Prelude to Melancholia: This Is How the End Begins

Prelude to Melancholia: This Is How the End Begins

The Earth is evil,
We don’t need to grieve for it
.”

There are 16 mini-scenes in Lars von Trier’s hauntingly beautiful eight-minute prelude to Melancholia, a movie about love, family and the apocalypse. The soundtrack for the overture to Melancholia is the exquisite prelude to Wagner’s 1859 opera, Tristan and Isolde, an opera Wagner described as “one of endless yearning, longing, the bliss and wretchedness of love; world, power, fame, honor, chivalry, loyalty and friendship all blown away like an insubstantial dream,” for which there is “one sole redemption-death, finality, a sleep without awakening.”

The movie, among Mr. von Trier’s greatest, stars Kirsten Dunst as Justine, a young advertising copywriter who, shortly after she gets married, endures two separate yet related catastrophes. A wedding party at an ocean-side golf resort owned by Justine’s brother-in-law ends with her new husband leaving, which in turn brings on the depression that overtakes her and seems to inaugurate the end of the world or her dream of the same. Many of the movie’s themes are introduced in the overture’s first minutes, a masterpiece in miniature that presents a deep reflection of literary, artistic and cinematic allusions.

Melancholia was named Best Picture at The 2011 European Film Awards in Berlin; the film also won awards for cinematography and production design. Previously, Kirsten Dunst won the Best Actress Award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival for her performance in Melancholia. Last week, The National Society of Film Critics named Lars Von Trier’s end-of-the-world drama Melancholia Best Picture, and Best Actress honors went to Kirsten Dunst for her performance in the film.

Read more about Prelude to Melancholia in The New York Times here.

Prelude to Melancholia: This Is How the End Begins

Melancholia: The Official Trailer

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Lookout, Lookout: The Heartfelt Sounds of Forgiveness

 

Lookout, Lookout: The Heartfelt Sounds of Forgiveness

Mary, Mary-belle within a bird-cage cell,
All your neighbors know what your mother sells,
But you carved out a name;
You carved out a name for yourself.
Look out, look out,
Look out, Look out,
There are murders about.

Lookout, Lookout is the heartwrenching, honest and unabashedly sad music video from the astonishing debut album by Seattle-based singer-songwriter Mike Hadreas (aka Perfume Genius).  Learning is a devastatingly lovely premiere album, a collection of songs that starkly explores the dark and melancholy world of drugs, depression, suicide and abuse.  Hadreas has described the songs as having been written in an attempt to gain some understanding of his own troubled life, and they were originally intended to be heard by only his closest friends.

When close attention is paid, the music here is gut-wrenching, sad and fearlessly honest, while at the same time maintaining a dignified sense of resigned acceptance.  Perfume Genius has managed to craft some of the finest heartfelt, new indie-music this side of the millennium, with sounds and plain-spoken lyrics that can tap into your inner emotions.  Hadreas’s voice stands out with a  soft-spoken tenderness and ethereal quality on the track Gay Angels, which switches from piano chords to minimalistic organ drones.  Lookout, Lookout can push you to the point of possibly offering empathic, compassionate forgiveness to anyone who you feel  has done wrong to you over the past few years.

Lookout, Lookout: The Heartfelt Sounds of Forgiveness

Gay Angels: Hearing and Seeing Them (Perfume Genius)

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On The Subject Of Depression: A Short Visual Experience

On The Subject Of Depression: A Short Visual Experience

On The Subject Of Depression is a one-minute animated short film by artist/animator Scott Benson.  Depending on which statistics you’re observing, depression effects between 5 to 10 percent of the world’s population, and it’s a major factor leading to countless suicides.  It’s not a pleasant topic, but it’s obviously a social issue of large importance.  Benson has opened up about his own experiences with the disorder in this new short film, stating that he made the film “hoping it would be cathartic for me and maybe a bit comforting for others who might have similar issues.”

On The Subject Of Depression: A Short Visual Experience

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Photo of the Day: Melancholy Shades of Blue

Photo of the Day: Melancholy Shades of Blue

Photography by:  Glenn Losack, M.D. (NYC)

Can you now recall all that you have known?
Will you never fall
When the light has flown?
Tell me all that you may know
Show me what you have to show
Won’t you come and say
If you know the way to blue?

-Nick Drake, 1969

Nick Drake: Way to Blue (1969)

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Hurts: Better than Love

Hurts: Elegantly Passionate Sorrow Among the Ruins

Better than Love is an elegantly luxurious anthem for passionate sorrow by Hurts, the remarkable British duo of Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson.  Their music here is the embodiment of noir music with an epic quality, which they have described as “dance music for depression.”

Hurts’ perfectionistic approach to their music is deliberate and precisely calibrated.  But they are also deeply passionate young men, who believe that the best way to express their darkest desires is not through the medium of loud and sweaty old rock music.  Instead they’ve taken poetic inspiration from the great synth duos of the 1980s.  It’s glistening robotic music with a raw human heart.  Or a human body with an Iron Man-style battery at its core, depending on your perspective.

Hurts is all kinds of awesome brilliance.

Hurts: Better than Love

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John Mayer: Just Half of My Heart

John Mayer: Just Half of My Heart

Seven-time Grammy Award winning musician John Mayer’s new album Battle Studies was released on Tuesday.  And if Mayer has ever been successful at putting all of his pessimism about romance into a single album, then Battle Studies is the one.  “It’s one record about one thing,” Mayer said.  The underlying emotional tone that runs throughout the songs in the album is one of discomfort with close relationships and a relatively pervasive dark, dysphoric  mood.  Most of the songs in his album convey a sense of skepticism about love, lovers and anyone looking and passing judgment from the outside in.

Mayer was interviewed by Steven Daley this week in Details Magazine:

Daley wrote, “From the opening track, the U2-redolent Heartbreak Warfare, it’s clear that the musician who ingratiated his way into the nation’s heart with soft-serve hits like Your Body Is a Wonderland and Daughters has entered a new phase.  The record revives the spirit of that most maligned of 20th-century art forms, adult-oriented rock, channeling the likes of Peter Gabriel, Sting, and Dire Straits, and reflects how assured Mayer has become.  Battle Studies may well force some of his detractors to admit that the man they used to view as Dave Matthews’ cocky little nephew has grown up some.”

Mayer described his own thoughts about having to cope with his public face as a celebrity and with his detractors in the media, as opposed to Mayer the musician: “What do you think is stronger: a dozen press articles that say I’m this guy, or a record with 10 songs on it that you enjoy?  Which has greater staying power?  At the end of the day, all I owe the world in exchange for my dumb face being in their lives are the 10 songs every couple years that are hopefully of greater magnitude than somebody’s press story about me.”

John Mayer: Who Says (Battle Studies)

John Mayer: Heartbreak Warfare (Battle Studies), The Beacon Theatre, NYC

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Drift Away: A Slow Glide Through Misery’s Homeless Mind

Drift Away: A Slow Glide Through Misery’s Homeless Mind

In each individual the spirit is made flesh,
in each one the whole of creation suffers,
in each one a Savior is crucified.

Hermann Hesse, Demian

Drift Away is a beautiful, but sadly melancholy 4-minute short film directed by Jean-Julien Pous and produced by Sophia Shek.  During the course of the film, a gracious and ethereal young woman slowly glides silently and all alone through the busily teeming streets of Hong Kong.  During the earliest part of the film, it’s somewhat difficult to discern exactly what’s going on in this little film, or even what the movie’s theme might be, except possibly a visual rendering of the emotional deadness of anomie and anhedonia in contemporary urban life.  The attractive young woman’s eyes acutely capture everything around her, but only the movie’s camera can catch her own eyes.  Sadly, it’s probably true that only when you’re really able to lose yourself in something or someone else, only then will you finally become capable of an emotional investment in yourself, another person and/or the world around you.  Lacking that, the despairing message for people left with a desolately barren life in the midst of the intensely seething modern world is something like: “Pour your misery down, pour your misery down on me.”

Drift Away: A Slow Glide Through Misery’s Homeless Mind

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