Friday, June 20, 2008

The Bittersweet In Being Nice

Du levande (You, The Living)(2007)
Directed by Roy Andersson
"Be pleased then, you the living, in your delightfully warmed bed, before Lethe's ice-cold wave will lick your escaping foot" -Goethe That's the opening title card from "You The Living". Like Roy Andersson's earlier "Songs From The Second Floor" each scene in "You, The Living" is composed with a static non moving camera, giving each vignette the detailed composition of a photograph or a painting. Some vignettes last minute or two, some a matter of seconds, as previous. Though Anderson plays the same stylistic instrument, he manges to get more than a few fresh notes. One of the most stunning openings in a film anywhere, a woman complains about the woes of the world and her life, repeatedly insulting her boyfriend and dog to leave, as a New Orleans Style Brass band bubbles beneath the conversation, until the boyfriend exits and the woman repeats that he lies, but that she may be along latter for dinner. Then she breaks into a song about escaping from her life on a motorcycle. Then cut to a group of Chefs standing in a row and staring in silent awe out of a window at something off screen, while the Brass band plays on, making the scene resemble an eerie french cartoon. Eventually the Chefs go back to work, and an old man hobbles into frame moving at snails pace, and dragging ten feet behind him on a leash a small puppy yelping on it's back, as the band plays on. Songs From The Second Floor began with a quote, "Blessed Be The Ones Who Sit Down", and where that film built it's jokes and visual poems from consumer culture, this film takes a broader view of the world, where all suffering and misery, fantasies, and hopes are all to be appreciated, because they're better than the alternative; death or "Lethe's ice cold lick" as Goethe puts it in opening quote. And besides all the humiliations and loneliness are funny enough if you look at them from the right perspective, as this film perpetually does.
A thin old man has sex with a large breasted woman wearing a band leaders helmet, as she moans on top of him and gets closer to climax, he somberly recounts losing his pension, having served in the brass band for years and now having nothing, as she orgasms, he mutters "Isn't it Tragic". It's brilliantly and beautifully put together, and hilarious sometimes in very dry and others very absurd ways, the scenarios here instead of feeling stark and tragicomic have a warm bittersweet feeling to them.
The greys of Ingmar Bergman have abandoned for brighter, softer tones, the colors in the class room and the park look like crayon and watercolor alternately, and there's a building on train tracks, that's as amazing as anything Terry Gilliam or Michel Gondry ever dreamed up. The ending, ties all the themes of appreciating whatever of life we have together perfectly. Though I liked the feelings and sensations this invoked in me more than "Songs From The Second Floor", it is slightly less effective. Still though, amazing follow up film, and something anyone interested in movies needs to see, actually makes for a much better introduction than "Songs". Dry humor, dreamy images and structure, vivid colors and bittersweet harmonies of brass bands, guitar heroes, and loud lone drummers in empty rooms.

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