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'Pigeon' Film Delivers Deadpan Art House Comedy

Cover image for podcast episode

“A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence,” which opened Friday at the Digital Gym Cinema, is the final part of a Swedish trilogy about being human.

ANCHOR INTRO: “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence” is the final part of a Swedish trilogy about being human. KPBS film critic Beth Accomando says the adventuresome filmgoer will be rewarded by this delightfully eccentric work playing at the Digital Gym Cinema.

PIGEON 1 (ba) 1:22

OPTIONAL TAG: A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence runs through Thursday at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.

Roy Andersson imprints every frame of his films with his unique personal vision. The first frame of “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence” immediately establishes its tone as we see a man examining stuffed birds at a museum as we observe him. I’m not sure how to convey the experience of watching Andersson’s film except to say it has the deadpan comic precision of Buster Keaton but without the physical pratfalls. Andersson makes me laugh with just his visual composition. Each scene is like still life painting in which an incongruity makes me smile.

Andersson’s sets look stripped down and bare, like model homes in which there are only token props to make it look lived in, and the people –stripped of any overt emotions -- seem like props themselves. His characters look more the walking dead than those on the AMC series – they have a deathlike pallor and often stare blankly as if they’ve forgotten their purpose. But then magical things happen… like this scene where the zombie-like figures suddenly come to life to practice flamenco.

CLIP Flamenco dancing

The relentless consistency of tone and style without a conventional narrative to latch onto may grow tedious for some. But there are so many wondrous moments to savor, like a pair of the gloomiest salesmen pitching vampire teeth and a laughing bag to disinterested clients.

CLIP canned laughter

The film’s simplicity lays bare what makes us human and the film displays compassion for our vulnerabilities and frailties.

Beth Accomando, KPBS News.

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Cinema Junkie

Satisfy your celluloid addiction with the Cinema Junkie podcast, where you can mainline film 24/7. This film and entertainment series is run by KPBS Film Critic Beth Accomando. So if you need a film fix, want to hear what filmmakers have to say about their work, or just want to know what's worth seeing this weekend, then you've come to the right place