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Film

Swedish Pathos at Festival du Nouveau Cinéma

Posted by MP / October 15, 2007

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The writer Anton Chekhov once referred to his style as “laughter through tears.” Or maybe a critic did, but probably not. Nobody knows. It is a phrase any Russian knows and struggles to explain, like why we get drunk and hit each other with bundles of leaves in the sauna.

The Swedish director Roy Andersson has been beaten many times in the sauna. That is the only explanation I am willing to accept for the delicious feast of pathos, always just a step from eating broken glass, that is his movie Toi qui es vivant (Du Levande in Swedish.)

A portrait of a stark, poetically dysfunctional town organized around a brass band and shot in pallid tones that risk becoming a Scandanavian cliché if any more directors take them up (Aki Kaurismäki and ilk), it is a tragic world and too hilarious for tears. You could call this movie sadistic, I suppose, but that might be missing the point: it is never silly. Its best moments, like a scene where a man is strapped into an electric chair, hum with political meaning—the confused technician tells him to “try and think about something else.”

You want to stop it all and think for a few minutes, but Andersson and his tubas will have none of it. He cuts to a new tragicomedy before you have lost your attachment to the last, leaving you to mix the two. That cocktail with the worm in it? Turns out it’s pretty great.

This weekend I’m going to rent all the Andersson movies I can find, but you should go see this one. Last showing is Friday, October 19, 19h30 @ the Imperial.

Image courtesy of the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma.

Discussion

7 Comments

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