Donnerstag, 4. September 2014

Venice Film Festival: En duva satt på en gren och funderade på tillvaron (A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence) / Bypass

True to form, Swedish director Roy Andersson's "En duva satt på en gren och funderade på tillvaron (A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence)" is a wryly caricatured look at life from the sidelines, with opaque philosophical, existential musings masked behind painstakingly staged, cartoonishly orchestrated scenes. His trademark taxidermic aesthetics are present from the first frame on: comical, heavily made-up figures look frozen in time or pinned under glass in stiff poses amid surreal, minutely manicured surroundings. The script is just as eccentric, creating the unlikeliest characters who behave in the most peculiar way, including a dance instructor who keeps caressing her pupil, two morbid men who work "in entertainment" and a musical number, during which guests in a bar line up to kiss the female owner for free drinks. Except for a bit depicting the execution of slaves that seems insensitive and in its explication too on-the-nose, it's all quite amusing, innocuously mean both on a visual and cerebral level. But the appeal of the intentional, heightened artificiality does get old after a while, and the episodic nature of the film, underscored by the not always seamless scenic transitions, prevents an organic wholeness, a coherent meaning from ever emerging, so there's a sense of limitation that's even more apparent than in, say, the grander, more ambitious "Du levande (You, the Living)". That said, at its best, this film pokes fun at the absurdity and transience of it all with a delicious deadpan humor that's seldom seen.      

British writer/director Duane Hopkins' visually arresting but narratively wanting "Bypass" is a tender character study that's too light on plot to land a greater impact. The young protagonist has a brother just out of jail, a drop-out sister under his custody, a debt he can't afford to pay back and a disease that makes him throw up and convulse. After accompanying him through his daily routines with these many plights, you get it's a story about people who have nothing and are about to lose more. As dire as that sounds, the film's a gem to watch. The cinematography is crisp in texture and brisk in motion, constantly finding interesting aspects of faces, gestures and a post-industrialized cityscape that are beautiful to ponder. In a couple of excellently shot chase scenes, the camera, dashing through alleyways and up elevations with clarity and urgency, further impresses. Thanks to a soft glow from the exquisite, sometimes bold lighting choices, the modestly budgeted movie also often looks like a million dollars. Lead actor George MacKay doesn't necessarily show range in a role limited by his own circumstances, but there's an openness to his face that's very inviting. Overall there's too little development in the script department for the film to have scale but the director definitely shows promise, not least in his strong sense of rhythm, evidenced by the smooth assembly of the desperately fast and the heartbreakingly slow.

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