You, The Living (Roy Anderson, 2007): Sweden, Germany, France, Denmark, Norway

Reviewed by Richard Feilden.  Viewed at the LA International Film Festival

I have found it! I have once again found a film that single-handedly made visiting a film festival worthwhile: a film that renews my love for cinema, but one which will most likely never be seen on the big screen outside of the festival circuit. For me, for the LA Film Festival, that film was You, The Living.

A disgruntled barber exacts revenge on a rude customer.

So why choose this as the film of the festival? What makes it special? Firstly, it is utterly charming, delighting me in the same way that The Band’s Visit did at the Santa Barbara Film Festival

The pub landlord calls time and his bar is immediately swamped by apathetic customers.

Secondly it is not only attractively shot, but also shot in a way that makes it stand out from the crowd, with visuals reinforce the message of the film, rather than adding a layer of artifice.

A tuba player’s downstairs neighbor pokes holes in the ceiling with his broom handle.

Finally, it is a film which takes the rules of cinema and doesn’t just abandon them but, in the words of Douglas Adams, loses them, finds them, subjects them to public inquiry, loses them again, and finally buries them in soft peat and recycles them as firelighters.

Trams and cars crawl along a foggy street, their drivers talking directly to the audience.

The film consists of fifty vignettes of varying length. They all feature the inhabitants of a small Swedish town, but there is no linking story.

An office worker is startled from his sleep on a tiny couch by a passing train which rattles the windows.

Instead they are linked by their focus on the troubles of the locals. Their trials and tribulations are there for all to see.

A man dreams of being sent to the electric chair for failing to pull a table cloth out from under an expensive dining set.

Many of the stories are based around an absence or failing in communication. People in the town are isolated, but dream of connections with those that surround them.

An aging, overweight punk cries for a motorcycle so that she can leave her worries behind, although she will probably be home for dinner.

Long takes of static environments, rendered with a muted, foggy palette are used. The camera rarely, if ever, moves; its motion is replaced by our hops across town and the shifts between fantasy and reality.

A thin, old man gripes to the audience about his pension dropping in value, while a Rubenesque woman, wearing nothing but a military helmet, moans in ecstasy as she writhes on top of him.

But somehow what could have been a jumbled mess coalesces in director Roy Anderson’s capable hands, like a fractured mirror showing aspects of the whole. Quirky, without falling into the overused realm of ‘Wes Anderson quirky,’ You, The Living is a beautiful film, to which I am unable to do justice.

A girl imagines her perfect wedding day, her apartment drifting through town as all the people she sees every day, but does not know, congratulate the happy couple.

Leave your preconceptions behind and you’ll find an experience worth having.

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