Wednesday Editor’s Pick: “Together” (2000)

by on June 21, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Wed June 22 at 8:00; Thurs June 23 at 6:30 at Museum of Modern Art [Program & Tix]

 

J. Hoberman sets the mood for the Voice:

Forget those magazine offices, law firms, schoolrooms, and coffee shops. The great unexplored milieu for a TV sitcom is the hippie commune. It’s a setup with everything—a ready-made wacky ensemble, outrageously drug-addled behavior, far-out period slang, ancient pop music, bizarre clothing (or lack of same), and a built-in laugh track. Given the iron law of audience demographics, it’s increasingly unlikely that such a premise will come to fruition, but producers can get a taste of what they missed with Swedish director Lukas Moodysson’s second feature, Together.

 

David Edelstein makes a funny for Slate:

If I were going to write a parody of a dour Swedish art film, I could hardly come up with a better name for the director than Lukas Moodysson. What a relief that Together isn’t moodysson in the least. If anything, the director needs to curb his animation: Must every shot be a breathless zoom? That in-and-out lens does remind us of counterculture cinema, but not especially fondly. Together is otherwise a scruffy delight, a movie with the happiest sort of family values.

 

 

Dennis Lim interviews Moodysson, also for the Voice:

The improbable missing link between Marx and ABBA, Lukas Moodysson’s Together ventures into the vanishing utopia of a Swedish commune in the mid ’70s, spoofing hippie fads and zealotries even as it fondly memorializes the era’s fundamental idealism. Moodysson, who was born in 1969 and has no firsthand experience of commune life, says the film was never intended as a nostalgia trip. “I was passionate about all the details—the music, the clothes, the posters, the beards—but I wanted it to be completely realistic, not at all over-the-top or ironic. There’s something about the ’70s that’s automatically funny, and I even considered setting it in the present to avoid that.”

 

Indeed, Together‘s wholehearted embrace of goofball alternative-family scenarios makes it a topical film, even a radical one. Or as Moodysson puts it: “It’s about what happens when people crash into one another. It’s about how to live together, which I think makes it a political film in these egotistical times.” How exactly you interpret its politics is another matter. “It got a great review in the Proletaren [the Swedish Communist Party’s weekly newspaper]. They wanted to interview me, but I refused. I mean, these are people who think Stalin maybe made a few mistakes but was on the whole a great guy, and I don’t sympathize with that.” On the other hand, Together has also been denounced (and, to a lesser extent, praised) as a petit bourgeois apologia. “Some people say the film shows that if you have TV and if you eat meat, then your life gets better,” says Moodysson. “It’s been liked and hated for many reasons, but to me it’s obvious: This is a film that has a lot of love and sympathy for the left wing. Yes, it’s critical, but on a personal level, I was trying to find out how I really felt about the left in Sweden.” The after-effects have been more extensive than he’d predicted. “I know people who started communes after seeing the film. I don’t know how it’s worked out.”

 

More interviews with Moodysson at Indiewire and Sight & Sound

 

 

Peter Rainer for New York Magazine:

The Swedish comedy Together is proof that you needn’t have lived through the seventies to understand them. Writer-director Lukas Moodysson, who previously made Show Me Love, was only 6 years old when this film takes place, in 1975. It’s about the goings-on inside a leftist commune, and the shocks of recognition are nonstop for anyone who did live through all that. Moodysson captures exactly the preening narcissism and gumption of these frazzled would-be revolutionaries trying to wriggle out of their bourgeois straitjackets. (The amazing cast includes Lisa Lindgren and Michael Nyqvist.) Open relationships give way to the same old jealousies; vegetarianism can’t stand up to a plate of hot dogs; Pippi Longstocking is denounced as “materialistic.” And yet Moodysson sees an exalted silliness in his people: At least they’re trying to find new ways to be happy, even though they often end up making everybody around them miserable.

 

The jaunty humaneness of this film is reminiscent of Alain Tanner’s Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000, which likewise both burlesqued and embraced its characters. And it does something I’ve never seen in a movie of this type before: It shows the full effect of what it’s like to be a child in a radical commune. It’s one thing for an adult to cast off bourgeois “oppression,” but what about the kid who hasn’t yet learned enough about the middle class to be oppressed by it? The decision, after much debate, to bring a TV into the commune is a great victory for the children, and there are other victories, too — like those hot dogs. The kids regard the couplings and violent separations of their parents with a mute, preternatural understanding; they’re just hoping to ride out the storm until the adults come to their senses. And when they do, the reunion with their children is as magical as any fairy tale. Together has a marvelous tossed-off quality, but it’s also getting at something profound. It expresses a longing for connection that is far too deep to be called nostalgia.

 

 

Stephanie Zacharek for Salon:

Moodysson is a tough-nuts modern humanist — in that respect he’s reminiscent of Jean Renoir, although he works on a smaller, more intimate scale and his approach is entirely different. He doesn’t have Renoir’s elegance as a stylist, but a Renoirian love for his characters, no matter how maddening their behavior, hovers around them like an aura. Their foibles make up the most vivid colors in his palette; he doesn’t allow any superiority or smugness to muddy his view of them. What’s more, he has a great knack for ensemble comedy, moving the story along while keeping each character in focus. By the end of the movie, you feel you’ve moved in with them.

 

People like that are a pain in the ass, but they always make for a good story afterward. Moodysson makes a good story out of the group at Tillsammans, but he goes even further. “Teach tolerance” is flapdoodle when you see it on a bumper sticker. Moodysson has taken that same vaguely aggressive command, distilled the good stuff from it and written its essence into a movie.

 

Together is the kind of picture that makes you feel that there are many good reasons to actually like mankind. As Renoir said, “There’s one terrible thing in this world, and that is that everyone has their reasons.” It’s the best explanation anyone has yet come up with for the inexplicable presence of treachery, betrayal and misguided bravery in our world. No one has ever applied it to the refusal to shave armpits, but in Moodysson’s world, that counts, too.

 

Dave Kehr for the Times:

But just as the title of Together is beginning to seem bluntly ironic, Mr. Moodysson’s script takes some delightfully unexpected turns, and the characters begin to reunite in new combinations and with a new, perhaps more realistic understanding of the forces that bind them together. From the rigidly, tidily political, their bonds evolve into the frayed but more flexible ties of genuine human emotion.

 

Mr. Moodysson gained some deserved attention three years ago for Show Me Love, a film better known on the festival circuit under its original Swedish title, which contains an unprintable English expletive. The story of two teenage girls who fall in love, defying all the conventions of the small town in which they live, it also had an appealingly warm, sloppy tone but built to a pat, feel-good finale. With Together, Mr. Moodysson has moved beyond such compromises; his film never feels less than completely natural as it moves toward the reconfigurations that provide its sunny climax. Here is one of the most pleasant foreign films of the year, a funny, graceful and immensely good-natured work.

 

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