Necrology (1969) dir. Standish Lawder
Half experimental film, half shaggy dog joke.
The general reputation for experimental film, I believe, is its self-seriousness, maybe getting mixed-up with student film stereotypes. Heavy-lidded actors ignoring non-sequitur inserts, ending with the French FIN, etc. This reputation ignores the humor that permeates many of the surrealist fare considered best. Or the best known – for all the ink devoted to decoding “Un Chein Andalou,” every time I see it I’m more convinced the filmmakers were meaning for nothing to be taken seriously.
The title tips us off that these people aren’t scrolling up to the Macy’s on the second floor. It’s a generosity that they’re ascending, at least, gazing forward or tweaking their faces as they await arrival in the hereafter. There’s also a whiff of documentary about this portion, something of a fashion show for the styles of the late 60s.
Then the punchline arrives. Does the label “Manufacturer of Plastic Novelties” or “German Business Man, Retired (Living in Brazil)” make the person less anonymous? What about being tied to a specific post like the “Suffolk County Chess Champion”? How about having your identity boiled down to “Man Whose Wife Doesn’t Understand Him” or “Man Returning from Dentist”? It’s funny – the titles marching upwards at the same pace as the crowd. And it’s meaningful as you puzzle out exactly what’s funny about it.