Archives for December 2022

Bones and All”, “Aftersun”; teenagers times two

Bones and All.

As I came out the cin­e­ma after watch­ing Bones and All, I won­dered briefly whether that was per­haps the most instant­ly for­get­table film since what­sit­called with what­shis­name, you know, that one that was nom­i­nat­ed for all those Acad­e­my awards. And I pre­sumed that that would be the very last time that it ever crossed my mind. 

But over the few weeks that fol­lowed, to my baf­fled bewil­der­ment, a slew of star­ry-eyed review­ers lined up to loud­ly sing its prais­es. The Guardian, the Sun­day Times, the Irish Times, the Lon­don Inde­pen­dent and even, if you don’t mind, the New York­er’s august Antho­ny Lane all man­aged to momen­tar­i­ly divest them­selves of their crit­i­cal fac­ul­ties to be born forth on its agri­cul­tur­al rhythms. 

raio Argen­to’s Sus­piria.

It’s like watch­ing some­body sit­ting on an inflat­able pool toy as it rests stub­born­ly motion­less on your liv­ing room floor. While they flash you an excit­ed smile, bob­bing game­ly this way and that, telling you that the water is amaz­ing, and won­der­ing why you’re not jump­ing in to join them. 

Let’s get one thing straight. Bones and All is absolute­ly not a bad film. It’s very com­pe­tent­ly made and is as inof­fen­sive as you could pos­si­bly wish for. And if you’re famil­iar with Guadagni­no’s films, you’ll not be sur­prised by what you’re being pre­sent­ed with.

As with his point­less remake of Dario Argen­to’s tow­er­ing Sus­piria (reviewed ear­li­er here), where he neutered any sense of beau­ty to focus instead on pro­duc­ing an accu­rate­ly researched repro­duc­tion of drea­ry, drab, dull, grey 1970s Ger­many, here he con­cen­trates care­ful­ly on recre­at­ing grim, grimey rust-belt, mid­dle Amer­i­ca, cir­ca 1989. 

It’s com­mend­ably con­vinc­ing, but utter­ly devoid of any­thing approx­i­mat­ing dra­ma, and is entire­ly free of tension. 

Obvi­ous­ly, if you’re a teenag­er, con­fi­dent in the cer­tain­ty that you have all the time in the world, then the prospect of watch­ing two attrac­tive would-be teenagers gaze lov­ing­ly into one another’s eyes, as they amble aim­less­ly across the plains of Amer­i­ca from one trail­er trash dive to the next, will quite pos­si­bly strike you as time well spent. 

But for any chick­en for whom spring is, alas, a now dis­tant mem­o­ry, you’ll be left qui­et­ly seething at hav­ing fruit­less­ly wast­ed more than two gold­en hours on glo­ri­fied Wallpaper.


After­sun is about a teenag­er, but is very much a film for grown-ups. And is in fact one of the films of the year, and com­fort­ably so. As such, it’s the ide­al palette-cleanser for Bones and All.

I’ll say very lit­tle about the plot. Indeed, there’s lit­tle to say about it. It’s slow, mea­sured, appar­ent­ly lan­guid, and yet there’s a ten­sion that qui­et­ly and then omi­nous­ly builds. 

Paul Mescal is the bare­ly thir­ty some­thing year old father of an 11 year old daugh­ter, played by the daz­zling new­com­er Frankie Corio. And he’s tak­en her to a resort in Turkey to spend some qual­i­ty time togeth­er, now that he and her moth­er have separated. 

Metic­u­lous­ly paced, pre­cise­ly shot and care­ful­ly con­sid­ered, its shoe­string bud­get is vis­i­bly but fleet­ing­ly. Oth­er than which, it’s con­scious­ly cin­e­mat­ic in a way that few films any more both­er to be. Writ­ten and direct­ed by first time Scot­tish film mak­er Char­lotte Wells, it’s the most con­fi­dent and impres­sive fea­ture debut for many a moon.

You can see the trail­er for After­sun here:

And the trail­er for Bones and All here.

Sign up for a sub­scrip­tion right or below, and I shall keep you post­ed every month on All the very best and worst in film, tele­vi­sion and music!

Triangle of Sadness’ — Gallic shrug emoji

Tri­an­gle of Sadness

Tri­an­gle of Sad­ness won Swedish direc­tor Ruben Östlund his sec­ond Palme d’Or at Cannes this year, hav­ing pre­vi­ous­ly won in 2017 with The Square. So I was slight­ly per­plexed by the reviews it gar­nered when it was released, which seemed to sug­gest that they’d enjoyed the film, but had remained qui­et­ly under­whelmed by it. 

Sure­ly a clas­sic art house film either daz­zles and bewitch­es, or leaves you shak­ing your head in utter bewil­der­ment at what all the fuss had been about — vide Par­a­site, reviewed here. And yet.

The prob­lem with the film is, in a word, its obvi­ous­ness. It’s not just that its plot is lift­ed from, amongst oth­ers, an episode of The Simp­sons. A group of upstand­ing cit­i­zens get strand­ed on a desert island, and their social hier­ar­chy is turned on its head. Nor even the fact that it takes Östlund the guts of 2 ½ hours to do what The Simp­sons did in 24 min­utes. It’s the fact that the film is sup­posed to be a social satire. 

O Lucky Man!

The tar­gets you’d expect an art house film to be satiris­ing are the sorts of peo­ple who go to, or make, award-win­ing art house films like this. Hence, Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (’60), Lind­say Anderson’s O Lucky Man! (’73) and Bunuel’s The Dis­creet Charm of the Bour­geoisie (’72). Tri­an­gle of Sad­ness aims its poi­soned darts at the fash­ion world, and the 0.1% who fund it.

The prob­lem with Östlund goes back to and stems from the suc­cess he enjoyed with his third fea­ture, and his break out film, Force Majeure, from 2014. Which was won­der­ful­ly unset­tling, and looked and felt for all the world like quin­tes­sen­tial art house fodder. 

But it’s obvi­ous from The Square, which was some­thing of a mess, and now this, that Östlund is one of those very com­pe­tent but con­ven­tion­al Hol­ly­wood film mak­ers, who just hap­pens to be work­ing in Europe. In much the same way that the likes of Alan Park­er and Jim Sheri­dan used to do in the past. 

Bunuel’s The Dis­creet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

Which is absolute­ly fine. But what it means is that how you respond to Tri­an­gle of Sad­ness will depend on the type of film you’re hop­ing for. If you’re look­ing for a lush, plush and com­plete­ly unchal­leng­ing com­pan­ion piece to The Dev­il Wears Pra­da, that’s beau­ti­ful­ly shot, impec­ca­bly act­ed and whol­ly pre­dictable, then you’re in for a treat. 

But if a duel win­ner of the Palme d’Or cre­ates expec­ta­tions of gen­uine sub­stance, I’m afraid you’re going to be as under­whelmed by its longueurs and as per­plexed by its suc­cess as the rest of us.

You can see the trail­er for Tri­an­gle of Sad­ness here.

Sign up for a sub­scrip­tion right or below, and I shall keep you post­ed every month, on All the very best and worst in film, tele­vi­sion and music!