“No one views the world like Roy Andersson does,” proclaims Keith Uhlich for Time Out about “You, the Living,” the Swedish director’s tragicomic follow-up to 2000’s “Songs From the Second Floor.” Audiences in New York have the chance to catch a glimpse of Andersson’s offbeat worldview; the film is currently playing at Film Forum in Manhattan.
Following the film’s premiere at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section, Justin Chang reported for Variety: “A morosely comic symphony on the meaning (or is that meaninglessness?) of life, Roy Andersson’s ‘You, the Living’ can be seen as a gentler companion piece to his 2000 Cannes prize-winner, ‘Songs From the Second Floor.’ The Swedish helmer again presents a series of static tableaux rife with awkward encounters, beguiling non sequiturs and very dry Nordic humor.”
Philip French at the Guardian also compares Andersson’s latest with “Songs From the Second Floor”: “Both pictures are shot in tableaux format in deep-focus long takes in washed-out pastel colours. The camera moves only once in the first film and just twice in the second. Both movies are tragicomedies. If they belong in an artistic tradition, it would be Surrealism or the theatre of the absurd and their particular affinities are with Buñuel and Ionesco.”
“The film is slow, rigorously morose and often painful in its blunt reckoning of disappointment and failure. It is also extremely funny,” writes A.O. Scott in the New York Times. “The director, a prolific and inventive maker of television commercials, works in the comic tradition of Buster Keaton and Jacques Tati, constructing visual gags that are at once painstakingly elaborate and gratifyingly simple. Using a mostly stationary camera, he turns the frame into a kind of live-action newspaper cartoon panel. The jokes are sometimes broad, sometimes sublimely subtle and sometimes, somehow, both at once.”
“Connections between scenes are loose, if any,” observes the Village Voice’s Nick Pinkerton. “Only a few characters recur. Each tableau is meticulously arranged; those built around gags tend to resonate longer than the few that only wallow in abjection… The sum total is the reflection of a worldview—sad sack, bordering on ‘Everybody Hurts’ black-velvet sad-clown bathos—rather than any narrative.”
The A.V. Club’s Scott Tobias writes: “‘You, The Living,’ if only by virtue of a more intimate scale than ‘Songs,’ benefits from a lightness of touch and even a thin sliver of optimism in some sequences. Humanity may be doomed and many people may be selfish and joyless, but there’s real pleasure in the film’s Dixieland jazz tributes, and in one wonderful sequence that imagines a honeymoon suite as a moving train. Yet the sum of these parts isn’t as convincing as they should be. The vignettes in Songs are connected to a cohesive vision of society on the brink of apocalypse; here, they don’t syncopate as powerfully.”
V.A. Musetto at the New York Post calls “You, the Living” “the funniest movie of 2009 (so far)… Andersson has a one-of-a-kind style that not all viewers will appreciate. His humor is not at all like Hollywood’s. His is leisurely and cerebral — two words never heard in La La Land.”
The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw also commends Andersson’s singular vision: “His films are profoundly different from the work of any other film-maker, and in a different league from most. There are extraordinary visions of lost souls adrift in worlds that I can only describe as resplendent with vivid, hyperreal drabness. The people are loosely interconnected, some of them anyway, and everywhere there is the disquieting sense that we are witnessing the last hours of a doomed world.”
Though he praises Andersson’s unique vision, Keith Uhlich writing for Time Out writes that “the ideologies underlying Andersson’s oft-astonishing succession of extreme wide-angle, vanishing-point tableaux are a decidedly acquired taste. Every character here is predestined for destruction, and the climax—which features the bounciest terrorist attack ever put on film—negates rather than augments these solitary instances of elation. Life, whether real or imagined, just doesn’t seem worth living in this doom-laden diorama.”
Ed Howard at The House Next Door, however, notes: “Andersson’s vision is unsettling—dreary, absurd, shot through with dark, satirical humor—and yet not entirely bleak nor entirely hopeless. What this film is about, more than anything, is the possibility of finding some happiness in this life, some joy amidst all the ugliness, some pleasure to go with the pain.”
Dave Kehr has an interview with Andersson in the New York Times. In it the director discusses the central themes of his films: “There are some subjects that I’m dealing with all the time… The vulnerability of the human being. Humiliation, when people humiliate each other and when they humiliate themselves. When I see that kind of behavior among people, I am always very, very sad. I am also concerned in my work with the problem of the human being’s lostness, confusion and weakness.”
Little White Lies also has an interview with Andersson. The director on his visual style: “My philosophy is to create pictures that are very, very clean, purified and condensed, and easy to see. They are very clear also. Almost close to cartoons… I take away everything that’s not necessary for the picture.”
Reverse Shot’s Adam Nayman has an analysis of a scene from the film.
Watch the trailer for “You, the Living” on YouTube.