Midsommar ★★

Doubles down on the most irksome aspects of Hereditary, which was wildly uneven, but delivered at least intermittently (during the first séance, especially). This follow-up brought to mind Joachim Trier's Thelma, and given that Aster has said that his next film will not be horror, it seems possible that he'll head in the direction of something like Louder Than Bombs. MUBI review, excerpted below:

...Partisans will likely disagree that Aster’s directorial touch is strained, but that it is heavy seems indisputable. Nothing in Midsommar occurs without a sense of portent—which isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker, since even The Shining (1980), say, is formally elegant, but not exactly light on underlined menace. The film’s elaborate sets are the work of production designer Henrik Svensson, but as with the Grahams’ family home in Hereditary, Aster treats this territory mainly as a proving ground for his stylistic prodigiousness. Re-teaming with cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski, the director has once again strung together a series of deliberate camera movements—all glacial pans, meaningful push-ins, and foreboding lateral glides. For the score, Bobby Krlic (recording under the moniker the Haxan Cloak) replaces Hereditary’s composer Colin Stetson, though the music's insistent function in establishing a baseline of eerie ambiance remains.

All this amounts to a film that prizes an atmosphere of dread above all else—including a finer articulation of the relationship-drama that is its supposed core. When Hereditary first made its rounds, Aster was quick to say that he was not a horror director. Motivated by a desire not to be pigeonholed, the statement also served to emphasize the story’s domestic psychological-breakdown over its Rosemary’s Baby-esque murmurings of occult conspiracy—which the film was able to bear out, albeit more shakily than its most fervent champions would contend. That the material Aster culled from his initial, three-hour cut of Hereditary was all “family drama stuff" seemed, at the time, like an unfortunate, but understandable attempt to ensure his debut feature’s marketability. But in capitalizing on Hereditary’s success, Aster has created something far more hollow about its supposedly human concerns—a film of calculated gesture that fits more cynically into the recent spate of what has, rightly or wrongly, been corralled under the term “elevated horror.”

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