You can thank this arthouse film for uniting Swift and Antonoff on ‘Midnights’

Margaret Qualley, left, and Joe Alwyn star in Claire Denis' "Stars at Noon."
(Cannes Film Festival)
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There is an unlikely art house inspiration behind the collaboration between Taylor Swift and Jack Antonoff on her acclaimed new album, “Midnights”: French filmmaker Claire Denis’ “Stars at Noon.”

In one of her multiple Instagram posts around the album’s release, Swift noted that while she and producer-musician Antonoff have worked together for nearly a decade, “Midnights” is the first to feature the two of them as “main collaborators.”

“Midnights actually really coalesced and flowed out of us when our partners (both actors) did a film together in Panama,” she wrote on Instagram on Thursday. “Jack and I found ourselves back in New York, alone, recording every night, staying up late and exploring old memories and midnights past.”


That film is “Stars at Noon,” directed by art house stalwart Denis and starring Swift’s boyfriend, Joe Alwyn, and Antonoff’s girlfriend, Margaret Qualley. Adapted from a novel by Denis Johnson and set in Nicaragua, the film follows Trish (Qualley), an American who has flamed out as a muckraking journalist and now hustles for hotel shampoo, toilet paper and a bit of money from the men she sleeps with while trying to get herself out of the country.

In a hotel bar she meets Daniel (Alwyn), an English businessman/espionage agent, and the two find unexpected solace in their flushed erotic encounters together. Yet their relationship makes both of their tenuous lives even more unsettled. (“Uncut Gems” filmmaker Benny Safdie has a funny/terrifying cameo as a CIA provocateur.)

After two rootsy pandemic albums, ‘Midnights’ picks up right where 2014’s ‘1989’ and 2017’s ‘Reputation’ left off.

Oct. 20, 2022

In his review, Times critic Justin Chang referred to the film as “nominally a political thriller, marbled with sweaty erotic interludes, a few listless chase sequences and a quasi-Beckettian streak of existential aimlessness. … It’s a fascinating confluence of talent and tedium; it’s also a story in which tedium — the day-after-day frustration of a stalled, thwarted existence — may well be the point.”

Swift has long been working to burnish her cinematic bona fides. She has made a few public appearances on behalf of the long-form music video for “All Too Well: The Short Film” in an apparent campaign for an Academy Award for live-action short film.

Margaret Qualley plays an American journalist abroad in Claire Denis’ messy, fitfully compelling adaptation of Denis Johnson’s novel.

Oct. 14, 2022

At the recent Toronto International Film Festival, she noted some filmmakers who inspired her, including Chloé Zhao, Greta Gerwig, Nora Ephron and Lena Dunham (Alwyn appears in Dunham’s new “Catherine Called Birdy”), as well as Guillermo del Toro, Noah Baumbach and John Cassavetes.


Swifts 2020 album, “Folklore,” was particularly steeped in movie references, it’s getting-weird-in-the-woods vibes seemingly drawn from too many watches of Robert Eggers’“The Witch,” Peter Weir’s “Picnic at Hanging Rock,” Sofia Coppola’s “The Virgin Suicides” and Ari Aster’s “Midsommar.” (How that album’s song “The Last Great American Dynasty,” about socialite Rebekah Harkness, whose Rhode Island mansion Swift now owns, has not yet been adapted into a multiepisode streaming series is a mystery.)

A report from the scene of “In Conversation With ... Taylor Swift” at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival.

Sept. 9, 2022

Swift has already released a video she directed for the “Midnights” track “Anti-Hero,” featuring actors John Early, Mary Elizabeth Ellis and Mike Birbiglia and shot by cinematographer Rina Yang, who besides the “All Too Well” short also shot this year’s Sundance grand-jury prize winner, “Nanny.”

Swift also released a teaser trailer for the other videos she has made for “Midnights,” with a cast list that includes Laura Dern, Dita Von Teese and her pals in the pop band Haim (featuring sisters Danielle, Este and Alana Haim).

As Swift said in the Instagram post highlighting the cinematic origin of the project, “Midnights is a collage of intensity, highs and lows and ebbs and flows. Life can be dark, starry, cloudy, terrifying, electrifying, hot, cold, romantic or lonely. Just like Midnights. Which is out now.”