Saturday, July 4, 2015

Roy Andersson's new film "A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence" at Northwest Film Forum: Jul 17 - 23

Last year's Golden Lion winner at the Venice Film Festival finally comes to the Northwest Film Forum for a weeklong run. The sixth film in almost 45 years by Swedish auteur Roy Andersson caries on from the macabre spectacle of the bizarre that made his Cannes Jury Prize winning "Songs from the Second Floor" so singular a work of cinema in the late 20th Century. The fantastical surrealism of Fellini, the wide-open alien austerity of Kubrick, the humor of Terry Gilliam and an impeccable sense of timing set within Andersson's own particular obsession for elaborate artificial worlds. Where "Songs from the Second Floor" was a genre-film defying observation on society's yearning for end times, 2007's "You, the Living" saw him move into territory that was more personal and anecdotal, yet retained his fixation with the macabre and absurd. This sensibility of dry, depressive, philosophically inflected humor strikes a balance that truly has no peers in contemporary cinema. After another many-year stretch, "Roy Andersson: Calling It as He Sees It -- in Great Detail" with “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence” which like the proceeding films of this trilogy, consists of a series of episodic accounts that illustrate, mostly, the futility and absurdity of life. What Andersson perceives as his humble attempt at depicting the human experience, tragedy, wonder, regret, hope, folly and all.

We see this world through a detached stationary camera, observing characters from a tactful distance as they sigh, complain, move through the landscape at glacial pace, treating one another with indifference, oblivious cruelty, weary civility and occasional tenderness. Populated by deathly palefaced men in drab institutional suits, women in tattered vintage gowns and too much rouge and an array of other hapless souls, the recent trilogy of features by Andersson have unfolded like a series of preserved dioramas of human life. Set within massive, elaborate stage sets, these airless chambers are works of engineering, construction and lighting unto themselves, fitting then to see It's Hard to be Human a retrospective of his life's work this past Spring hosted at the New York Museum of Arts and Design. Since it's premier in last year's Venice Film Festival, his newest has been extolled as one of the finest in all of his spartan, decades-spanning oeuvre, Xan Brooks' coverage of the festival for The Guardian hailing it as, "The Glorious Metaphysical Burlesque of Roy Andersson's 'A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence'". While the New York Times' A.O. Scott ponders why it is that Andersson is such a master of  moving us to laugh at the misery and distress of others in his, "‘A Pigeon Sat on a Branch': Roy Andersson’s Rumination on Life".