Yesterday was a four-film marathon with barely a moment to breathe or assess. Okay, I had three-plus hours after seeing Bong Joon-ho‘s dreadful, cliche-ridden, Spielbergian Okja, which I knew would be splashy, showoffy kid-mulch going in, at 8:30 am, and then Jonas Carpignano‘s A Ciambra, a good-as-it-went, respectably compelling sequel to Mediterranea about a young teenaged thief (Pio Amato) coping with character and loyalty issues in a hardscrabble town in Southern Italy. But I couldn’t get down to it.
I wanted to at least tap something out about A Ciambra, which I saw at the subterranean Director’s Fortnight venue under the JW Marriott, but I couldn’t squeeze anything out. Guilt doesn’t get you there — writing does. I ate and napped and piddled around. In the late afternoon I posted three or four riffs about other subjects, but before I knew it I had to attend a 7 pm screening of Ruben Ostlund‘s The Square, followed almost immediately by Kaouther Ben Hania‘s Beauty and the Dogs at 10:15 pm.
(l. to r.) Beauty and the Dogs director Kaouther Ben Hania, costars Ghanem Zrelli and Mariam Al Ferjani.
Ape-channeller Terry Notary (who has only a single scene — the star is Claes Bang) in Ruben Ostlund’s The Square.
In other words, yesterday really meant something because of a low-key, near-great, at times hilarious social comedy (Preston Sturges on Percocet?) followed by a harrowing recreation of a nocturnal post-rape trauma that happened in Tunisia in 2012, assembled with a series of eight or nine long takes and pushed through with a brilliant lead performance.
The finest of the lot was The Square, a longish (142 mins.) but exquisitely dry Swedish satire, mostly set among the wealthy, museum-supporting class in Stockholm. It’s basically a serving of deft, just-right comic absurdity (the high points being two scenes in which refined p.c. swells are confronted with unruly social behaviors) that works because of unforced, low-key performances and restrained, well-honed dialogue.
Ostlund’s precise and meticulous handling is exactly the kind of tonal delivery that I want from comedies. There isn’t a low moment (i.e., aimed at the animals) in all of The Square, whereas many if not most American comedies are almost all low moments.
Yesterday Jordan Ruimy tweeted that The Square is Leo Carax‘s Holy Rollers mixed with Maren Ade‘s Toni Erdmann. Except I didn’t find Erdmann even vaguely funny (for me Peter Simonischek‘s performance was painful) and I was constantly chuckling and chortling during The Square, so what does that say? I’ll tell you what it says: Fuck Toni Erdmann, although I’m certainly open to the Jack Nicholson-starring remake, if and when it actually happens.
The problem is that The Square stops being a perfect absurdist satire somewhere around the two-thirds or three-quarters mark and downshifts into a glumly moralistic thing that’s about the lead character (played by the handsome, Pierce Brosnan-ish Claes Bang) trying to face up to his errors and make things right.
I didn’t like Bong Joon-ho‘s Big Fat Lovable Pig Who Never Farts (i.e., Okja), but I was too lazy to write about it earlier. Goes that way sometimes — you think about writing something and even prepare with notes, but you somehow can’t make yourself do it. Now it’s 6:30 pm and I have to catch a 7pm showing Ruben Ostlund‘s The Square, followed by a 10:15 pm screening of Kaother Ben Hania‘s Beauty And The Dogs, which got some good buzz earlier today.
This, trust me, is the absolute finest gelato place in the entire world. Okay, maybe it isn’t but it sure seems to be from my perspective.
World’s most dangerous soft-drink bottle. Not designed for stability as far as the upcurved bottom of the bottle is concerned. Two days ago I damn near spilled a bunch of Coke on the keyboard of my refurbished 15″ Macbook Pro. I avoided tragedy but if things had gone badly it would have mostly been Coca Cola’s fault.
Earlier today HE’s WordPress specialist Dominic Eardley finally managed to fix a hugely irritating problem that was turning up on iPhone screens, which was a bizarre tendency for italicized titles within slider headlines to downsize. But no more apparently.
I keep getting these notions by way of insect antennae vibrations that Alex Kurtzman and Tom Cruise‘s The Mummy (Universal, 6.4) is probably going to underperform and may even become the next King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. It feels shallow and obvious, and has certainly been over-trailered. I’m not saying it’ll flop, but that it won’t do what Universal marketing is hoping for, and may even fall short of that mark. It feels amusing and energetic, yes, but I don’t like Sofia Boutella‘s Egyptian princess mummy — she’s too little, too CG-augmented and not scary.
54 years ago on The Steve Allen Show, Frank Zappa played the bicycle. The future Mothers of Invention leader didn’t exactly create “music” but there was a certain emotionality to some of the sounds. I’m mentioning this because last night Evgueni Galperine, co-composer of the score to Andrey Zvaginstev‘s Loveless, told me he used a spinning bicycle wheel for two or three muscial passages in the film. Like the 1963 Zappa effect, it’s an eerie, whining sound that isn’t exactly melodious but is definitely affecting. Evgueni and brother Sacha, both of whom live in Paris these days, also composed the music for The Hunger Games as well as Barry Levinson‘s The Wizard of Lies. Evgueni, with whom I spoke during last night’s Loveless party, promised to send me a couple of mp3 clips from the Loveless score, including the bicycle one.
Loveless composer and musical bicycle aficionado Evguieni Galperine
Yesterday morning (5.19) at 9:27 am, I received an invite to a Hotel Martinez discussion between Michael Moore (beamed in via Skype) and Harvey and Bob Weinstein about Fahrenheit 11/9, Moore’s forthcoming doc about the Donald Trump catastrophe. Six hours and 25 minutes later (or at 3:44 pm) I received an email from a Weinstein rep saying that “the conversation on Friday with Harvey, Bob, and Michael will no longer be an open event for coverage.” Meaning what exactly? The discussion will happen, I was told, but only for buyers, not press. Not a huge concern on this end but switching gears with the space of six hours feels a bit skittish on Harvey or Michael’s part. Antsy, insecure.
It would appear that Harvey or Michael had second thoughts about the tone of the potential press coverage. Perhaps a 5.16 HE post titled “Can Michael Moore Go Home Again?” gave them the willies. Opening paragraph: “I somehow doubt that Michael Moore‘s forthcoming anti-Trump doc, Fahrenheit 11/9, will shake up or double-clarify perceptions of the deranged Trump circus. I say this as a staunch fan and ally of nearly every Moore viewpoint and documentary going back to Roger and Me, but what can he say or show that isn’t on the web and cable news every day?”