Friday 13 January 2023

The Current Cinema - Barrie Pattison traces the origins of TRIANGLE OF SADNESS (Ruben Östlund, Europe, 2022) and finds much to lament.

"...washed up.." part of the ensemble from 
Triangle of Sadness

I did not enjoy Ruben Östlund’s new 
Triangle of Sadness any more than I would have enjoyed the first Ingmar Bergman films if anyone had had the nerve to show them here, or I enjoyed L’avventura when it was flavor of the month when it surfaced in 1961 or Bela Tarr’s 2000 Werckmeister harmóniák when it was the buzz entry on the festival circuit. These films are all product of a common aesthetic which says that popular entertainment lacks the substance of high art, the features of which are to be admired when they are imported into movies.

This is case unproven with that cycle and its satellites. How about Triangle of Sadness as the culmination of another line - The DeMille Male and Female with its riotous bad taste, the stunning tedious Rank 1957 The Admirable Crichton/Paradise Lagoon, along with a l918 British Film, a George Schaefer l968 TV movie and Royston Morley’s 1950 BBC production, all adaptations of J.M. Barrie’s The Admirable Crichton. Giving it a 21st century sex change is not that good a disguise. None of the reviews I've seen note Triangle of Sadness' obvious derivations, which is revealing. 

We kick off with a casting call for male models (above) demonstrating the “triangle of sadness”, the severe look required for upmarket underwear commercials (recall Zoolander) and shift into beautiful people Harris Dickinson (Richard Attenborough in See How They Run) and Charlbi Dean scrapping over her manoeuvring him into paying for their meal at the up market restaurant. This airhead couple could have wandered in from a Tilda Swinton movie. 

We see a yellow waterproof container being rushed by launch to a two hundred and fifty million dollar luxury yacht. It proves to contain Nutella. Our leads have won a cruise run by the no-nonsense chief steward Vicki Berlin, while Captain Woody Harrelson, who obviously wasn’t being paid enough to hang about for the whole movie, ties one on in his cabin. Either from inattention or malice, he sets the date for the Captain’s Dinner for the evening of the one batch of bad weather predicted. Meanwhile, the mainly aged, mainly over-indulged passengers get to exploit the fact that employees are instructed never to say no to them - scenes of the crew piling down the waterslide and Woody ordering the non-existent sails to be scrubbed. 

Rubbish management millionaire Zlatko Buric, who manages to dominate his footage, and Woody, the only ones not nauseous, have a drunken evening - a Russian Capitalist confronting an American Marxist - which is pretty much the level on which this film operates. Meanwhile, effluent and projectile vomit engulf the ship as each of the dinner courses, with a remarkable resemblance to the ones given similar close ups in The Menu, are served. This one keeps on evoking other, better, productions. 

Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean 


Limiting Iris Berben, once the winning teenage lead of Sergio Corbucci’s 1970 Compañeros, to repeating the phraze “In Den Wolken” endlessly, rips off Vin Diesel in the Guardians of the Galaxy films or maybe Timmy from South Park

I did like the elderly Amanda Walker recognising the hand grenade (“It’s one of ours!”)  which goes with the arrival of pirates (a survivor is indignant when they assume he was a pirate because he’s black) What happened to all those patrolling armed guards? We get the last shall be first stuff pivoting on Philippina toilet controller Dolly De Leon coming to shore in a lifeboat equipped with pretzels. 

 Dolly De Leon (front)

The director’s films seem to be aimed at telling us something about the thin veneer of civilization. Östlund’s The Square was sufficiently disturbing to attract attention. It made a couple of nice points about the arts scene, even if the footage with the wild man at the charity benefit was so conspicuous that it obliterated the rest of the film. Östlund appears to be preoccupied with shirtless fellers. One of the better touches in Triangle of Sadness is Dickinson, surprised at seeing Timoleon Gketsos put off the ship after the complaint that his bare torso caught Dean’s eye. 

The craft aspects from his Euro pudding crew are adequate. They run to five credited donkey painters. Once again it attempts to use fine art disciplines like a fifty, forty, ten colour palette. This all distracts from whatever the film thinks it’s telling us.

As with his predecessors, no one seems to be prepared to challenge Östlund’s status as a serious artist. I scored heaped abuse when I covered a time lapse in The Zombie Brigade with a title. So far, Ruben Östlund seems to be going without reproach for his.

Woody Harrelson

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