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Songs From the Second Floor

Roger also suggests 
Michael Thomson's BBC review of Songs
& Roy Andersson's essay

Roger Ebert writing from the 2000 Cannes Film Festival:

CANNES, France--Why did they save the best for last? "Songs from the Second Floor" and "In the Mood for Love," two brilliant final entries in this year's Cannes Film Festival, played on Saturday as the hotels were emptying and the traffic jams clearing. By Sunday, when the awards are given out, hardly anyone is left except for the journalists and the winners. But they were both winners.

The two films could not have been more different. "Songs from the Second Floor," by Roy Andersson of Sweden, is the most daring and provocative of this year's films, and also the funniest, in a bleak and mordant way. It shared the jury prize. "In the Mood for Love," by Wong Kar-Wai of Hong Kong, is a sad love story about two neighbors who discover that their spouses are having an affair. They also fall in love but are reluctant to act on their feelings, because that would make them no better than their partners. It won for best actor, and for its editing and cinematography.

The Swedish film is audacious, offensive, original, surrealistic. It is a series of vignettes in a lonely city gripped by psychic meltdown. A man collapses in a corridor and clings to his boss's leg when he is fired. A magician makes a horrible mistake while sawing a man in half. Gridlock stops all of the city's traffic. In a strange ceremony witnesses by clerics and dignitaries, a blindfolded little girl is made to walk the plank and fall into a deep pit full of broken stones. A bankrupt businessman empties a truck full of crucifixes at the town dump and moans that he invested in a loser.

Some of the scenes are sacrilegious. Some are pathetic, as when a drunken woman tries to pull herself back up onto a bar stool while a man in a tuxedo vomits. Some are just plain funny, as when a businessman tries to explain a suspicious fire to insurance investigators, while through the window a parade of flagellants goes past. I scribbled names into my notes: Beckett, Bunuel, Tati, Kafka--but Andersson has created his own world.