"Triangle Of Sadness."
A perfect choice for going in knowing nothing about a film; also a perfect film for talking about the role of criticism. Oh, and it's Oscar nominated for best film, director and original screenplay.
I don’t think there are any big spoilers in this post for “Triangle Of Sadness” and it focuses on reaction (including by some critics) mostly, but if you would prefer to see the movie first that’s understandable.
I mentioned recently that, at least for films, I’m doing a very un-critic like thing and choosing to watch with as little information as possible going into the film and, in fact, endorsing others to do the same thing.
It’s not removing the critic — I think circling back after watching a film and checking out reviews is a wonderful thing — but it still feels odd, since so much of my career has been as a critic and that role often relies on getting the word out first and in some way influencing readers.
But I love the idea of virginal viewing and have thought that “Everything Everywhere All At Once” would have been a magnificent choice for going in knowing nothing (and having your mind blown while experiencing great joy at the same time) but now I’m going to add “Triangle Of Sadness” to that list, since I watched it over the weekend without knowing that it’s a massively divisive film.
I watched this with KB, my partner, who is — for the most part — going into and along with this experiment (she knew very little about “Aftersun” and I knew nothing, for example, and we both had read nothing about “Triangle Of Sadness.”) I mention that because we could have had wildly different reactions to the film — and didn’t — ultimately finding it both bizarre and funny and self-aware of its weak spots, intentional or not.
Writer and director (this is a film so I guess I should say director and writer) Ruben Östlund decides to eviscerate the very rich and the influencers and shallow end dwellers who also want to be rich and famous, while contrasting their lives with more “ordinary” people and, in this scenario, those who work on a luxury cruise ship with those who paid for the experience. To say that this concept is an massive target is really underselling how easy the kill is, but I also think that Östlund recognizes this and goes all in, over the top, while undercutting that effort with a comedic base layer.
There’s a moment in the film that is important to understand as a critic and a viewer, because moments like these present themselves all the time and you have to make a judgement based in (relatively) real time about the intent: The ship’s captain (Woody Harrelson) turns out, for no reason, to be a Marxist (and a really drunk one at that) and he gets into an idealogical battle (well, actually, they are both arguing the same point, essentially) with a Russian oligarch named Dmitry (Zlatko BurÍc) about communism vs. capitalism vs. socialism.
At first glance, this is as ridiculous as it reads. On a ship off the Greek Islands filled with ultra rich passengers, the captain (and the man he just allegedly sold the ship to) are denouncing capitalism with conceptually floor-level arguments from Marx, Lenin, Noam Chomsky and others. If you are to take Östlund at face value here — and some critics, including A.O. Scott from the New York Times, do just that — then this is just an anvil to your head.
But is it?
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