March 30, 2004 [Songs from the Second Floor]

I read that it took Roy Andersson four years to make Songs from the Second Floor--and four more for me to see it.  I'm not sure if all the things that come to those who wait are good--but in this movie it seems that all things have come, all of it--and all of it yearning to be beloved, to be like the poetry of Cesar Vallejo that inspired the movie:

There are people so wretched, they don't even 
have a body; their hair quantitative, 
their wise grief, low, in inches; their manner, high;
don't look for me, the oblivion molar,
they seem to come out of the air, to add up sighs mentally, to hear
bright smacks on their palates! 

They leave their skin, scratching the sarcophagus in which they are born
and climb through their death hour 
after hour and fall, the length of their frozen alphabet, to the ground.

Pity for so much! pity for so little! pity for them!
Pity in my room, hearing them with glasses on!
Pity in my thorax, when they are buying suits!
Pity for my white filth, in their combined scum!

Beloved be the sanchez ears,
beloved the people who sit down,
beloved the unknown man and his wife,
my fellow man with sleeves, neck and eyes! 

Beloved be the one with bedbugs,
the one who wears a torn shoe in the rain, 
the one who wakes the corpse of a bread with two tapers,
the one who catches a finger in a door,
the one who has no birthdays,
the one who lost his shadow in a fire,
the animal, the one who looks like a parrot,
the one who looks like a man, the rich poor man,
the extremely miserable man, the poorest poor man!

Beloved be
the one who is hungry or thirsty, but has no
hunger with which to satiate all his thirst,
nor thirst with which to satiate all his hungers!

Beloved be the one who works by the day, by the month, by the hour,
the one who sweats out of pain or out of shame,
the person who goes, at the order of his hands, to the movies,
the one who pays with what he does not have,
the one who sleeps on his back,
the one who no longer remembers his childhood; beloved be
the bald man without hat,
the just man without thorns,
the thief without roses,
the one who wears a watch and has seen God,
the one who has one honor and does not die!

Beloved be the child, who falls and still cries
and the man who has fallen and no longer cries!

Pity for so much! Pity for so little! Pity for them!

Andersson's film finds this pity in its precise faded beauty still in the frame and watching without judgment--and without sentiment, its compassion honest because it sheds no tears--infused with the "trivialism" Andersson aims for, in which profundity arrives in the midst of nothing at all, visual gags and whining, outbursts that do no good and tears that pool without gathering. Just a series of scenes, meticulous and dreamlike, that somehow make us pity the poor fools whose burdens are mundane and joys elusive. It's a comedy, but a new kind, one that makes you dance a sad little jig instead of laugh.


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