The art director of the Swedish Royal Art Museum navigates personal and professional crises.
Directed by Ruben Ostlund
Starring Claes Bang, Elisabeth Moss, and Terry Notary
Review by Jon Kissel
Swedish director Ruben Ostlund makes big, heady films, and The Square is certainly one of those. Ostlund’s Force Majeure began with a split-second decision and played out its ramifications over the proceeding runtime, interrogating the bargains that families make with each other and nothing less weighty than what it means to be a man. For The Square, he turns his eye towards himself and creators like him, asking what is and isn’t art while also poking fun at the lifestyle of exactly the kind of person who would ask such a question. Each scene is about many things, both for the characters and for broader society, making The Square the kind of film that encourages the viewer to try and divine what it is the director is trying to say. That kind of intellectual work lands side by side with a film that constantly entertains in absurd conversations or broad set pieces, making The Square a delight across all cinematic avenues.
Greta Gerwig, queen of indie cinema, has been in a dozen films about tentative young women trying to figure out the next steps of their lives. The best of these, like Frances Ha and 20th Century Women, balance a light tone with serious introspection, while the worst, like Greenberg and Lola Versus, devalue Gerwig’s character as either a prop or a caricature. Having taken part in so many versions of that particular archetype, Gerwig is uniquely suited to turn back the clock to 2003 and make her own film about the kind of person some of her characters might’ve been in their teenage years. By also turning the protagonist into a rough approximation of herself, Gerwig can also construct a deeply specific coming-of-age story with an anti-indie sensibility. For all the focus on the titular Lady Bird in Gerwig’s immaculate directorial debut, she’s only one grounded and affecting character in a film packed with them. No props or caricatures here, just love for everyone that graces the screen and a film that is impossible to not fall for.
I’m as big a fan of Pixar as anybody, but there’s something about the opaque nature of creating computer graphics that makes the iconic studio’s style of animation somewhat less impressive. I have no doubt there’s a level of craftmanship in turning all those one’s and zero’s into photorealistic water or curly red hair, but I can’t help preferring the stop-motion of Laika and Wes Anderson’s pair of animated movies or the hand-drawn elegance of Studio Ghibli and Cartoon Saloon. Movies from these studios inspire the viewer to momentarily step back and marvel at the amount of finely-tuned labor that went into a single frame. Cartoon Saloon’s The Breadwinner has several of these moments within it, but it doesn’t subsist on visual awe though there’s plenty of it. Studio co-founder Nora Twohey’s film leaves behind the Ireland of Cartoon Saloon’s earlier Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea for Talbian-ruled Afghanistan and a desperate story of survival under tyranny whose charm isn’t lost in spite of its dire setting.
Raw is one of those films that engenders visceral reactions in its viewers. Its showings have apparently resulted in the paramedics being called in after audience members have fainted. Even the trailer dares the viewer to look away. As the latest entry into the company of the French Extremity genre, along with gorefests like Martyrs and Gaspar Noe's nightmare landscapes, Raw deserves its grotesque reputation, but it is not solely going for cheap thrills. Julia Ducournau's intense but heady film is a feast for the eyes, as oddly beautiful and entrancing as a story about a sheltered veterinary student's cannibalistic awakening could possibly be. Ducournau throws down a challenge to stomach her work and an invitation to experience it. Both are worth accepting.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.
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