‘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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