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Roy Andersson Retrospective at MoMA to Present Short Films, Television Commercials and Features
Pictured: Filmmaker Roy Andersson (Swedish, b. 1943).

NEW YORK, NY. The Museum of Modern Art presents Filmmaker in Focus: Roy Andersson, a retrospective of the full oeuvre of Roy Andersson (Swedish, b. 1943), covering four decades of work, from his school projects and short films to his television commercials and major feature films. This exhibition is part of the Filmmaker in Focus series at MoMA, which highlights the achievements of a director with an aesthetically and critically established career in filmmaking. The exhibition will be on view from September 10 through 18, 2009, in The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters, and is organized by Jytte Jensen, Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art. Andersson, who rarely travels, will introduce the first six screenings in the series, providing a unique opportunity to hear the director talk about his films outside of Sweden.

Andersson’s earliest films, rarely shown school projects from the 1960s, are related thematically and stylistically to the films of the then-influential Czech New Wave. His first feature, which he presented as his thesis at the Swedish Film Institute, is A Swedish Love Story (1970). With the gorgeous Swedish summer as a backdrop, the film portrays the pure love that arises between the daughter of a refrigerator salesman and the son of a car mechanic, offering a glimpse into the lives and homes of the people of the Swedish Social Democracy during its heyday. The film achieved great critical and popular success in Sweden.

His next feature, Giliap (1975), is what Andersson describes as his “fabulous flop” (though it was well received outside Sweden). The story of a waiter in a gloomy hotel who finds himself entwined in a bizarre love triangle, the film took three years to make, went over budget, and bombed at the box office, rendering Andersson persona non grata of the Swedish film industry for the next 25 years. From the mid-1970s through the 1990s, during his post-Giliap exile from filmmaking, Andersson’s television commercials for such companies as Citroën, Volvo, and Lotto were his primary cinematic output. Even in this medium, Andersson shows an utter disregard for traditional sacred cows, producing advertisements that, like his films, are artistically compelling and often lean toward the absurd.

Andersson’s biting humor and idiosyncratic filmmaking style have flourished further since the establishment of his own independent company, Studio 24, in 1981. Since then, all production has originated from this Stolkholm-based studio, where the director and a tight-knit group of young collaborators, known collectively as “The Team,” work together from concept to completion, creating the special brand of labor-intensive, proudly artisanal, and highly sophisticated films that have become Andersson’s trademark.

Andersson’s recent films have moved away from the youthful realism of his early work, toward a contemporary style characterized by brilliantly conceived tableaux often filmed in stationary shots, yet an essential humanity and focus on the daily lives of working-class people remains integral to his work. His films take aim at everything from petty bourgeois self-satisfaction and the corruption of the social democratic welfare state to World War II, consumerism, and notions of national solidarity.

With Songs from the Second Floor (2000), Andersson made a highly acclaimed return from his prolonged hiatus from filmmaking, winning the Grand Jury Prize that year in Cannes. Consisting of sixty vignettes, all produced by his own studio, the film takes the audience on a journey through a post-industrial, post-religious society in a seemingly constant state of purgatory—a society Andersson alternately blesses and rebukes.

Filmmaker in Focus: Roy Andersson also includes the filmmaker’s most recent feature, You, the Living (2007), which had its U.S. theatrical premiere in New York at Film Forum on July 29, 2009. As in Andersson’s short films and in Songs from the Second Floor, references to human catastrophe and horrible wrongdoings abound. A soft tuba score composed by Benny Andersson of ABBA provides the perfect background music for the numb, maladroit characters in You, the Living, as if to soothe their quiet despair.

The exhibition features the world premiere of a documentary about the making of You, the Living, titled Tomorrow’s Another Day (2009), and directed by Johan Carlsson and Pehr Arte—members of The Team for over 20 years. Their understanding of the working energies of Studio 24 and of the synergy between Andersson and his young collaborators placed them in the ideal position to illuminate the inner workings of Andersson’s creative process.

Museum of Modern Art | Roy Andersson | Sweden | Czech | commercials | short films | New York |

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