A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence – 2014 Andersson
The final film of Roy Andersson’s “Living trilogy”—one of the great feats of cinema in the 21st century—the compositions are among the greatest in cinema history—it is on that level
Winner of the Golden Lion in Venice
Andersson proclaims it as part of a trilogy in the titles
inspired by the painting The Hunters in the Snow by Pieter Bruegel the Elder—Andersson sites The Bicycle Thieves as inspiration but I think that’s just a work of art that stirs him
Starts with Andersson’s trademark slow-moving (almost Romero-like) heavy-makeup pale zombie-like characters in a museum then goes into a with a series of semi-comical semi-depressive deaths
Andersson’s trademark color palate with a slight tweak, we have the overcast grays and life-sucking bland colors—but here he adds his sort of faded yellow or mustard color. Certainly a visual motif (in a film already loaded with visual and formal traits)
Open doorway akin to Ozu in most vignettes
Like the other films in Andersson’s oeuvre it has great reviews from critics—but a few seem to be ready for him to try something else. I couldn’t disagree more—Andersson is Ozu in this regard—he could remake the same film over and over. Please do.
The dry novelty toy salesman in deadpan—hilarious, melancholy, sometimes in the same vignette—many of the characters reappear in multiple vignettes but they are the closest to a narrative vehicle here
Many candidates for 2014’s greatest mise-en-scene frame—28 minutes there’s a regular at a bar (for 60 years)– Limping Lotta’s bar — and then goes into a flashback to 1943 (time travel a big part of Pigeon for the first time in Andersson’s films). Andersson’s shots of bars and restaurants are some of his greatest and his work here is no exception
The elaborate shot of soldiers in the background and foreground in the king sequence is one of the film’s highlights as well. Stunning. Songs From the Second Floor had traffic jams and self-flagellation—and it is an undertaking equal to the moving house sequence in You, the Living
Corporate slaves (certainly an ongoing theme) self-flagellation. The actors are posing for long stretches or moving very very slowly as if in a living painting (again, I throw “painterly” around too much probably as a compliment to certain auteurs and frames but it never more justified than this).
Lines like “we’ve been dealing with people who don’t pay” – the salesmen say to their debtors – just like their debtors said to them- devastating. In one scene he says “it’s so beautiful—and horribly sad, too” describing a folk song that shakes him
The coffee stand and fence painted yellow in the vignette with woman working in background in the open door. One of 25 or so frames I’d proudly mount on my wall or gawk at in a museum
Twice, characters with lonely looks on their faces hear the “you have no messages” when checking their voicemail. In one scene, the man sees people, in a group, laughing together and having a good time in the restaurant.
Moves back and forth in time to document (like only Andersson can) abuses of power, the horrifying scene of slaves being massacred, the king throwing women out of the bar
Some compositions (again, like 20+ of the 39 total) are astonishing and I relished very second of Andersson holding the take for the duration- others aren’t as strong and with Andersson’s no cut, and long take aesthetic – you can feel their length
Yet another jaw-dropper- the tableau of old-timers
The apartments are shot as modern day prisons (a warden telling them to be quiet, chastising them)—slavery again
Actors (really they are models like Bresson, even more so—posing)—embrace the camera, often in deadpan, sitting on the edge of the bed
The dry ending—talking about whether it’s Wednesday or Thursday—
This film is a hidden gem – and that title is iconic on all levels.
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