Friday, 18 September 2015



Sometimes I really do wonder if my humour chip wasn't welded in upside down before I left the factory. I mean, it's not as though I never laugh - watching old editions of Mock The Week and QI can while away a lonely evening quite enjoyably - but I confess myself utterly baffled at the antics of supposed comedy giants like Seth Rogen and Will Ferrell. Am I not getting the jokes, or am I getting them but not thinking they're funny in any way, shape, or form?

Admittedly it's a huge leap - culturally, stylistically and geographically - from the uninspired clowning of This Is The End and Anchorman 2 to the miserablist Scandinavian Comedy Of Despair, but in the case of Roy Andersson's A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence it's not that I don't get the jokes; rather it's that I don't think there are any actual jokes to get. APSOABROE (it's easier to type) is a portmanteau film which consists of 39 largely unconnected vignettes, each filmed in one take from an unblinking, static camera. There are a few recurring characters, most notably a bickering pair of aging novelty salesmen peddling things like plastic vampire teeth, and a few recurring locations such as a cafe in wartime, but many of the segments could play in any order and it wouldn't make any difference.

But it's not just the unwavering gaze of the camera or the lack of any empathy with the characters (or indeed the lack of any characters with which to empathise); it's the absence of any actual laughs which makes APSOABROE such a dreary, lifeless plod. It all feels like a discarded edition of Monty Python from which every single joke, sight gag and (most crucially) punchline has been ruthlessly excised. It's all "knock knock" and never "who's there"; all horses walking into bars but never any barmen asking why the long face. It's like watching a porn movie with no sex, just an endless series of moustachioed plumbers arriving to unblock the sink. That's no fun and neither is this.

The title, which at least ensures you're not going to get it confused with anything else on HMV's shelves, is accurate in the sense that there is a pigeon, but it's actually stuffed and nailed to the branch and is therefore dead, so it's only reflecting on the inside of the glass case in which it's trapped for eternity, presumably in the Grand Central Museum Of Bugger All. Traces of potential humour do surface, such as the thorny conundrum of whether anyone would want a meal that another customer has paid for but has dropped dead before eating it, but it just never goes anywhere. This is apparently the third in a trilogy, the other two instalments of which I have absolutely no interest in seeing.


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