Wednesday, September 26, 2007

viff07: you, the living

You, the Living ("Du levande")
Sweden, 2007, 92 min, 35mm
In Swedish with English subtitles

Directed By: Roy Andersson

Few working filmmakers can claim a style as distinctive as Sweden's Roy Andersson. In three features and numerous TV commercials, Andersson has developed an abstract aesthetic to present a deadpan view of existence as a petty chore that you've got to grit your teeth and bear, kind of like washing windows or doing the laundry by hand. Less of an apocalyptic burlesque than Songs from the Second Floor, the wryly surreal, You, the Living (titled after a quote from Goethe) presents a series of loosely connected set-pieces as only Andersson, a tableaux artist working in the medium of celluloid, can stage.

Filmed in wide shots from a single angle and in one take, these moments of existence include: a Monty Pythonesque dinner party; a house that moves like a train; the retelling of, pace Buñuel, a dream that transpired the night before (and includes a side-splitting magic trick gone wrong); and much, much more. The film's comic tone is buttressed by a whimsical use of music, whether it's a punk-rock guitarist, a Louisiana brass band, or a woman who periodically bursts out, "Nobody understands me!"

Completely filmed--and astoundingly so--in Andersson's Studio 14 in central Stockholm, and with a cast consisting of schlubs found on the street or at Ikea, You, the Living may be willfully trivial, but it's still the cult director's most optimistic work to date. Which still leaves Andersson as the most depressing Scandinavian alive, now that Bergman's dead.

SONGS FROM THE SECOND FLOOR was chosen for the Arts & Faith selection of 100 Spiritually Significant Films. There's a brief blurb here, discussion of that film here, and Roger Ebert's 4-star reviewhere.

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