Sunday, February 14, 2010

You, the Living

You, the Living (Roy Andersson, 2009) [10]

Some reviewers have stated that You, the Living is more or less part two of Songs From the Second Floor, Andersson's previously lauded feature. While the two have their stylistic similarities, You, the Living may be the better film, and I'm a huge fan of Songs. Andersson works in a very recognizable visual style, heavy on offbeat characters and situations, with a static camera and lots of long shots. While not as visually striking as Songs, You, the Living embodies with its look what its characters feel. It's full of lots of ugly, miserable people describing their ugly, miserable lives. The film is unrelenting as it depicts of the failures of life and love as almost all the characters are mired in depressing circumstances. What's most amazing is how Andersson makes these characters so physically unappealing, and how the manufactured landscapes these characters occupy only enhance the dour, absurdist elements of it all. Yet through its absurdities and depressions, the film is punctuated with fantastic moments of black humor, often with help from a brass band highlighted by a tuba. It's not an understatement how the music shapes the moments of humor in the film. The major difference from Songs is that that film was almost unrelentingly bleak and you get the feeling here that Andersson is much more sympathetic to his characters. That through all their trials and tribulations, the film attempts to get at a true understanding and appreciation of human nature. Andersson never treats his characters with contempt or flippancy. It's a fantastic blend of pathos and humor, absurdity and seriousness that makes it worth the time.
Blogger's note: I am counting this as a 2009 release because of its U.S. commerical theatrical release. Most sites list its release date as 2007 but I try to keep film organized by their commercial dates, since that's the only way I'm going to be able to see them.

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