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VENICE 2019 Competition

Review: About Endlessness

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- VENICE 2019: Roy Andersson returns to the Lido with a film that provides muffled giggles, but which is hardly his best

Review: About Endlessness

Chances are, Swedish virtuoso of those everyday acts of clumsiness Roy Andersson could do a Citroën ad, and it would still be hilarious. Which he did, by the way, and it was. But his return to Venice’s main competition after his 2014 win for the truly wonderful A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Roy Andersson
film profile
]
underwhelms a bit, even though About Endlessness [+see also:
trailer
interview: Roy Andersson
film profile
]
is still a perfectly decent, couldn’t-be-done-by-anyone-else exercise able to elicit a knowing, vignette-based chuckle. Only this time, maybe not quite as loud.

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Led by a glorious image of lovers floating in mid-air like in some long-lost Chagall painting (even though Andersson claims to have been more heavily inspired by the German New Objectivity, aka Neue Sachlichkeit), and a female voice gently easing you in, describing a father and daughter on their way to a birthday party in the pouring rain or someone having trouble with a car, Andersson’s latest occasionally feels like his showreel – with a running time of only 76 minutes, it could be shown to anyone asking what his style is all about and where his true interests lie. But although consistent almost to a fault, it’s also a tad forgettable, really, like a palate cleanser that teases a proper meal.

A proper meal that, given his pace of work, should arrive some time around 2026, but before that happens, About Endlessness is yet another reflection on existence, to borrow that previous title, with the pigeon politely sitting it out this time. Once again, he finds humour in the ordinary routines and the rules of social conduct. Here, a broken heel gets you a sideways glance, and serious, even desperate, questions about faith – or, rather, losing it, as in the case of a struggling priest plagued by nightmares – can be brought to a halt by a short: “I have to catch a bus.” Life may pose some existential dilemmas sometimes, but that doesn’t mean one should be late for dinner.

Andersson moves around freely, from a woman who really loved champagne to Hitler, but not all of the jokes land, and his focus seems to wander at times. Perhaps a bit like his hopelessly adrift characters, spilling wine all over the perfectly set table or weeping on a bus just because they don’t know what they want. It’s very telling that even when not at his best, Andersson manages to deliver films that still feel effortless somehow, without an ounce of pretentiousness on their sloppily dressed, big-boned body. And always, always, for all the gentle mockery and a stare that seems to notice it all, he remains one of those few filmmakers that actually seem to love people, more for their faults than for their virtues, perhaps. And that makes you love them, too, the silly sods.

About Endlessness is a Swedish-German-Norwegian production staged by Pernilla Sandström and Johan Carlsson for Roy Andersson Filmproduktion AB, and co-produced by 4½ Fiksjon AS and Essential Films, in association with Société Parisienne de Production, Sveriges Television AB, ARTE France Cinéma, ZDF/ARTE, Film Capital and Stockholm Fund. Its international sales are handled by Coproduction Office.

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