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A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence 

Wednesday, Sep 23 2015
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Roy Andersson's A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existenceis depressing, grim, dark, and compulsively watchable. The third part of a decades-long trilogy of films you probably haven't seen, Pigeon is an assemblage of vignettes, some of which are more related than others. If there were main characters, they'd be the depressed and destitute traveling salesmen Sam (Nils Westblom) and Jonathan (Holger Andersson), who wander from door to door selling icky-looking masks and vampire teeth in order to "help people have fun." All the shots are wide with no close-ups, and the camera only moves once during the film. This offers plenty of time to study the frame, and there's a sense that every character in every corner of the screen has their own story happening. There's only one cut to a different angle in a given scene, and though it's not explicitly violent, it's one of the year's most horrifying moments. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existenceis its own beast, but its strict vanishing-point formalism and deadpan embrace of the absurd also recalls the works of Alejandro Jodorowsky and Jacques Tati (especially the latter's multi-planed puzzle-box Play Time), but lacking their fundamental humanism. And when a movie makes Jodorowsky and Tati look warm, that's saying a lot.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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