331 Great Directors: Roy Andersson

“I was going to be an author, but I saw so many good movies.”

Why This Director?: I love Swedish films, and a loose-knit trilogy of three very similar films sounded promising.

My Last Experience Was…: Nada.

What Did I Watch: The entire trilogy: Songs From the Second Floor, You the Living, and Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence. Might as well get it all out of the way!

Where Does He Fit: More absurdism, this time in heftier dosages than the little drizzle in the second Iotelliani film I saw. (No more screencaps for this entry because I don’t want to spoil the jokes, which are aggressively visual and always surprising in small ways. The incident with the last entry put me off including them anyway.) We begin with Songs From the Second Floor, which was not quite what I was expecting: I expected vignettes, and instead, there was a drizzling of narrative that hemmed in the crazy possibilities just a little bit. I also have to admit to finding the gags a bit inconsistent in the moment, but they only grow more ridiculous in retrospect, with two in particular that I really loved. Do not want to spoil them, so I will just say that one involves a train ride, the other a flute. The mordant ending is also a standout.

YTL seems to be generally considered the strongest of the batch unless Songs really captured your imagination, and it begins with one of the best opening quotes I’ve ever seen before launching into the first of fifty agonizingly long takes that cover a series of vignettes, all sort of centered around music, love, death, and the impending apocalypse in ways that never fail to delight, from the scene where a woman hectoring her boyfriend and dog ends up breaking into a mordant sing-talk song (with a voice implying many a cigarette smoked) about how nobody understands her, before we find out that it is in fact an oom-pah brass band playing along that annoys their neighbors and wives with their loud marches that they practice for military bands and funerals.

Music is the ultimate gateway drug in You The Living, something that helps forestall all the suffering while simultaneously bringing pain to everyone. There is the above example, a girl who wants to marry a rock star who flirted with her, a funeral song…you get the point. Where SFTSF (why weren’t the titles switched?) was a narrative about how horrible the world is, YTL grimly notes that we are operating the same way even if we isolate ourselves. It’s the first masterpiece I’ve watched for this project.


That brings us to Pigeon, which…consensus that this is the weakest of the lot is true, but let’s not take away from the starting three episodes (centered around close encounters with death) and the single moment when Andersson does not go for a laugh, which is absolute genius and deserved to be in the two superior installments.

Most Valuable Asset: Production design. Such beautifully grim rooms.
Buzzword: Droll.
Most Excited For: Swedish Love Story sounds promising, but really, I think a new film with a new style appeals to me most. Only need to wait until ~2021!

Coming Up Next: Jafar Panahi, infamously banned from making art.


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