Ninety Nine Per Cent Perfect

Christopher Fowler
Anyone familiar with this blog will know by now that the autumn/winter season (I say winter, it's 17C here in London) is peppered with film reviews because it's movie preview time, when we get to check out all the non-comic-universe upcoming releases. I got out to an actual cinema again this week, under the watchful eye of the Husband, who made sure that I didn't fall face down into the road every five minutes, and saw Ruben Ostlund's  'Triangle of Sadness'. This won the Palme D'Or at Cannes, where the other big winner this year was 'Close' an extraordinary portrait of two school kids learning to navigate the politics of puberty. If 'Close' is a whisper of a film, 'Triangle' is a bellow - how could it not be with Woody Harrelson in it? Ostlund's last, 'The Square', featured Elisabeth Moss, so the director is cannily adding an American to attract a non-arthouse audience. That film tore through the ludicrous world of art collectors and gallery owners, and featured a talking-point centrepiece that lifted its profile. Which may explain why the fustier UK critics are faintly damning 'Triangle' for being too readily comprehensible and a bit too much schadenfreude-filled fun. They don't like it when the general public enjoys 'their' films. The title has a double meaning, and the opening sets the tone as we follow models being put through their paces by bubble-headed casting directors. Having won a cruise trip, Carl and Ya Ya are off on a one percenters' Mediterranean cruise full of perfectly groomed super-rich guests, which is clearly doomed from the start. The alcoholic captain has locked himself in his cabin, the very expensive seafood is going off, pirates have been spotted and there's a huge storm coming. The guests - most of them - are deeply unpleasant, and include an elderly, avuncular pair of British arms dealers. Naturally the wheels come off this luxury trip in a spectacular fashion, with a dead-centre set piece that has proven to be a bit of a horse frightener. Frankly, though, if you recall Mr Creosote's dining habits you'll know what to expect. Just how the film morphs from such a dark scenario to a point of (near) redemption is its miracle. And the satire works; the ship's crew, treated as if invisible by the guests, are soon the only people to be trusted, and suddenly the social pecking order is overturned. The zero-hours economy, men's power struggles with women and the idea that without change there will only be calamity are all up for discussion here. Charlbi Dean shines in a wonderfully subtle performance as a model slowly realising that there's a world outside herself (tragically she died from medical complications just after making the film). It's twenty minutes too long but I was in the mood for a leisurely journey and loved it, as did the Husband, a litmus test of squeamishness if ever there was one, so don't let the press put you off. When critics can't agree on a single common problem with a movie, that usually means it's fine. The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw, an old-school critic of crass tastes, thought that as a satire it lacked subtlety. Film satire is by its nature a little broader because it can't be too time-sensitive. I guess he's never looked around at a regular cinema audience, if he's ever seen such a thing. I'm happy to watch as many one-percenter comedies as they can make, if only to help start redressing the balance.


snowy (not verified) Mon, 14/11/2022 - 13:04

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Sounds... interesting, [that poster isn't doing it any favours though].

Christopher Fowler Mon, 14/11/2022 - 14:15

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Snowy, I suggest you lookout the OTHER poster online (and, amazingly, in magazines). I don't want to look at it right now because I'm having soup.

snowy (not verified) Mon, 14/11/2022 - 14:50

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I can understand your reserve, she really isn't enjoying the 'Cream of Winter Vegetables' is she.

Roger (not verified) Mon, 14/11/2022 - 19:03

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I enjoyed Triangle of Sadness too. Did any critic mention The Admirable Crichton - an obvious precursor? The comparison shows that you can't get the staff nowadays.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Mon, 14/11/2022 - 19:12

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Is the French title "Unfiltered"? Wouldn't want that title on the other poster.
I wonder how they decide on the posters. It is presumably to match with promotion's view of the perceived audience and what does that say about the film? There's certainly not a unified view if you look at the range of images.

Philip Hazell (not verified) Mon, 14/11/2022 - 22:22

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I've been thinking for a while now that the Guardian should give Peter Bradshaw the boot and get someone who is a bit more in tune with modern tastes?? I almost always disagree with his reviews as do most of my friends/family..

Roger (not verified) Tue, 15/11/2022 - 04:44

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

A reviewer you nearly always disagree with is as good a guide as one you nearly always agree with, Philip Hazell. You just reverse their opinions.
I wish the Observer/Guardian had tried to create a Philip French bot to carry on after his retirement and death, though.

A Holme (not verified) Tue, 15/11/2022 - 14:51

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Fifty years ago, my Headmaster told us Sixth Formers " to read a newspaper who's politics you disagree with. Know your enemy."

Helen+Martin (not verified) Tue, 15/11/2022 - 18:49

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

A Holme, your headmaster must have trained along with my high school principal who told us to always read the forward to books we were using for research so we could get a variety of biases and that every author has one. (In Canada there are at least three sides to every question.)

Peter T (not verified) Wed, 16/11/2022 - 14:18

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I don't remember anything instructive, kind, or in any way useful from my old headmaster. I have read that Churchill employed numerous researchers and invited guest speakers to Chartwell, amongst whom he chose many of a diiferent opinion to his own. Perhaps that's why he had a mixed history as a politician?

Helen+Martin (not verified) Wed, 16/11/2022 - 19:29

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Some politicians are criticised for being so stuck in their old opinions that they are incapable of adjusting to changing circumstances. Churchill held on to the concept of Empire long after its time was past. On the other hand are politicians who flip and fluctuate with every changing wind or never settle to any particular standard at all. Some of us feel this way about the current Canadian PM who is definitely not the man his father was.
It all brings us back to Polonius in Hamlet and neither leading the championship of the new nor clinging on to the old. It's the average person who can do either but people in power have to be very careful about which way they go. Glad I have no power because evaluating the various thought routes is very difficult.