Dozens of mundane moments in life coalesce into a larger meaning in Roy Andersson’s “About Endlessness” (Magnolia Pictures, 2019, 78 min.), opening in Cinemapolis’ “virtual cinema” this April 30.
Andersson has been making his own idiosyncratic art films — and a ton of commercials — for decades; I’ve also seen his “You, the Living” when it screened a few years back at Cornell Cinema. In “About Endlessness,” he shoots every scene as its own static master shot as Jim Jarmusch did in “Stranger Than Paradise” (1984): everything plays out from one point of view, cuts to black, and then the next scene plays. A female narrator adds enigmatic descriptions of what we’re seeing and what it means.
A man emerges from a subway entrance and talks about meeting someone he went to school with as a child. Outside a café with music playing, three women saunter through, stop and perform an impromptu dance. In a foggy, windswept and rainy field, a man stops and ties his daughter’s shoelaces. A man and woman sit in a bar and sip champagne as Billie Holiday sings “All of Me” on the soundtrack. Another man and woman float in the sky as the city below is being bombed and destroyed, and this is the only shot in the film that has any camera movement, and it’s almost imperceptible.
There is a narrative of sorts, but it’s really more about the gradual tour through many seemingly routine moments in the life of human beings. It’s sad and odd and funny, just like life. Andersson keeps things moving with this series of still paintings, and because you’re following these vignettes, you’re also really invested in how everything does, or doesn’t merge.
It’s a good time when Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon decide to do some travelling and eating. The hook for “The Trip to Greece” (IFC-Revolution Films-Baby Cow-Small Man-SKY, 2020, 103 min.), the fourth and final film in collaboration with director Michael Winterbottom, is that Coogan and Brydon retrace the steps of Odysseus in “The Odyssey” from Troy to Ithaca; as Brydon says at the outset, the Odyssey was a 10-year journey, and he and Coogan have been making this “Trip” series for a decade.
There’s always a slight tension between these two complicated comedians, and they do like to wind each other up. The formula is well established: the duo eats at a series of the best restaurants wherever they are, and there’s much dueling celebrity impressions and one-upping each other. Marlon Brando and Ray Winstone are favored this time around, and since Coogan recently played Stan Laurel in 2018’s “Stan & Ollie,” Hardy has a lot of fun doing Laurel and Hardy with him, but this time it’s Tom Hardy.
As usual, Winterbottom shoots in a fast and loose documentary style, but all aspects of Coogan and Brydon’s life are utter codswallop; family members are all played by actors.
Don’t watch if you’re at all hungry.
It’s come to this. Robert De Niro, star of Martin Scorsese classics like “Goodfellas,” “Raging Bull” and “Taxi Driver,” is reduced to starring in movies like “The War with Grandpa” (Universal-Marro Films, 2020, 94 min.). Aside from the flawed technique of “The Irishman,” I’d say De Niro’s been slumming for more than 20 years; his last great films are “Heat” (1995) and “Ronin” (1998). This turkey provides no actual reason that a seemingly decent kid snaps and starts battling with his grandfather when the old dude comes to stay with his daughter’s family — and takes the kid’s room. Big deal, I hear you say. You’re right. The whole thing is so dumb.
It’s a coin toss as to what makes my soul ache more. On the one side, it’s a shame that a whole new generation only knows Robert De Niro as a faint parody of himself in lame family comedies like this. On the flip side, it bums me out that talented people like De Niro, Uma Thurman, Rob Riggle, Christopher Walken, Jane Seymour and Cheech Marin have to pay the rent by acting in lazy, lousy, sub- “Home Alone” comedies like “The War With Grandpa”.