Triangle of Sadness
All of Ruben Ostlund's films are provocative and hermetic social anxiety dramas that feel more like sociological experiments than films. Up until now, none of them have really vibed with me. The closest that made me pay attention to his distinctive ethos of class and approximation was "Play"... a film that pushes the clash of cultures between young teenagers to the brink of intellectual exhaustion. Now, with his latest subtly sadistic "Triangle of Sadness", I sort of see what Ostlund is up to. Whether it's the exuberant comeuppance through extreme scatological humor or the precise shifts in power and subordination, this is a scathing eat-the-rich comedy that sees a beautiful but tenuous couple (Harris Dickinson and Charlbi Dean) get caught up in more than their scabrous arguments about who's paying for dinner. Divided into three sections and running at two and a half hours, "Triangle of Sadness" doesn't ask one to care about anyone, from a communist yacht captain (Woody Harrelson) to the survivors who find themselves stranded after a disastrous event. Filmed with formal elegance (just admire that quiet, slow pan back from the point of view of a boat drifting towards a multi million dollar yacht that elicited gasps in my screening) and populated by needle drops that serve as ironic counterpoints to the empty vessels of wealth and pomp, "Triangle of Sadness" does skewer the upper class, but then proceeds to take a fine slicing of all the classes in between before this masterpiece of a film cuts out.
Bardo, a False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths
Admiration for Inarritu's head trip epic comes far more easily than enjoyment. Immensely uneven and (at times) borderline didactic and dull, "Bardo, False Chronicles of a Handful of Truths" ventures down an enigmatic path. Just like its main character, a respected journalist-turned-filmmaker Silverio (Daniel Cacho) who seems to be slipping in and out of reality at will, the film itself alternates between soulful family drama and pretentious fever dream in whiplash fashion. I was immensely more moved by the family interaction between Silverio and his wife (a wonderful Griselda Siciliano) and children (Ximena Lamadrid and Iker Solano). If Inarritu had wanted to completely follow their path, I think "Bardo" would have been a masterpiece of familial heartbreak and common healing. One sequence with the family in Baja, California is without a doubt one of the most moving and insightful sequences in any film this year. Likewise a husband-wife playful chase around their apartment and a banquet dance sequence that radiates careless ebullience. Unfortunately, "Bardo" has heavier things on its mind (or outside its mind) and every time the film switches back to the netherworld wanderings of Silverio and a passion to metatextualize everything from the scrupulous practices of the media to Mexican history, the film is diluted of its intrinsic power built up by the drama of its nuclear family. There's a magnificent film in here somewhere, and sometimes less is certainly more.