Monday, February 5, 2018

A Ghost Story: A Review

As I began writing this article I decided to put on the film's score, written by Daniel Hart of Dark Rooms. Immediately I felt a deep shiver throughout my body, and remembered why it's taken me so long to write this review.

This movie makes you feel tremendously alone.

A Ghost Story is a horror tale unlike any other. It's not defined as something unsettling and macabre. In fact, most see it as a drama or romantic film. It does, however, tackle one of life's most unsettling frights. More on that later.

It's hard to write about A Ghost Story without giving anything away. It's a film that's so simple, so minimal in fact, that it's so easy to spoil the experience. Because of this, I really will err on the side of caution and not give too much away. Upon first glance, you see it as a drama, a romance between a couple madly in love. You don't know much about them, even the film itself gives you only their first initials; C (Casey Affleck) and M (Rooney Mara). When the husband, C, passes in a car accident, M is left alone in their beautiful home, in the middle of nowhere, and grieves. C comes back to her, a ghost simply hovering in a white sheet. He stays there and watches her, through all her sadness and pain, until she eventually moves on, and new tenants move in. He remains as the new tenants come and go.

And come and go.

And come. And go.

Suddenly, a tremendous amount of time has passed and he's still there.

The house is replaced by a massive luxury condo and he's still there. Stuck in an everlasting limbo, constantly aching. Constantly waiting.

Director David Lowery does a great job at making a film involving a man cloaked under a sheet for the majority of it deliver such powerful emotions and raw feelings. A Ghost Story above all, is a film about transcendental loneliness. It urges you to feel something. The film isn't a horror, but it does achieve one of the most horrifying questions of afterlife: what if your loved one moved on from you? Worse, what if your loved one forgot about you?

We feel for C. Through his exaggerated motions, we suddenly ache for him. Because he's wearing a sheet, his thoughts and emotions are portrayed differently. The way he stands when he's sad, with his head bowed, fills you with sorrow. When he's frustrated and moves quickly, your adrenaline rises with him. When he's heartbroken, you feel that pain with him.

In combination with these emotions is the wonderful usage of cinematography by Andrew Droz Palermo. Deciding to use a 4x3 aspect ratio, Palermo achieves a retro frame, one that we're not used to in modern films. We see the rounded edges of the frame, and this constricts us. The reason why this is so thematically relevant is because C, like us, is stuck in a box that he cannot get out of, thus making us feel for him more. It also brings a sense of intimacy, spying into someone else's life.

The last piece to this stunning symphony? The soundtrack that utterly shatters you. Written by Daniel Hart of Dark Rooms, it evokes a sadness and loneliness that some people have never themselves experienced. Like the track from the soundtrack, I Get Overwhelmed, you can't help but be overcome with emotion. To this day whenever I hear the song I get teary. What a powerful emotion to attach to a movie.

With all these magnificent elements that swirl together to create a masterpiece, Lowery achieves greatness. A lasting scene that haunts me involves two ghosts, both staring at each other from their respective houses that they dwell in. One asks the other who they wait for every day. The other responds that they simply don't remember; it's been too long. And that's it. That's what absolutely gets you. That in the afterlife there is no time, that things change and every day passes and the way people move on is natural, and something that you should come to expect.

I promise you this will end up breaking your heart.

Please watch A Ghost Story. I haven't seen a movie that has moved me so much in a really long time. It'll hand you clues to obvious interpretation; but don't take them. Make whatever you wish of the film, that is the main goal. 



Saturday, January 20, 2018

Feelin' Young Again with Synthpop Duo, GENTS

photo: Ivan Riordan Boll
"GENTS is on one hand a longing for the past,
but on the other hand an embrace of the future."

Say you're at a party. Say you put on Rick Astley. Most people may give you a quizzical look, one that wonders why would blast such a throwback artist. Hopefully after the initial shock, you'd have people grooving. It's a game of musical Russian roulette you chose to play. 

That being said, say you're at that same party, and say you put on Danish duo, GENTS. The response is instant. The toe tapping, the moving of the hips; it's all hypnotic and nobody can stop. GENTS borrow elements from 80's greats - singer Niels Fejrskov Juhl has the baritone voice with an uncanny resemblance to Rick Astley. Synth player Theis Vesterl√łkke on the other hand digs into the keyboards with hooks as catchy as a Depeche Mode track. They have this otherworldly talent to sound retro and nostalgic, all while maintaining a contemporary, timeless twist. 

GENTS are a new and addicting heavy-hitter in modern synthpop. With an EP under their belt along with their debut album that came out in 2017, the lads have received widespread acclaim, along with a successful tour they dubbed their 2017 "cruise." Now, they've retreated back to the studio to work on new, equally danceable material.

After discovering the two I immediately set out craving to learn more, and hunted them down. Here's a quick lil' chat I had with Theis and Niels, getting into the heads and normalizing these intriguing and mesmerizing Copenhagen-bred fellas.

photo: Dennis Morton

Let's start off easy. What's your music best suited for. GENTS fans, what are they doing while listening to you?

People could and should be doing anything. We are not doing music for special occasions but for special people. But whether one is doing the dishes, having heart-ache or sipping cocktails on their yacht, we hope that people feel hopeful, feel weltschmerz, feel grand.

In an interview with Kink, you guys mentioned your creative process involves youtube-surfing and "decadent cocktails". What is your favourite cocktail, and better yet, what's your favourite youtube video you've come across?

Choosing one cocktail is like choosing between your kids (though we can only speculate on that). Not possible. But pastis is a dear friend of ours. Adding a bit to your bourbon sour creates heaven on earth. But other times you can just be in the need of some potent re-calibration and then a vodka-bull does the trick. Every time.

Like not printing a joke on a t-shirt one shouldn’t decide on youtube evergreens. But looking at Michael Bolton killing it in ”Can I touch you... there?” seems to keep on getting us.

Embrace the Future was such a great EP, and then when you came out with your debut About Time that was incredible too. Your music definitely has a playfulness of the 80s and 90s, but it's also a mature sound that you have perfected and really made your own. Did you both grow up in the 90s? Do you think that is what influenced you so much, or was it perhaps moving to Berlin together that influenced your synth sound?

Berlin was a good place for us to dive into our music. GENTS is on one hand a longing for the past, but on the other hand an embrace of the future.

I know you guys are back in the studio recording your next album, congratulations! I'm curious, because you have a very distinct sound, and one that has gotten endless praise, do you think your next album will be similar, or perhaps see you going in a different direction?

We are not gonna make the same record twice (at least not on purpose). But we want all of our songs and releases to contribute to some greater GENTS vibe that keeps getting refined. That feeling of dark decadence that whelms upon us these days.

I'm going to put you on the spot and make you pick between Wham! and Rick Astley.

Definitely Wham! George Michael is a true genius. ”Nothing looks the same in the light” is one of our all time favourites...

I love how some of your music videos look like they've been filmed on a VHS. Very nostalgic! Because of that, pick your favourite piece of 90s technology and explain why.

Spent most of our childhood working on our Pokedex in the company of our mutual friend, Game Boy.

On the topic of retro electronics, why do you think it's so important that people are focusing on buying records again and not just streaming and downloading music?

Listening to a vinyl is a perfect way to get back to some of the contemplation, that many are missing in times like these. Listening from beginning to the end, not constantly switching, swapping and zapping.

Some talk about better sound quality and all. Don’t know anything about that.

How about a favourite movie from the 80s?

Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back. A true classic.

If GENTS could re-do the soundtrack to any movie in the world, what movie would it be?

Coyote Ugly. Even though the original soundtrack is amazing – Can’t Fight the Moonlight is an anthem.

photo: Mangus Bach Pederson

Your music can get quite sensual, Trouble for example or even Brother just sound so sexy! Were you as successful at getting the girls when you were younger?

It’s a struggle being handsome. Sometimes you just want to be your anonymous self. But gotta give the girls what they want. It is both the power and responsibility of being a true gent.

Any plans for 2017 now besides working in the studio?

Meditation, baking bread and getting a tan going.

And lastly, the outfits. You both have such a sense of cool, understated style. The tracksuits, the turtlenecks, they're all awesome! Do you have a stylist? Who comes up with all that?

”True fashion comes from within. No stylist is as good as your own heart” – GENTS


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