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.

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.

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‘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.

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