föstudagur, júní 03, 2005

gargandi snilld

This week E and I saw Gargandi Snilld (English title: "Screaming Masterpiece") which claims it's about 1000 years of Icelandic music. In reality, it covers a little under 30 years and mainly focuses on current musicians in the Icelandic scene.

The music is the main feature throughout, starting off with some traditional chants from Steindór Andersen and then the famous Sigur Rós wall of sound with a live clip from the end of Popplagið (track 8 on their last album). The movie careens through a series of current Icelandic bands, including arthouse rockers Múm and the rebuilt- organ aficionados from Apparat Organ Quartet. Mugison plays acoustic guitar for the camera in two different churches, the second of which he appears to stumble upon in the middle of an Icelandic winter. And even President Ólafur makes an appearance, introducing an uncredited band to his party guests, who then dance to floor-shaking beats inside the Presidential mansion at Bessastaðir.

We get to see a lot of Björk, including a young Björk fronting her first band. We see her racing a muscle car (Camaro?) through the Icelandic wilds (think Carrie Fischer in Blues Brothers) for a Sugarcubes video. We see her playing to astounded fans in the 212 in the present day. And she gets lots of interview time toward the end of the movie.

There are some dopey Blue Lagoon interviews, one with a Billboard magazine reporter and the other with an NYC Parks employee, presumably the guy who books acts in Central Park. These guys both mumble through their hangovers and whiteface and give the standard foreign-press takes on Icelandic music. It's disappointing the moviemakers couldn't have gotten some more enlightened and fresh foreign commentary.

One of the most entertaining bits of the movie comes when south-coast pubescent rockers Nilfisk are interviewed. These guys all look to be on the south side of driving age, and come from the small fishing village of Stokkseyri. They rehearse in a garage, and talk shyly on-camera about their music, philosophy, lyrics. Then the movie abruptly cuts to a Foo Fighters concert in Reykjavík, with Dave Grohl explaining how he met a great band in Stokkseyri the day before. He proceeds to introduce the boys of Nilfisk, who open up for the Foo Fighters in front of thousands. It was their first performance outside of their garage.

On the downside, the movie's landscape shots of Iceland consist mainly of the overhyped Blue Lagoon from the air, and some bizarre computer-rendered ice-covered fjörd shots - only serving to reinforce the stereotypes that the whole country is ice-covered and people live in igloos, except when they go to the Blue Lagoon.

Also troubling was that the movie lacked continuity, jumping around from band to band. It crescendoed to a triumphant finish at least three times. But if you're interested in a great visual vehicle for all kinds of Icelandic sound, and front row seats to Björk and Sigur Rós, it's worth a place in your Netflix queue or a trip down to Regnboginn.

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