A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
So your first question, about the title, is answered immediately. It opens on a pigeon, sitting on a branch, and though it is stuffed and mounted in a natural history museum, it’s not a stretch to imagine it reflects on its existence. The people that surround it don’t seem much livelier. Pale, shambling, bloated, half the cast could be going as Paul Bearer for Halloween. Late in the film one character points out his compadre walks like a zombie, which feels like as “no shit” inducing of a moment as an art film will give you.
The third part of a trilogy, Roy Andersson’s film feels like walking through some absurd museum. Scenes contained in a glass box, sterile and uncluttered spaces full of near taxidermied individuals. The film’s first few segments are focussed on death, one about a dead man’s shrimp sandwich is hysterical. Most of the film is dedicated to a handful of overlapping branches, two uncharismatic novelty toy salesmen, a lustful dance teacher, and a regal, horseback war going on amid contemporary spaces.
The film exists in its own delicate space, later introducing more familiar, living individuals that make a razor sharp contrast on its dreary main characters. Sometimes incredibly dry, sometimes far-gone absurd, one scene, which stands out like a thorn, will be a moral litmus test for many people’s comfort. This film is a collection, with treasures in it and ones you wish you could skip, since they intentionally retread the same ground for comic effect, but none feel like they don’t belong. (Zack Kotzer)
Saturday, September 13th, 3:15pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox 2