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COWBOY IN SWEDEN a film by TORBJÖRN AXELMAN with LEE HAZLEWOOD. 1970. Sweden. 51 min. The iconoclastic pop idol croons his way through the land of the midnight sun. SUMMER MUSIC FESTIVAL

This film screened exclusively for a week and is currently not available online.

Le Cinéma Club presents our fourth annual Summer Music Festival: a celebration of world music and artists whose work challenged their status quo. The series includes rare glimpses of the beloved American crooners Lee Hazlewood and Leonard Cohen; a detailed look at the history of Palestinian hip hop; and intimate portraits of both radical singer-songwriter Sinead O’Connor and trailblazing saxophonist Sonny Rollins. 

 

With his music label, Lee Hazlewood Industries, in decline near the end of the sixties, the iconoclastic pop cowboy set off for a fresh-start in Sweden, where he remained at the top of the charts for his previous work with Nancy Sinatra. There, he partnered up with Torbjörn Axelman, a good friend of his who had established himself as a pioneering figure in Swedish state television. Their collaborations resulted in a number of wonderfully surreal films, either starring or composed by Hazlewood, but none top the dreamy delight that is Cowboy in Sweden, a state-sponsored string of skits in which a mustache-less Hazlewood croons his way through a series of Scandinavian landscapes he’d eventually learn to call home.

 

Mixing philosophical reveries with absurd scenarios, Cowboy in Sweden embodies the often contradictory yet fascinating aspects of Hazlewood’s personality as a counterculture personality raised on pop music and bluegrass tunes. Throughout the film, his admiration for the arts and alternative lifestyles clashes with his compulsory instinct to poke fun at such highfalutin tendencies; the best of these collisions being a scene in which Hazlewood and two women walk into the ocean fully-clothed that reveals itself as a parody of an Ingmar Bergman film.

 

 

“I miss Lee every day […] He was an incredible inspiring force that meant a lot to me and my creativity. Our whole stay together in Gotland, A House Safe for Tigers, Cowboy in Sweden… It was an unforgettable time.” TORBJÖRN AXELMAN

 

As the first collaboration between Axelman and Hazlewood, Cowboy in Sweden also provides a glimpse at the musician during a moment of adaptation, learning to love a new country and its culture. The film’s inclusion of quick quasi-news reports courtesy of Hazlewood in which he discusses dalahäst horses, the weather, and Midsommar demonstrate his genuine affection for the community of artists and people who received him with open arms. “Midsommar is many things, but more than anything, it’s fun,” he remarks. His charming observation—enthusiastic and succinct—might as well be shorthand for his musical genius, which playfully attended to life’s greatest woes and wows with sharp insights brimful of gratitude toward the experiences that came his way.

 

Torbjörn Axelman was born in Eskilstuna, Sweden, in 1932. Throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s, he produced a series of well-regarded culture and entertainment programs with both Swedish and international artists, including the likes of Alfred Hitchcock. In 1973, he won both the Press Prize and Golden Rose in Montreux for excellence in television. As a filmmaker, he continued working with Hazlewood on projects such as the radical crime film Smoke (1971) and the philosophical A House Safe for Tigers (1975). Also a painter and illustrator, he held solo exhibitions in Uppsala, Stockholm, Monaco, London, and New York.

 

Text written by Nicolas Pedrero-Setzer.