Among the many qualities that the Swedish director Ostlund (Force Majeure, The Square) possesses, the one I cherish the most is that he does a very good Q&A after the screening.
Believe me, it’s very rare. Every other director, producer or star talks about the influences and the themes and the importance of the film; Ostlund gets excited about interesting things he’s read online or seen on YouTube.
His inspiration is not other films, but life. With Ostlund, you can take his Triangle of Sadness because you know it won’t be Oblong of Obtuosity or Parallelogram of Pump. Still, maybe a little subtlety wouldn’t hurt.
A satire on the super-rich, power structures and the use of “beauty as currency”, ToS hits obvious targets and in a pretty obvious way. It begins in the world of fashion, then morphs into an exclusive luxury yacht cruise that serves as a microcosm of iniquitous capitalist society.
Our go-between is a couple: male model Dickinson (a wonderful study in chiseled gormlessness) and Instagrammer influencer Dean. On the yacht, they rub shoulders with arms dealers, a Russian fertilizer millionaire and a drunk captain (Harrelson) who quotes Marx.
This is, famously, the movie in which a lot of rich people start throwing up. I wouldn’t normally mention it, but they stuck it on the poster, so I don’t think it counts as a spoiler. And there’s no denying that it’s a glorious comedic setting combining Mr Creosote from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life and the bean campfire scene from Blazing Saddles.
It’s the joyful lack of subtlety and skill of its execution that makes it so funny. It perhaps stands out a little too much as the climax to a consistently entertaining film, but too direct and without the boldness and flair of Ostlund’s earlier films.
These days, we’re all seemingly incredibly angry about everything all the time. As we should be. There is no subterfuge or nuance in today’s world, so what good is sly and deceptively devastating humor? Go big, go wide, go hard. Ostlund’s approach makes sense, though ultimately I doubt ToS will prove any less futile than three decades of Have I Got News For You.
Directed by Rubén Ostlund. With Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean, Zlatko Buric, Dolly De Leon, Vicki Berlin and Woody Harrelson. In theaters or streaming at Curzon Home Cinema. Duration: 149 mins.
Quiet on the Western Front (15)
Some people want to fill the world with anti-war movies, and what’s wrong with that, I’d like to know? Because here we go again.
The 1930 Oscar-winning Hollywood adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s 1928 novel about the futility of trench warfare in World War I essentially defined the format of anti-war film.
After showing five youths happily enlisting in 1917, this loose adaptation largely focuses the events of the novel in the days leading up to the November 1918 armistice. This is the third widescreen version but the first in German, and Berger’s film is a spectacular compendium of war scenes, it’s hell – from Saving Private Ryan to 1917.
It’s begging to be seen on the big screen, but if you’re reading this in the paper, its limited theatrical release is already over. As befits a film about a war notorious for dragging well beyond interest, Berger’s film reaches a point where it seems to have come to a natural conclusion and delivered all of its dramatic ironies, but then continues.
Directed by Edouard Berger. With Felix Kammerer, Albrecht Schuch, Aaron Hilmer, Edin Hasanovic, Moritz Klaus and Daniel Brühl. In German and French with subtitles. In selected cinemas. Streaming on Netflix from October 28. Duration: 147 mins.
Doctor who am I?
In the 1990s, screenwriter Matthew Jacobs outraged British Doctor Who fans when he penned the horrific American TV movie in which a new Doctor (McGann) kisses a girl and turns out to be half human. Now he’s dangerously close to outrage their American counterparts with this documentary about him tentatively trying to embrace the world of fan conventions.
Although the narrative calls for him to humbly engage with a group of people who mostly hated his job, Jacobs has a lively ego. He struggles to disguise his sense of superiority over those cosplay fanatics with their portable build-it-yourself Tardises and the hero worship of anyone connected to that sixties British children’s show.
The film offers a relatively insightful look into the world of fandom, a supposedly niche and underground activity that is taking over the world. The destiny of big companies is linked to the reception by fans of their latest offers. Comic Con is now one of the biggest events on the movie calendar, far more so than Cannes. I envy their dedication. The Chibnal/Whittaker axis – the Truss/Kwarteng of British science fiction – broke my attachment to the series.
Directed by Matthew Jacobs and Vanessa Yuille. With Matthew Jacobs, Paul McGann and Daphne Ashbrook. In cinemas duration: 80 min.
Go to http://www.halfmanhalfcritic.com/ for a review of the Criterion Collection Blu-ray release of David Lynch’s lost masterpiece, Lost Highway.