A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
Plot: A pair of traveling salesman try to peddle vampire teeth, a device that makes laughing sounds, and a rubber mask to people who don't look like they've ever laughed or will ever laugh.
Songs from the Second Floor; You, the Living; and this just might be the most consistent and perfect trilogy ever. It's a trilogy, according to an opening title card, all about "being human," and as a third movie that's a series of vignettes about nothing even more than Seinfeld is about nothing, there's really nothing else it could be about.
So you have to ask the question. What is "being human" really about anyway? Like most great art, it's not a question that this is going to force people to answer in the same way. Clearly, however, Andersson things "being human" is an absurd thing to do, and I'm pretty sure any pigeon you ask would agree. We live absurdly, and we die absurdly. We go to war absurdly, and we come back from war absurdly. We communicate absurdly and experiment on monkeys absurdly. We love and remember in absurd ways, we accept offers of free beer without even knowing how absurd the act is or how absurd it would be not to take it, we cling absurdly to things, and we dance absurdly. We're here for a limited time, do next-to-nothing with that time, and then turn into dust. This movie shows characters in the middle of the process of turning into dust, and that probably explains why all the characters are gray.
Not to say this is depressing or doesn't entertain because if you're approaching it correctly, it's hilarious, individual vignettes tickling, repeated lines and motifs bringing chuckles. And really, just Andersson's style puts a giant smile on my face. There's nobody else who makes even one scene like any of these, let alone an entire trilogy consisting of these drab tableaux scenes, characters seemingly trapped in strict architectures or absorbed into paintings that Edward Hopper would probably think were too depressing. I love how each scene is so perfectly constructed. Scenes open, and the first thing I do is zip my eyes around from corner to corner to corner to make sure I'm absorbing everything. Regardless of what actually happens or doesn't happen in each little scene, each one is delightfully exquisite.
There's a lot I want to say about this movie, but I don't know how to say any of it. In my perfect world, everybody's watching Roy Andersson movies and talking about them and buying drinking glasses from Burger Chef with these characters and their quotes on them instead of obsessing over the fucking Avengers. But this isn't a perfect world, and we're not perfect humans. We're the humans who Roy Andersson makes movies about, the kind that confuses pigeons.
I believe Andersson is around 72 years old, and at his current rate of movie-makin', he's not going to release another film until he's nearly 80. I'll be closing in on 50. I really hope there's another trilogy in him. I won't know how to write adequately about any of those either.