STUDIO: Palisades Tartan
MSRP: $19.93
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes

  • Director Roy Andersson commentary
  • “Sample of Sets” featurette
  • Excerpts from earlier films by Roy Andersson
  • 15 minute preview of a documentary on Studio 24 and the making of “You, The Living”
  • “Roy Andersson in New York, Sept. 2009″ exclusive feaurette
  • Trailers for Palisades Tartan releases

The Pitch

The obscure, arthouse darling of 2009.  It’s so good it brought Roger Ebert and Armond White together in complete agreement.

The Humans

Written and directed by Roy Andersson

Starring Jessika Lundberg, Elisabet Helander, Bjorn Englund, Leif Larsson, Ollie Olson, Kemal Sener, Birgitta Persson, Gunnar Ivarsson

TRANSLATION: In the desert sun every step that you take could be the final one
In the burning heat hanging on the edge of destruction…

The Nutshell

“Be pleased then, you the living, in your delightfully warmed bed, before Lethe’s ice-cold wave will lick your escaping foot.”

The above quote opens Roy Andersson’s You, The Living. Structured as a 95 minute anthology of short scenes of deadpan comedy and heartache, the film urges us to enjoy life while it lasts and to not sweat the small stuff that keeps distracting the film’s characters.

…You can’t stop the pain of your children crying out in your head,
They always said that the living would envy the dead…

The Lowdown

Somewhere on this planet is a drab, unremarkable city full of unhappy people. I say “somewhere” because, although all of them speak Swedish, the film does not give them any sort of national identity. This city serves as the backdrop for around 50 loosely-connected vignettes of comedy, tragedy, dreams, nightmares, everything in between and sometimes all at once. Each vignette is populated with everyday people and their everyday burdens. Some of them go about their day, some of them address us directly, telling us about a dream they had, why they became ambivalent to their career, etc. The tone is deadpan, the humor is both wise and witty, and the truth and sentiment behind it all is universal.

On first viewing I really wasn’t sure what to make of it. I was initially impressed with it’s originality, and stricken by the expert frame composition, but beyond aesthetics I wasn’t sure how I felt. The tone and structure of the film ever-so-gently threw me off balance where I would distract myself by trying to figure the movie out. I found it well crafted and funny, but there was something missing. I couldn’t let myself be absorbed. It was appreciated rather than enjoyed. Nonetheless I was intrigued enough to promise myself a second viewing before writing the review.

…So now you’re gonna shoot (shoot!) bullets of fire, don’t wanna fight but sometimes you’ve got to…
You’re some soul survivor! There’s just one thing you’ve got to know,
You’ve got ten more thousand miles to go…

Have you ever had a first date that was not much more than interesting, but then by the second or third date you found yourself head over heels in LOVE? This movie had that effect on me.

The second viewing was a revelation, followed by an urge to somehow apologize to the director personally for not loving the movie the first time around. What I once saw as a cute curiosity was now a transcendent work of beauty. If I was a more emotional guy I would have laughed and cried during every scene. I saw a piece of myself in each and every character and could not imagine anyone who would feel differently. One of my initial problems with the film was that we never got to know the characters. The scenes were too short for me to develop any real affection for them, and I ended up feeling like an ambivalent voyeur rather then an invested participant.

The second viewing helped me realize I already knew the characters. They were me. They were us. This movie could be taking place in an unnamed Swedish city or it could be taking place inside my own head. Every character and situation represents a different fear or concern of our modern lives; fear of aging and the helplessness of their offspring, crippling loneliness blinding you to the love you already have, encroaching indifference to your chosen career, nightmares of a social faux-pas, dreams of a blissful honeymoon with someone you barely know and who, in reality, barely wants to know you.

Because you’re ONE of the LIV-ING! And if we can’t stick together
You’re ONE of the LIV-ING! Who’s gonna make it tonight…

I’m not familiar with writer and director Roy Andersson, but I feel like I’ve been introduced to a genius. The man has a style all his own. His compositions are immaculate. He conveys more with one sentence of dialogue then some directors can with an screenplay. The camera hardly moves at all, and each scene is one long take before moving onto the next. If you ever find yourself sick of shakicam or rapid-fire editing, this is the perfect antidote.

It’s hard for me to really say why I love You, The Living. It’s philosophical, breathtaking, beautiful and very, very funny. It feels like a film I will never grow out of, but will rather grow into.

A week ago I liked this movie.Today I love it. A year from now, it might be one of my all-time favorites.

The Package

I have to say I’m not thrilled with the transfer on this disc. Most of my gripes could be the original source, which I never got to see projected, but I still feel like they could’ve done a better job with the image. Audio is crisp and clear letting the diaogue come through and giving the jazzy score a nice push on my speakers.

Roy Andersson’s commentary goes straight to the meaning of it all, and is a great listen if you’re interested in the artist’s original intent. Not everyone wants to know, but I greatly appreciated it. The sample of sets featurette is a montage of the sets constructed for the film in Andersson’s own studio. The camera pulls back just a bit to show you the very edge of the set and surrounding movie gear (the fact that every set was constructed on a soundstage is pretty impressive). The documentary preview is a more thorough look at the making of the film despite only being 15 minutes long. I assume that the segment on the disc is the only segment relevant to this particular film, otherwise I see no reason why the whole thing would not be included. “Roy Andersson in New York” documents the filmmaker’s visit to the Museum of Modern Art for a retrospective of his work, and is probably most interesting to Andersson novices like myself. It’s a montage of Andersson answering audience and interview questions regarding his working method and history as a filmmaker. Excerpts from earlier films is exactly what it sounds like; 2 minute clips from Love Story, Giliap, Something Has Happened, Oh The World Is Fair, and Songs From The Second Floor. After that we have conventional trailers for other Tartan films.

(Cue Tim Copolla saxophone solo)

9 out of 10