Portal — ION, AVOW, HAGBULBIA

ION

Den människoliknande varelsen Nyarlathotep som i H.P. Lovecrafts mytologi likt råttfångaren i Hameln lockar till sig följare genom trollbindande toner och drömspel går även under namnet Det krälande kaos. Ett kaos som långsamt sveper genom människorna på jorden med syfte att sprida galenskap genom fasa och osäkerhet i en sammanfallande värld.
Portals egensinniga death metal jobbar på samma sätt. På ytan ett myllrande kaos, på djupet en transframkallande, ihållande förfäran som släcker liv. När jag lyssnar igenom ION upphör både tid och rum, tankar och medvetande, och det enda som existerar är en massa av organiserat oljud som hämtat från botten av där allting började. Det är ingen slump att jag tappar förståndet. Detta är psykiskt krävande, kanske till och med kvävande. Att fullständigt låta sig omslutas av Portals vansinne resulterar onekligen i en fascinerande utmattning. Efteråt känns livet lite mörkare och mycket intressantare, ty man har stirrat ner i avgrunden. På riktigt.

AVOW

Portal har gått från oklarhet till oklarhet sedan första demon 1998 och nyförlösta ”Avow” talar knappast sitt tydliga språk. Det är befriande att inte riktigt veta vad som väntar när musiken följer ett mönster olikt allt annat. Betänk att sångaren The Curator brukade ha ett gökur på skulten (vilket med fördel kan beskådas på YouTube, sök på ”Glumurphonel”). Det låter därefter. Ett instängt, klaustrofobiskt mörker där man kan tro att de virvelvindsaktiga riffen spelas baklänges, att trummorna tonsätter en dödsryckning, att namnlösa fasor sakta men säkert reser sig från djupen… Att kalla Portals death metal för avantgardistisk är garanterat en underdrift.
Och nu sjunker man än djupare ner i lagren av smuts och förvirring. Det är bottenlöst. De ständigt närvarande underliggande oljuden bidrar till obehaget, och i avslutande ”Drain” blir det som mest effektivt. Således en perfekt övergång till ”Hagbulbia”, skivan som ackompanjerar ”Avow”. Mardrömmen fortsätter där. Emot världen, emot livet.

HAGBULBIA

”Hagbulbia” släpps utan förvarning, samma dag som utannonserade ”Avow”. Hipsters flåsar i kör och snart finns skivorna ihopmixade på nätet. De tror nämligen att det är så de ska belyssnas, likt det Neurosis gjorde för tjugo år sedan. Då fungerade det, främst för att det var så det var tänkt, men också för att speltiden på de båda skivorna var densamma. Så är inte fallet här. Skivorna avnjutes alltså med fördel separat.
Detta är Portal kört genom ett filter som slipat bort alla former av riff och referenser till sedvanliga instrument. Man möts av streck, tjocka och tunna linjer av ljud, grovt sammanfogade till en helhet som bygger vidare på det skrikande vakuum som uppstår efter ”Avow”. Att lyssna på dessa skivor efter varandra är som att uppnå nivå fem i en högt doserad tripp, en nivå där egot har upplösts, hjärnan har smält och det råder fullständig häpnad och ödmjukhet inför vad som enklast kan beskrivas som en mörk ny tidsålder. Människan pulveriserad. Ett överväldigande tomt intet.

Taxi Driver — I got some bad ideas in my head

Poster by Bruce Yan

This article was originally published June 1, 2009.

I stumbled upon this man who at the age of 37 still hadn’t seen Taxi Driver. That, and the fact that I hadn’t seen any really good movies lately, was what got me going. So I tried this experiment: I watched Taxi Driver at night, in a quite zonked out state of mind, a couple of times (four or five times actually) and wrote down some stuff inspired by the vibe, the audio commentaries and the state I was in. Here’s what came out of that experience.

Taxi Driver (1976)
Written by Paul Schrader
26 years old when he wrote the screenplay in 1972
Directed by Martin Scorsese
33 years old when making the movie
Robert De Niro
32 years old at the time
Jodie Foster
12 years old

Taxi drivers are the real ears and eyes of the city and this movie is about a disconnected taxi driver, a former Vietnam veteran, who travels through a sick and venal world, a corrupt and dirty New York City, on his way to self-destruction and insanity. In the movie we’re able to glimpse into the soul of a man in pain, how he sees life and how he arrives at his decisions. As a taxi driver he’s completely surrounded by people, yet he’s completely alone. He looks through the window of civilization, but cannot really get inside.

His apartment is full of junk and junk food. His windows are barred like in a prison. When he goes outside he goes to porno theaters. He is a creation of the streets, a product of the world that he detests, because he works in contradictory ways and he’s clearly not in touch with reality. At one point he’s very moralistic, he feels he needs to save the world, to cleanse this filthy world from all the scum; ”I got to get in shape”. But he’s still popping pills and eating junk food. When he’s at home eating in front of the TV he pours milk and brandy (!) over his cereal. And then he takes Betsy to a porn theater (watching the Swedish made sex educational film Ur kärlekens språk (1969)…

”I don’t believe that one should devote his life to morbid self-attention”. But that’s exactly what he’s doing, and this behavior reinforces his own doomed condition. The girl he wants he cannot have (Betsy). The girl he can have he doesn’t want (Iris). ”Here is someone who stood up”, says the loner, the outsider, the loser… In front of the mirror he thinks he’s John Wayne, when in reality he’s more like Norman Bates. We all have these feelings that Travis has, but most of us never cross the line.

Loneliness and racism
In the original script there were a lot of passages about loneliness, but in the final script much of this has been left out. That’s because we see that loneliness. We see it every time we see that cab. If an actor can show you loneliness it’s much better than if he talks about it.

Paul Schrader: ”I started writing the script as self-therapy. At first I thought it was about loneliness. But what I learned while writing the script is that this was about a man who suffered from the pathology of loneliness. He wasn’t lonely by nature. He was lonely as a defense mechanism.”

Schrader, before writing the script, had some experiences in his real life that kind of spawned the story of Taxi Driver. His marriage was destroyed, he’d broken up with his girlfriend, he had no money and he had no place to live, so he was just drifting around not knowing what to do. He realized he hadn’t talked to anyone for weeks, and the metaphor of the taxi driver occurred to him as a metaphor for loneliness. Kind of like a male, drifting loneliness. I think this is perfectly shown in the film, the slow motion sequences makes it almost like a documentary of the mind of a loner.

Travis’ inability to have a relationship with people is extremely frustrating to watch. When he tries to talk to people it always comes off awkward and he’s told to get away. He’s always trying to understand what people are saying and he always responds in a paranoid way. The little bits of paranoia we all feel from time to time becomes the entire world for Travis. He’s always pursued by some kind of threatening behavior. The people may not trying to get at you, but for him they are. The dream is real. The fantasy becomes reality.


In one of the early scenes there’s some cab driver telling the story of some dude who got his ears cut off. That was at 122nd Street, which is ”fucking Mau Mau land”, and this is the beginning of the whole racism theme.

Schrader: ”There’s this racism theme here simply because people who feel they’re near the bottom of the ladder are always looking for people who are lower on the ladder. And they will find them. The easiest way to find them is racially and economically. There’s a kind of submerged and not so submerged race hatred in here. Not because he necessarily hates black people per se, but because he needs somebody to hate.”

And Travis is always trying to filter the world through the most conveniently threatening and dangerous looking people, i.e. The African-Americans. In pre-production people thought it was too socially irresponsible to portray the pimp as black. They were concerned that there might be riots because of this, so that’s how the pimp went from black to white and Harvey Keitel got the role as ”the great white pimp”. That way they left the racism in there, because Travis is a racist character, but they deleted the most prejudiced loaded part.

The scene where Travis wants some advice from ”The Wizard”, where Travis is on the verge of going psychotic, is really funny and a brilliant example of the lack of communication. The Wizard has no wisdom at all, he’s just hopelessly babblin’ away with his stale clichés. Travis understands that and just concludes: ”I don’t know, that’s about the dumbest thing I ever heard”. It makes me laugh every time. The scene ends with both of them saying they have no idea what the other one is talking about, or what they are talking about. Pure comedy.

Poster by Darryl Hartley
The end
In the end, after the bloodbath, we hear Iris’ parents talk about how Travis was a hero. Newspaper clips reveal that ”a cab driver cleaned up amongst the scum” – he’s the hero there as well. But to many he’s just an insane monster. The psychotic hero.

You can work to cure cancer for 40 years and never get recognition for that, but take a shot at the president and you become a hero and end up in the magazines. That’s how media, fame and celebrity works. The movie ends this way as a comment on our cultural values.

Travis sure is a hero, but he has not changed. He will go on and on and do the same thing again, because that’s the way he is. The movie is a loop, which is shown very nicely as the movie ends with the same Chemtone effect used in the beginning. The way that Travis reacts in the end, when he sees something in the rear mirror, reacting in that old psychotic way, also indicates that the same thing is gonna happen again.

In 1981 John Hinckley (born 1955) attempted to assassinate U.S. President Ronald Reagan as the culmination of an effort to impress actress Jodie Foster. He saw Lee Harvey Oswald, John F. Kennedy’s assassin, as a role model and was obsessed by Jodie Foster. He also watched Taxi Driver over and over again. When Schrader heard that Reagan had been shot he said ”It’s one of those Taxi Driver kids”, and when he got back to his hotel the FBI was waiting for him to question him about whether he knew anything about Hinckley.

Jodie Foster: ”How do you discuss violence in our culture? Or do you not discuss it at all? Do you only make movies about Mickey Mouse? I think you don’t. I think you make films about our culture, about what’s difficult and disturbing about our culture with a moral center.”

Schrader: ”What will happen if you censor genuine studies of this kind of pathology? You will still have the pathology, you just won’t have the study. You will lose the work of art that comments on the character, but the character will still be going along his merry way. Because he really wasn’t created by art.” Schrader concludes: ”It is a particular kind of breed of white boy these Taxi Driver people.”

Mental preparations for De Niro
When Robert De Niro prepared for the role as Travis he was doing another film in Italy called 1900. As he finished shooting 1900 on a Friday in Rome he’d get on a plane to New York, get himself a cab driver’s license, go to a garage and pick up a real cab and drive the cab around New York. Then he would turn it in and fly back to Italy for work again. He did that a couple of times. He also went to an army base in northern Italy to tape-record the accents of some kids he met there who were from an area in the Midwest (NY) that he thought would be good for Travis.

Another cool thing with De Niro is when he wanted to get to know Jodie Foster, who was only 12 years old at the time, he called her up and took her to various diners around town. He did this on several occasions, but he never did say anything. He literally said nothing. So she got bored, started playing with her food and so on. And then she started talking and soon got comfortable in his presence. And they started rehearsing their scenes over and over and over and over again. She got bored again, but in fact now knew him so well that she got bored because of that. And when they knew their scenes inside out he suddenly started to improvise, just saying stuff that was totally off the hook, a total surprise. That way the improvisation became real.

As for the mohawk haircut, it’s not real. He never shaved his head. The make-up people invented a special hair paste that made his real hair stay as close to his skull as possible, and then they’d add a shaven head and the mohawk in two separate pieces. Also, the mohawk was never in the script. Apparently Scorcese had run into some guy who’d been in Vietnam who told him that when people over there ”went over the hill”, i.e. was going to die in battle sacrificing for their people/country, they’d shave their head like that as a sort of ”don’t fuck with me, I’m going over the hill” statement. Schrader says he don’t know if this is true. Maybe it just became part of the legend, a part of all the stories about what happened in Vietnam.

The loop
In case you haven’t seen Taxi Driver I’d suggest you drop everything and do it now. And if you’ve already seen it, watch again. There are details everywhere that I bet you haven’t discovered yet. For example, Harvey Keitel’s fingernail… But that’s the kind of detail you’ll miss out on anyway if you’re watching a crappy copy on a crappy TV set in pure daylight with the kids running around. Watching a movie is about total concentration, and just like I can listen to good records over and over again, I can watch good movies over and over and over… until time becomes a loop.
It’s gonna happen again.

Love Flowers Best In Openness And Freedom

A meditation on the state of civilization and nature by Mattias Indy Pettersson

Edward Abbey (1927–1989) was an American author whose works reflect an uncompromising environmentalist philosophy. His love for the natural and his distrust of machines stayed with him until his death. He was buried as he had requested: in a sleeping bag, without a casket, in an unmarked desert grave somewhere in Arizona.

The title of this essay is a quote from Abbey’s ”Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness” (1968), a book that made me want to give up on civilization and retreat into nature. Too bad I’m such a self-made slave to this so called civilized living that I don’t even know how to start a fire without a lighter… I would probably not last a week in the wilderness. But I do love all things natural, it’s just that I’m super-civilized, i.e. lazy and brainless, and therefore unable to survive without my gadgets. Let’s explore why I am so stupid, and let’s start with a simple definition of the word ”nature”.

Nature: The natural world as it exists without human beings or civilization.

Our love for nature violently clashes with our love for civilization. Apparently, we can’t have both. Common sense is not common, and it takes experts to convince us of what we already know (this planet is deteriorating and so are we). Earth is our home, and what we do to it, we do to ourselves. We cannot live without Earth, but Earth will do just fine without us. Edward O. Wilson, biologist and researcher, once said that ”if all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.”

Chaos: The confused unorganized state of primordial matter and infinite space before the creation of distinct forms.
Or, if we take it down a notch to a more human level:
A state of utter confusion, a total lack of order.

Civilization has been in a state of chaos for quite some time, so what else is new? Well, let’s talk about the aspect of time for a while. We’ve accomplished amazing things over the last couple of years. In the morning you get in your car, you drive through the city, you get on the subway, you scroll through your feeds on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and you subscribe to yet another podcast… It all seems normal, right? But it’s so far removed from every single aspect of our history. It’s so new, it’s so recent, this thing with cities and electronics, and it’s pretty far from a natural state.

Take a look at the nearest clock and understand that since this exact time yesterday, 13 million tons of toxic chemicals were released across the globe, and 200 000 acres of rainforest have been destroyed (an acre is approximately the same size as one football pitch or 16 tennis courts). Every two seconds a human being starves to death. Every day 150–200 animal and plant species are driven extinct. Every 90 seconds a child dies from a water-related disease. Civilization seems kind of bad. And even if those numbers aren’t 100 % correct at the time of writing, I think most of us understand that we’re in deep shit. The biodiversity crisis is real.

*

Lewis Mumford, historian and sociologist, defined civilization in his book ”The Myth of the Machine” (1967–70) as ”the group of institutions that first took form under kingship. Its chief features, constant in varying proportions throughout history, are the centralization of political power, the separation of classes, the lifetime division of labor, the mechanization of production, the magnification of military power, the economic exploitation of the weak, and the universal introduction of slavery and forced labor for both industrial and military purposes.”

Was Mumford cynical? Depends on whom you ask. Industrial civilization is destroying the planet and creating unprecedented human suffering. Do you agree? Maybe not wholeheartedly, but if you deny mankind’s destructive impact upon this Earth, you are not here. You are lost.

”How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.” Paul Bowles wrote that 1949 in ”The Sheltering Sky”.
”Woe to you, oh Earth and sea, for the Devil sends the Beast with wrath, because he knows the time is short.” Steve Harris wrote this adaptation of the Book of Revelations in ”The Number of the Beast” (1982).

Conclusion? The time aspect reveals what we’ve created in just the blink of an eye. Chaos. And compared to the time span of one full second, a blink of an eye is an eternity. Lots of chaos.

Derrick Jensen, philosopher: ”We have a social system based on the use of non-renewable sources. If you take more from your surroundings than you give back, sooner or later there will be nothing left. If fewer ancient forests stand each year than the year before, sooner or later none will stand.” 

This is all very easy to understand. Cities, the defining feature of civilization, have always relied on taking resources from the surrounding countryside. Civilization thrives in artificially created environments, these huge urban centers that breed a mindless mob and suck the vitality out of the countryside. Spirituality starts in the open, transfers to the cities where it loses its gist and then dies in the megacities, engulfed in the flames of materialism.

Journalist Eduardo Galeano writes that ”the majority must resign itself to the consumption of fantasy. Illusions of wealth are sold to the poor, illusions of freedom to the oppressed, dreams of victory to the defeated and of power to the weak.” These are the central themes of modern political culture. How can this be a good thing? What have we made of ourselves?

Deep down, we know. Everybody knows that we’re in great need of new, sustainable systems to make this world a better place. Everybody knows that global hunger is man made and preventable. But these monumental problems are hardly being addressed at all. At least not by those in power, the responsible leaders who are able to make a difference. The power of the grassroots campaigns and small-scale activism is simply not enough, and we seem unable to grasp the magnitude of the challenges that face us.

Man will not live forever. Man will die off, it’s just a question of when, and I say the sooner the better. We know what’s wrong with us, so the question is: do we have the bravery to confront it? I think not. Therefore, the best humanity can hope for is to eventually be crushed by nature. I wish us all a peaceful, painless death when somebody finally pushes the button and closes the switch. Maybe, in a near future, all it will take is one click.

*

”The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”
H.P. Lovecraft, ”The Call of Cthulhu” (1928).

Technology most certainly will continue to develop at an exponential rate, as our development of sustainable agricultural and environmental issues lags behind. Some people claim that technology still lacks what separates tech from Man: a sense of morality, compassion, love, empathy… In my mind, I don’t see how we make good use of our morality, compassion, love and empathy. In my mind, we’ve forgotten everything about the soul, the spirits, and our emotions. There’s a spiritual void at the heart of our culture. Superhuman intelligence is all about the brain, and nothing about the soul, hence I see no difference between Man and Machine. The singularity is here.

Singularity: The state when humans will transcend the limitations of our biological bodies and brains. Where machine intelligence is more powerful than all human intelligence combined.

The way we use our mobile phones, activity wristbands and whatnot (or rather, the way technology uses us), tracking our every step even when we sleep, I’d say technology is already a part of our actual bodies. American terrorist and mathematics prodigy Theodore Kaczynski, known as the Unabomber (his early victims were associated with universities or airlines), was a man who lived for his idea, who was prepared to sacrifice everything for his idea, and especially everybody.

Dubbed ”the most intellectual serial killer the nation has ever produced” by one criminologist, his ideas about the evils of technology and his desire to leave civilization and escape into the wild ultimately drove him to murder. The Unabomber was active between 1978 and 1995, way before activity wristbands. Was his anti-technology philosophy sufficient to explain his crimes? Of course not. But let’s talk about violence.

Civilization is based on a rarely questioned hierarchy. Violence done by those up high to those down low is standard operating procedure, while reversing this structure is almost unthinkable. When violence from below occasionally strike against the upper elite it is regarded with shock, and stricken down hard by those in power, all according to the law of retaliation. ”And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins.” (Leviticus 26:18). Violence has become the default of our culture.

*

”The Decline of the West”, is a two-volume tome written by historian and philosopher Oswald Spengler in 1918–1923. Spengler looks upon history as an organic cycle (rather than linear) that has to pass through the stages of Birth, Development, Fulfillment, Decay and Death. In the West we tend to look upon history as something always moving forward, evolving to the better. This, according to Spengler, is the result of the Western man’s ego, thinking that everything in the past pointed to him, making him the center of the world.

The cyclical movements of history are not those of nations, states, races and events, but of High Cultures, each and every one of equal importance. So when Spengler speaks of the decline of the West, he speaks of the decline of its culture. Thus, the people live on, but their culture is destroyed. The eight High Cultures so far are the Babylonian, Egyptian, Chinese, Indian, Mexican (Mayan/Aztec), Classical (Greece/Rome), Arabian and Western (European-American). These eight cultures have all had a life span of 1000 years, and every culture has collapsed. Why should ours be any different?

Spengler uses seasons as an analogy to elaborate. Spring is the birth of religion and where the basic principles of this culture are being formed. Summer is when acts of lasting value and great accomplishments are being made (this is the peak and the cultural prime). Autumn is when all this start to break down and turn into Winter. We’re there already, in the Kali Yuga.

Political propaganda is mistaken for ideology, feelings are mistaken for knowledge, science no longer reaches certainties. There is much cultural confusion, and the arts do not speak from or to the soul of the people, but rather follow materialistic fashion with lots of changes of styles, not asking much from neither the artist nor the people. Spengler is confident that after a moment of atheism the people will turn to a renewal of religion and spiritual faith, based on the religion developed in the Spring of the culture. And so we’ve entered what Spengler refers to as the Civilization phase which is – as opposed to the Culture phase we’ve just left behind – occupied with materialism, continual wars, mass movements of people, environmental crises, rootlessness and lack of vitality, strength and intellect.

The history of High Culture is the only history that counts, according to Spengler, because pre- and post-Cultural man is simply without history: as man plunges into materialism and advocates the degeneration of his mentality, he loses his historical weight.

Charles Eisenstein writes in ”Sacred Economics” (2011) about our culture’s notion of spirit as ”that of something separate and non-worldly, that yet can miraculously intervene in material affairs”, and concludes that this divine, godlike spirit of today is simply named Money; the hidden hand that directs and controls pretty much everything in our existence.

Wu-Tang Clan has a song, ”C.R.E.A.M.”, Cash Rules Everything Around Me, which the wolves of Wall Street surely cannot relate to. Cash? Most money don’t even exist in physical form. Most money is an abstraction disconnected from the real world.

Eisenstein on the early years of the 21st century economic crises: ”Looking down from Olympian heights, the financiers called themselves ‘masters of the universe’, channeling the power of the god they served to bring fortune or ruin upon the masses, to literally move mountains, raze forests, change the course of rivers, cause the rise and fall of nations. But money soon proved to be a capricious god.

As I write these words, it seems that the increasingly frantic rituals that the financial priesthood uses to placate the god money are in vain. Like the clergy of a dying religion, they exhort their followers to greater sacrifices while blaming their misfortunes either on sin (greedy bankers, irresponsible consumers) or on the mysterious whims of God (the financial markets). Soon, perhaps, we will blame the priests themselves.

What we call deflation, an earlier culture might have called, ‘God abandoning the world’. Money is disappearing, and with it a third property of spirit, the animating force of the human realm. [Money …], so insubstantial (in the form of electrons in computers) that it can hardly be said to exist at all, yet so powerful that without it, human productivity grinds to a halt. It is as if God had forsaken the world.”

He continues:
”We do not realize that our concept of the divine has attracted to it a god that fits that concept, and given it sovereignty over the earth. By divorcing the soul from the flesh, spirit from matter, and God from nature, we have installed a ruling power that is soulless, alienating, ungodly and unnatural.”

Our children will have to pay. They are the ones being left with the pollution, the wreckage, the ruin, the debt and the collapse of human industrial civilization. Our children will look up and whisper ”no”…

*

Edward Abbey again:
”…I go outside and close the switch on the generator. The light bulbs dim and disappear, the furious gnashing of pistons whimpers to a halt. Standing by the inert and helpless engine, I hear its last vibrations die like ripples on a pool somewhere far out on the tranquil sea of desert, somewhere beyond Delicate Arch, beyond the Yellow Cat badlands, beyond the shadow line. I wait.

Now the night flows back, the mighty stillness embraces and includes me; I can see the stars again and the world of starlight. I am twenty miles or more from the nearest fellow human, but instead of loneliness I feel loveliness. Loveliness and a quiet exultation.”

So let’s gently close the switch on civilization and let nature prevail. Don’t worry, it’ll be beautiful. Everything will be fine once we are all gone.

//

This essay is part of EVERYTHING WILL BE FINE ONCE WE ARE ALL GONE, a so-called self published artist’s book, created by Björn Engberg 2017. Proofread by Hannes Rubaszkin. Photos by Björn Engberg. 

Movie review: One More Time with Feeling (2016)

For me, the thing with this documentary was the trauma. The unfathomable pain, grief and suffering that a family is subjected to when their son suddenly dies at age 15. And I feel weird for saying this, but I was expecting more darkness.

Sure, there were several moments when I was clinging to my seat (the performance of “Girl In Amber” and when Susie talks about Arthur’s painting, for example), the soulcrushing grief almost ripping through the screen, but I didn’t cry. Maybe because I saw this in a theater surrounded by a bunch of other people, maybe because there were other things bothering me, like the use of the distracting 3D effect, for instance.

The musical performances both sound and look amazing, but the best parts for me are when Cave talks. And when Susie talks. The naked truth.
“What happens when an event occurs that is so catastrophic that you just change? You change from the known person to an unknown person, so that when you look at yourself in the mirror, you recognize the person that you were, but the person inside the skin is a different person.”

I wanted more of that. Instead, I felt the movie focused too much on the recording process (which I know was its sole purpose from the beginning, but still…). Cave himself says that maybe everything he’s talking about in this film is complete bullshit. I don’t care, because his bullshit sounds good to me. When he speaks, he speaks the pain. He sings the blood.

The album “Skeleton Tree” is in itself absolutely stunning. It’s like Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds teamed up with Godspeed You Black Emperor, Antony And The Johnsons and Wovenhand. Just perfect darkness. I wish this documentary had had the same impact on me. It sure was heartbreaking, but — and again, I feel weird for saying this — not heartbreaking enough.

Rated: 3.5 / 5

Movie review: Girlhood (2014)

Beautiful like diamonds in the sky.

Friendship, hardship, love and liberation seen through the eyes of teenage girls in the rough suburbs of France, where wrong sometimes need to be right. So real and powerful.

I need to quote this review by Letterboxd member Maëva in full:

”Well I’m a black girl, I’m French and I’m from a poor neighborhood, and I never felt as happy to be this girl as when I was watching this film. Seeing people that look like my friends, like me, on the big screen, as heroines… Seeing friendship, love and most importantly youth through the faces of black girls… That’s something I’ll never forget. Grand, heartfelt, beautiful, Bande de Filles is maybe not the movie of your year but it’s definitely mine’s.”

Rated: 4,5 / 5

Movie review: Ghostbusters (2016)

First and foremost: It was better than I expected. It’s not totally worthless. But…

Ghostbusters 2016 can easily be dismissed as a “lazy, uninspired rehash of pre-existing iconography”, as I read elsewhere, which is true when it comes to all Hollywood remakes/reboots, but it cannot be dismissed just because there are female leads (as I’ve read countless of times); that’s just plain stupid.

For me, this is fairly easy: There are different kinds of comedy, and comparing the reboot with the original, anyone should be able to spot the difference.

I watched the original Ghostbusters (1984) the other day and I enjoyed it like I did when I was 9 years old. Nostalgia, but even more than that: It’s my kind of comedy. The subtle humor courtesy of Egon Spengler and Peter Venkman is hitherto unsurpassed in my book. It still holds up.

32 years later, Ghostbusters is the total opposite of subtlety. It’s like that annoying, loud, attention seeking idiot in highschool trying way too hard to be quirky, making funny faces and stupid voices 24/7. STFU, please.
The humor is at surface level at best. I mean, fart jokes? Really? Or to be more precise: Queef jokes. I think “cringeworthy” is the word here. And “face palm”. And that’s just the beginning. (And I’m not even going to start with gender politics here. Or cheap product placement. Or the awful business people at Sony (stop making movies, you twats). I could write an essay, but that’s already been done.)

With that said, the ensemble cast probably made the best of a very weak script. Paul Feig fucked it up.

As for the comedy: I laughed three times (the hot dog logo, the Jaws joke and the man shrieking…), which makes it obvious. This wasn’t made for me.

Rated: 1,5 /5

Movie review: Flugparken (2014)

A decent, slow psychological drama about a sociopath about to break. The photo and editing is top notch, presenting a subtle study of a young Swedish man who in his own mind thinks he does good.

Flugparken” has been compared to “Taxi Driver”, “Falling Down” and even “American Psycho”, but even though this is more than your average Swedish movie, it’s still average.

Well worth watching for the great photo, though. And the acting is not that bad either.

Rated: 2,5 / 5

Movie review: Victoria (2015)

Wow, what an amazing achievement! One take, no cuts. 140 minutes of realtime movie magic. And in contrast to the extremely overrated ”Birdman”, this one isn’t fake, and it also has content.

Victoria, a lonely Spanish girl having spent 16 years, seven hours a day, practicing the piano, seeks adventure in the nighttime Berlin underground. Desperately naive, she decides to hang out with four shady guys and things escalate quickly. The ”Pusher” trilogy comes to mind.

Sure, it’s unrealistic at times (the story needs to move forward), but it’s still authentic. Most of the dialogue is improvised, and the camera work is fantastic.
Also, ”Victoria” makes me wanna return to the Mitte district in Berlin.

Rated: 3,5 / 5

Movie review: The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015)

”She was a young girl driven astray by the lustful lure of the flesh.”

San Francisco in the 1970’s. Sex, drugs, music and comics. What’s not to love? But if you’re 15 years old?

Marielle Heller makes this an awesome film about a teenage girl having an affair with her mother’s boyfriend. Bel Powley is great as Minnie and Alexander Skarsgård is about as sleazy as his name Monroe suggests.

What strikes me is that even the adults are acting like teenagers. Maybe that’s why the weird relationship between a 15 year old girl and a 35 year old man almost seems acceptable? I don’t know, but I know I loved “The Diary of a Teenage Girl”.

All in all, a very human and honest coming of age drama, filled to the brim with great acting, true stories and cool cartoons (it’s based on a semi-autobiographical graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner).

If you like ”Juno” and ”Ghost World”, this is definitely for you.

Rated: 4 / 5

by Mattias Indy Pettersson