Friday, 24 April 2015
Look closer, though, and it becomes obvious: every scene, every character, every line, every frame has been agonisingly and meticulously crafted to within an inch of its life. And life is Andersson's obsession, one with which he seems to have been preoccupied for so long that he's now involved in a violent love / hate relationship with it. Most of his characters live in the perpetual torment of anger, frustration and bewilderment with life and its persistence on getting in the way of happiness, but that's not to say that A Pigeon... is a depressing experience: Andersson mines the everyday drabness of his vignettes for a seam of dark humour - some of which you suspect might be particularly Swedish, but all of which betrays his fascination and affection for the human condition.
Like its predecessors Songs From The Second Floor and You, The Living, A Pigeon... comprises around forty scenes filmed in Andersson's trademark long takes and wide shots in full, deep focus, and set mostly in the boxy rooms that seem to represent the regimented featurelessness of 21st century living. The action, such as it is, takes place on multiple planes within the frame, and - as with real life - the more interesting stuff is often found happening in the background. It takes a few scenes to get used to, but once you're in, you're in for good; nobody else is making cinema like this, and it would be worth celebrating for that reason alone if it wasn't also so hypnotically enjoyable.
A Pigeon... breaks somewhat from Andersson's routine, in that it has what could loosely be described as lead characters - Sam and Jonathan, two useless travelling salesmen who attempt to sell feeble joke shop fare in a manner more becoming of funeral directors. Like Pulp Fiction's Jules and Vincent with the contrast and brightness turned down 50%, they struggle and bicker despite an obvious mutual devotion to each other. There's also an injection of blatant darkness here that was absent from the first two films, but on the whole this is a more upbeat affair than the insidious, crushing despondency of You, The Living. Elsewhere it's business as usual, the main course of sharply-observed, exquisitely-realised slivers of humdrummery served up with a side order of surrealism, this time in the shape of a modern-day bar inexplicably visited by Sweden's King Charles XII en route to his failed attempt to invade Russia in 1708.
Monday, 13 April 2015
Swedish writer-director Ruben Östlund's latest opens with a family being unwillingly coerced into posing for a photograph while on a skiing holiday in the French Alps. It's a tableau that's repeated in skewed versions throughout the film, but each time its meaning has changed dramatically and irrevocably. If the first is a little uncomfortable, it's just the tip of an iceberg of awkwardness that's gradually revealed as the story unfolds.
I may be over-egging the dramatic pudding here; the heart of the story is less sinister and more prosaic than you might be imagining, but Östlund tells his tale with such masterly control of atmosphere that your absorption in Tomas and Ebba's world is total and complete. Stunningly framed long, static shots and near-imperceptibly slow tracks and zooms are paired up with a soundtrack which combines the clanks of ski-slope machinery with the stabs of the final movement of Vivaldi's Summer concerto to menacing effect. Ebba is often shot from behind, yet her mood is never less than entirely clear from everything else in and around the frame.
Told with a measured, deliberate rhythm and an unusual formal approach for such an emotionally charged story (the first closeup comes 45 minutes in, during a painfully private moment for Ebba), Force Majeure is as beautiful and laden with deadly power as the avalanche that triggers its events. It's a sharply incisive examination of modern masculinity - or at least one interpretation of it - and the natural instincts of human beings in survival situations, and it does it with ineffable style, unbearable anxiety and perfectly-pitched LOLs. It's a touch overlong, with perhaps one finale too many, but rarely has being stuck in the uncomfortable claustrophobia of a decaying relationship been quite this enjoyable.
Wednesday, 8 April 2015
In doing some half-hearted post-viewing research on Lost River, I came across the following question in the film's IMDb forums:
Tick Of The Clock for Drive), but with none of the precision, wit or imagination on display in Drive or Only God Forgives.
While none of this is especially painful to sit through, there just doesn't seem to be any point to it all. If Gosling has one, he's failed to articulate it in either his script or direction, and the tragedy is that there's nothing to suggest that any further forays into filmmaking would be any more worthwhile. Obviously I love Ryan Gosling more than life itself, and I wish him all the best in whatever he chooses to do, but I think the best thing we can do is to erect an invisible wall in front of all the cameras on his films and make sure he stays on the brightly-lit side of it.
Wednesday, 1 April 2015
WHILE WE'RE YOUNGI was in the Black Bear on Whitchurch High Street when I found out Kurt Cobain had died. I was wearing faded black jeans that didn't fit me and one of those collarless grandad shirts that everyone wore in 1994. I was drinking a snakebite and black and I had precisely 209 millilitres left of it. The temperature was 19.4 degrees inside and 11.2 degrees outside. The relative humidity level was 38%. Anyway this documentary looks good. (10th)
COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK
Wait, there's a film about a middle-aged childless married man who hangs out with people younger than himself in a pathetic effort to hang on for dear life to the last remaining tatters of his youth? Where the fuck are my royalties? (3rd)
COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK
JOHN WICKI'll be honest, I know nothing about this film except it's got Keanu Reeves in it and he kills everyone because they killed his dog, which is a revenge motive sorely lacking in today's action films. The next Die Hard should have John McClane disembowel a terrorist because they thought the ghoulash he cooked was a little too salty. (10th)
LOST RIVERWe all know Ryan Gosling is the greatest human being alive right now, so what could possibly go wrong with his directorial debut? I mean there's no way it won't be brilliant, right? How can it not be? How? How, I ask you? How? (10th)
CHILD 44Tom Hardy! Noomi Rapace! Gary Oldman! Paddy Considine! Vincent Cassel! Joel Kinnaman. (17th)
THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRONNever heard of it. (24th)
A PIGEON SAT ON A BRANCH REFLECTING ON EXISTENCEThe maverick scheduling of this against The Avengers is going to split audiences right down the middle. Are you Team Joss or Team Roy? (24th)