Friday, September 28, 2007

Roy Andersson's YOU, THE LIVING

Remember Roy Andersson? Well, no one will blame you if you don't. Although he has made over 400 TV commercials, he has only made four features, two of which were made in the 70s. Andersson's two claims-to-fame are that Ingmar Bergman once declared that Andersson makes "the best commercials in the world", and his 2000 award winning feature Songs from the Second Floor. Andersson's new film, You, the Living (left), which played at Cannes in the Un Certain Regard section, barely got a mention. I missed it myself when looking at the schedule, and only realized its existence after an interview appeared in the current issue of CinemaScope.

Some friends and I had heard about this film, ordered it from the land of contraband, Canada, and illegally screened it in downtown St Paul for a handful of good sports who attend such things. I was pretty taken with Song from the Second Floor with its absurd dark humor and its ashen aesthetics that has no warmth whatsoever. Andersson shoots his films (and his commercials for that matter) almost entirely in the studio giving them a look all their own. After Songs from a Second Floor's flash in the pan was over, Andersson went back to making commercials. At least that is the way it seemed. Andersson's commercials are no less precise (and dark) than his feature films, and makes no excuses for his success. "When I make a commercial I make it as seriously as I make a feature. I have clients who know what they will get. And I never ask for a job - I'm always asked, so I can choose and I can say no if I don't like the story or the idea or the project." (from CinemaScope interview) Andersson explains that he built his entire studio from his commercial work. If the biggest criticism about You, the Living is that it is too much like Songs from the Second Floor, that's not all bad. Let's hope it makes an appearance at the MSPIFF.

Here are some examples of Roy Andersson's commercials via You Tube:
Bayerskt Beer
Ansvar Insurance
Here are seven commercials compiled together. They include car insurance, Swedish sugar, Lotto, Social Democratic Party, Sitram cook wear, a Swedish bank, and Gigantti Home Appliance Outlet. All hilarious.

Roy Andersson's very comprehensive website here. (There is a 'teaser' for You, The Living here under 'media'.)
Interesting "documentary pilot about Roy Andersson" here (sans subtitles.)

1 comment:

Kathie Smith said...

David Bordwell reports on the You, The Living at the Vancouver International Film Festival:

“Be pleased, then, you living one, in your delightfully warmed bed, before Lethe’s ice-cold wave will lick your escaping foot.” As a tram destination, Lethe makes a brief appearance in the Swedish film You, the Living, Roy Andersson’s latest comedy of trivial miseries. The line from Goethe is apt. After ninety minutes of drab apartments and Balthus-like figures, all bathed in sickly greenish light, you’re ready to stay in bed forever.

As in Songs from the Second Floor, Andersson gives us a loose network narrative, with barely characterized figures threading their way through urban locales. Long-shot, single-take scenes turn clinics and dining rooms into monumentally desolate spaces. Humans, either bulbous or emaciated, trudge through torrential rain and peer out from distant windows. The bodies may be distorted and careworn, but the spaces are even more so. We get a sort of dystopian Tati, in which gags, near-gags, and anti-gags are swallowed up in the cavities we call home and workplace. A carpet store stretches off into the distance, and a cloakroom seems like a basketball court.

In You, the Living, Andersson’s characters recount their dreams, and these open onto areas only a step beyond our world in their lumpish crowds and eerie vacancy. Judges at a trial are served beer as they condemn the accused. Spectators at an electrocution snack on popcorn from supersized buckets. How can I not like a filmmaker so committed to moving his actors around diagonal spaces, even if the frame is either sparse or uniformly packed, and though he does treat his people like sacks of coal? Don’t look for hope here, only a sardonic eye attracted by banality and pointlessness, images made all the bleaker by an occasional song.