September 2021: Autumnal

Evening, folks!

It’s been an eventful month, but before I kick into my usual self-aggrandisement I want to talk about one of the best films I’ve ever seen, which just came out a week ago. That’s right, you guessed it – gather round, children, it’s time to talk about The Green Knight!

The Usual

On paper, I was already primed to love this film – it’s a modern retelling of my favourite and most familiar Arthurian myth by a director and studio renowned for their intense and beautiful visual sensibility, with a great and charismatic actor in the lead role. All the marketing and promotion pitched it as an intense (verging on horror at times) fantasy drama, and I was incredibly excited to see how they translated the poem for a modern audience. I took myself out to a v. fancy cinema in town last Friday night, grabbed a cider and settled in for the ride. Just over two hours later, I walked out absolutely gobsmacked (and determined to watch it again as soon as possible, which I did on Sunday evening at home – it’s also been dropped on Amazon Prime Video!)

Firstly: it’s undeniably, achingly beautiful. The costumes are gorgeous, the landscape Gawain traverses on his quest is wild and untamed and full of fantastical elements (whale skeletons in the side of a valley, clusters of stone ruins that suggest a rich and violent history, towering giants) and there are so many beautiful shot choices throughout. The cinematography is utterly phenomenal! I was particularly struck by how the landscape itself feeds into one of the central messages of the film (the pervasive power and lasting strength of nature – the green – and how it symbolises both life and death). Gawain’s realm is presented as overwhelming and hostile, with scattered enclaves of humanity stubbornly trying to carve out a place against nature. Beyond that, it felt like home – specifically, like the remoter areas of the Peak District and the Lake District (both vast natural parks not far from my home). I checked afterwards, and it was filmed in Ireland, which makes sense!

Secondly: it manages to be a fairly faithful retelling of the original story, while simultaneously introducing enough twists and turns that I wasn’t able to predict exactly what was going to happen. Beyond that, it gives Gawain much more complexity and internal conflict than I remember from the story (which, granted, I haven’t read in a little while) – he isn’t a purely noble, pious person, and his struggles along the journey feed into that. Dev Patel is mesmerising in the role (although if you want to see him being happy this may not be the movie for you!) and the supporting cast are fantastic. The Green Knight himself is an absolute triumph of practical filmmaking – he looks incredible, and I particularly loved the sounds of tree branches creaking and leaves rustling that accompanied his every move, to really hammer home his role as an avatar of nature. Oh, and the soundtrack is flawless (there’s one song midway through the film with a haunting vocal line that I haven’t been able to get out of my head).

I’ve been amused by the seemingly all-over-the-place response to it – made the mistake of looking at the comments on a 5-star Guardian review which were full of people calling it “boring” and saying they’d turned it off after 10 minutes, which..?! If you go in expecting a big fantasy action movie (like Excalibur, or that Guy Ritchie King Arthur movie), you’ll probably be disappointed. It was notable to me that none of the famous names (Arthur, Guinevere, Merlin, Excalibur, etc) are ever used – Gawain is the only Arthurian name that you hear, and that feels like a conscious choice to detach it from our mental image of the chivalric Knights of the Round Table and to rely on the story itself rather than our memory of the characters for dramatic weight. But if you want a slow burn, atmospheric movie that makes you think about the meaning of honour, about courage in times of hardship and about life, death and rebirth, I think you’ll really enjoy it.

The Record

Another light month when it comes to actual pages scripted, but I haven’t exactly been idle:
-Synopsis/pitch document assembled for an anthology pitch
-Started assembling a huge primer document for issues #4-#6 of Brigantia (including details on the characters/world/monsters/etc)
-Rejigged the #4-#6 synopsis in preparation for redrafting the issues
-Design work for Brigantia Vol. 1 – coming up with a pleasing visual style for all the extra content pages/foreword/etc.

I also spent some time this month assembling the booklet for SHOCKTOBER 2021 – if you’re not familiar with this, every year my partner and I put together a schedule of horror movies for October, one every day and sorted into different categories. We didn’t do it last year (because of the horrible living situation we were in) but we’re back with a vengeance this year, and I’m quite pleased with my design work on the booklet! Here it is if you want to check out the schedule and join in:

I’ll be tweeting out when we’re starting each film, but life is very hectic so it won’t be a set time each day!

The Tunes

This month’s list is honestly all over the place, and I won’t apologise! We kick things off with (after about 20 listens) the indisputable best song off the new Wolves in the Throne Room album, Spirit of Lightning. Normalise mouth harp in black metal challenge! Couple of “flashback” songs next – I discovered Secrets of the Moon decades ago and this track still slaps. Next up are Amplifier who play fun psychedelic-sounding rock, and whose guitarist owns the biggest and most ridiculously bloated pedalboard I have ever seen. There’s a new Hail Spirit Noir record which leans more into synthy electronics (and theremin) than their previous releases – great melodies throughout! This Nils Frahm collaboration album is great, but I particularly enjoyed the rhythms of this track. Next is hands-down the best cover of Enter Sandman that has ever been done, by Rina Sawayama – I listened to the Ghost cover shortly before this one, and I’m sorry to all the Ghost fans out there, but this version blows it away! Another new discovery this month is Spiritbox, who I can best describe as “what if Taylor Swift did djent?” Great vocals and solid production. New Carcass! They’ve lost some of the immediacy of the earlier albums like Heartwork and Necroticism, but the refrain on this track is catchy as fuck. Hundred Year Old Man are a band from the UK local scene – their guitarist Owen tragically passed away recently, and leaves behind a phenomenal body of work. This song in particular, from their most recent EP, ebbs and flows beautifully. And lastly, to finish off the list – you’ll recall me mentioning the soundtrack to The Green Knight up above? Get this in your ears and prepare to be lost in the windswept, rain-soaked realm of Arthurian legend.

The Links

Look, if you needed any more proof that the nation of England is fully doomed, the rozzers have got you covered:

I just… I’m furious, because what a beautiful animal to suffer death at the hands of our disgustingly fascist police force. But I’m also darkly amused at the number of folklorists who must have shot a deadpan look at the camera when this news came out, ala Jim from the Office…

Sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of the brilliance of somebody who went far too soon:

I make no secret of my opinion that Jimi Hendrix was an absolutely singular talent, and if we’re dishing out “best ever” awards he’s at the top of that list. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one still in awe of him!

That wraps up this (long edition) for the month! Thanks for reading, and as ever, take care of yourselves.

All the best,