‘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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