Unique Songs

Rating: NNNNit's february, so all the distributors are clearing their shelves. The majors are moving stuff out that they wouldn't.

Rating: NNNN

it’s february, so all the distributors are clearing their shelves. The majors are moving stuff out that they wouldn’t want to release in other, more competitive times of the year: Hart’s War, John Q, Crossroads. The indies are putting out delayed films — François Ozon’s Under The Sand opened in New York last May, and Songs From The Second Floor won a Jury Prize at Cannes in 2000.

It’s not surprising that it’s taken this long to open. I’ve avoided Songs From The Second Floor since Cannes 2000, having heard that every scene is a single take without a cut and the camera never moves. Oh, and it’s a comedy.

Nobody ever mentioned that virtually every actor in it has the healthy glow of a waterlogged corpse. Hey, someone e-mail the Bela Tarr fan club — have we got a picture for them!

Well, it’s true. Every scene is a single take without a cut, and the camera never moves, and it is a comedy. It’s the oddest comedy you’re ever going to see: imagine Bergman’s The Seventh Seal in modern dress, lit by the Dreyer of Ordet and directed by Jim Jarmusch in the fullness of his early minimalism.

Songs From The Second Floor is a picture of such inexplicable oddity that no description can quite prepare you for the experience.

How often does a comedy arrive with really interesting lighting? Most of the scenes are studiously underlit, as if the long Scandinavian twilight suffuses the very walls of people’s homes.

In a world where the sun has just gone down and may never come up again, people roam the empty streets, financial analysts engage in self-flagellation, and human sacrifices are offered to the gods of finance in the presence of the Church. There’s a touch of Buñuel in Andersson’s sensibility, without question.

All of you who complain about the sameness of new movies, how there’s nothing “different” coming out, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is.

It’s not going to get any more different than this.johnh@nowtoronto.com

SONGS FROM THE SECOND FLOOR directed and written by Roy Andersson, produced by Lisa Alwert, with Lars Nordh, Stefan Larsson, Torbjörn Fahlström and Sten Andersson. 90 minutes. A Roy Andersson Filmproduktion. An Odeon Films release. Opens Friday (February 22). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 70. Rating: NNNN

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