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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South Park S20 still relevant.

South Park Season 20.

South Park Sea­son 20.

The Simp­sons are in their 28th sea­son, and the last time they were even remote­ly fun­ny was around sea­son 13 or 14. So for the last ten years they’ve been paint­ing by num­bers, and a once cut­ting edge show has ren­dered itself com­plete­ly irrel­e­vant. And Trey Park­er and Matt Stone, the cre­ators of South Park, have clear­ly been think­ing about this very carefully.

At the moment we’re up to episode 5 of the cur­rent sea­son (20) on Com­e­dy Cen­tral and it’s clear that it’s become a notice­ably dif­fer­ent beast to the South Park of five or six years ago. The main dif­fer­ence being, that instead of hav­ing neat, indi­vid­ual episodes that exist in their own bub­ble, inde­pen­dent­ly of any episodes that come before or after, there are now three main sto­ry arcs that link each of the episodes across the whole season.

The yawn Simpsons.

The yawn Simpsons.

Inevitably, the main sto­ry arc gives us their take on the seem­ing­ly unsat­i­riz­able elec­tion, with the girls and the boys at the school divid­ed into two fac­tions hell bent on mutu­al destruc­tion. Then there’s the inter­net troll sto­ry, which gets increas­ing­ly inter­est­ing the more it unfolds. And final­ly, there’s the Mem­ber Berries dig at J.J. Abrams and co and the nev­er-end­ing stream of nos­tal­gia-fuelled tedi­um we’re being sub­ject­ed to because of their reliance on pre-exist­ing fran­chis­es instead of ever com­ing up with any­thing actu­al­ly original.

Much more riski­ly, as ever, they are react­ing in real time to the events of the week which then get incor­po­rat­ed into that week’s episode. So last week they had Mr. Gar­ri­son — as the Trump stand-in — spew­ing forth a tor­rent of anti-female bile at his crowd of sup­port­ers. But when then a num­ber of women get up to leave in protest, he quite rea­son­ably asks them, so that’s where you draw the line? It’s fine for me to say all that stuff about all Mex­i­cans being rapists and all Mus­lims being ter­ror­ists, but as soon as I start insult­ing women, well that’s when I’ve crossed the line?

That was the week that was.

That was the week that was.

They are down to ten episodes a sea­son now, so inevitably you’re occa­sion­al­ly going to get the sense that they are just try­ing to jam too much into each episode. But tak­en as a whole, this is eas­i­ly the fun­ni­est and the most rel­e­vant com­men­tary on what’s going on at the moment in the US any­where on tele­vi­sion. You can fol­low it on Fri­day nights at 10pm on Com­e­dy Cen­tral. But if you can, you should real­ly try and see it from the begin­ning of the sea­son. In the mean­time, here’s a taster of what the debate looked like.

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