The Square

TheSquare
The Drew Carey Story

“Is it art?” Behold the worthwhile and all-encompassing query/theme of The Square … or it would be had the film not indulged in a terrible plot and a lack of editing. Of course, the lack of editing speaks exactly to the theme, just poorly. Does a grown man behaving like a territorial chimpanzee in a luxury ballroom constitute art? Perhaps. Does it still constitute art ten minutes later? How about 30 minutes later?  How about when the scene becomes so caustic, the “performance” has to be forcibly subdued to interrupt attempted rape? Is that still art? Not unlike baseball fans who have convinced themselves that watching a pitcher “hit” is not a complete waste of time, the critically and Cannes decorated showpony The Square is a disappointing reminder that while others may share the same love of a hobby like movie watching, they can still get it frighteningly wrong.

Christian (Claes Bang) runs a modern art museum in Stockholm, Sweden. The Square finds satire almost instantly when Christian interviews on behalf of the museum with American journalist Anne (Elisabeth Moss). She asks him to comment from an incomprehensible quote on the museum’s website. The quote is such convoluted doublespeak that all Christian can do is stammer. In attempting to ease Christian’s woes, the camera finds a number of exhibits crying out, “Am I art?” and finally resting on its favorite – a set of symmetrically spaced piles of gravel, with a guard present at all times to make sure the exhibit rests unmolested. At this point, I was willing to call The Square brilliant and couldn’t wait for more.

And then more happened. Christian gets off the subway, arrives in daylight and gets conned. It’s a very elaborate confidence scheme involving the defense of a woman screaming for help and the human nature reaction defense from her would-be attacker deprives Christian of his wallet and phone. Clever as the scheme is, it can’t work in today’s world – first off, I’m pretty sure Stockholm is one of those modern cities with public cameras everywhere. Second, even were it not, the current standard reaction to kerfuffle of any kind in the big city is for people to whip out their phones and start filming. There is a 0% chance the instigators of this scam could pull it off without being filmed, which wouldn’t be a big deal were this not the entire plot.

Christian completely loses focus on the business of running a museum while attempting to get his wallet and phone back. He employs museum underlings and resources to track it down, then fails to inform the police when the phone can be traced to a single building. After that, his ego takes over. Christian is at first too important to be caught in the morally gray minutiae of retrieving the wallet/phone. Then there is random celebratory sex in which Christian and his temporary partner literally battle over the disposal of a used condom for a healthy five minutes. Is this art? Is it art when a couple has a stupid argument and the camera doesn’t let it go? Because I want to say, “No. It’s not art. Just bad writing.”

Oh, The Square. Yeah, that. The Square is technically a piece of art. It is a physical bounded area set apart in the front of the museum representing a “safe space” for either expression or need. For all its titular importance, The Square itself is little more than an excuse to show

One screen shot. One. And you can tell this isn’t an America film. 14:1 ratio on trust. HAH!

Christian’s distracted state of mind when he blindly greenlights a terrible ad campaign.  Is that art? Because that seems like more satire. Is satire art?

Dear Cannes, are you even on the same planet as me? No, I really want to know. Here I am staring at yet another unimpressive Palm d’Or winner wondering what merits the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, anyway? Run time? Lottery system? Pretension? Maybe I just don’t have a “Cannes do” attitude.  I’m fairly frustrated at this moment of getting juiced to see an award-winning film and finding instead Amour, The White Ribbon, or –God forbid- The Tree of Life. Luckily, The Square didn’t sink to The Tree of Life level of putrid, but it wasn’t good and it was far too long. And it left me wondering, once again, what are the films at Cannes that don’t win the Palm d’Or? Are they the film equivalent of art that gets hung on refrigerators? I just don’t get it, and at this rate, I never will.

And I hate watching the average pitcher wield a bat. It’s disgusting. Why bother if you don’t know what you’re doing up there?

♪Purchased a seat without care
Then went into The Square
It was pretentious fare
There was screenplay despair
I couldn’t wait to depart from my chair
And I described it with adjectives♫

Rated R, 142 Minutes
Director: Ruben Östlund
Writer: Ruben Östlund
Genre: The kind of film you make when you want to win awards, but don’t care about the audience
Type of being most likely to enjoy this film: Critics
Type of being least likely to enjoy this film: Patrons

♪ Parody Inspired by “Unpack Your Adjectives”

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