Baby, obviously an influential film for Aster, what makes that movie so strong is kind of alloy between two notions in tension: one is that Rosemary is doomed, hemmed in on every side, but the other is that she's strong and good and should not be doomed. If I were going to fault Aster, it would be that his movies don't convey enough warmth towards his characters as people who could potentially make good choices and find their way to a better fate. The sense of the inevitable and inexorable is key to an apocalyptic genre (like the horror film), but an affirmation of human dignity and agency is also key.

So, not sure how great it is, but on the other hand I'm likely to go see the director's cut, so obviously I still fuck with the movie.

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