(Cannes) It was a heavyweight Saturday in Cannes when two former Palme d’or winners came into play, with works highly critical of the shortcomings of the time: Ruben Östlund, for The square in 2017, and Cristian Mungiu, 10 years earlier for 4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days†
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Triangle of sadness is the first English feature film by Swedish director Ruben Östlund, which was unveiled in Cannes in 2014 thanks to the excellent force of the majority, Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard section. The 48-year-old filmmaker once again draws a social satire in the tone of The squarewith an extra dose of cynicism about the human condition.
At the heart of this tragicomedy is the young couple formed by Carl and Yaya, both models and influencers. At the very beginning of the film, the meaning of the film’s title is revealed, when Carl takes a shirtless audition for a fashion show. “Maybe he needs Botox?” asks one of the reviewers, speaking of a wrinkle on Carl’s forehead.
“In Swedish we call it the worry ripple,” explained Ruben Östlund during a press conference with the festival. “She would be a sign that we have had many trials in her life. I found it indicative of our age’s obsession with appearance and the fact that inner well-being is in a sense secondary. †
It was Östlund’s wife, who is a fashion photographer, who inspired him with characters from that superficial world teeming with hypocritical advertising slogans about equality, diversity and respect for the environment, when we know that the fast fashion anything but environmentally friendly.
Triangle of sadness is divided into three chapters. Initially, we get to know Carl and Yaya through an ethical dilemma reminiscent of force of the majority, while a father, faced with the threat of an avalanche, had the reflex to grab his phone instead of his child, causing a crisis in his couple.
Carl can’t hide his irritation when his girlfriend makes him pay the bill again at the restaurant. She is richer than him and had promised to pay the bill the day before. He thinks she’s a feminist when it suits him. She can’t get over her lack of bravery. He won’t let go. She is manipulative. He lacks self confidence.
No one stages the “beautiful inconveniences” like Ruben Östlund. After the Fashion Week they attend, Carl and Yaya are invited on a luxury yacht cruise, courtesy of their many Instagram followers. Of course they give the impression of living a dream life, but Carl’s jealousy and Yaya’s princess fantasies cause a lot of tension between them.
On the ship, billionaires stand next to far less fortunate employees. Russia’s self-proclaimed “shit king” who made his fortune from fertilizers, a Swede who recently sold his technology company for a fortune, an elderly British couple whose family business specializes in “tools for access to democracy”, i.e. grenades and anti-personnel mines…
Especially in this second chapter we recognize Ruben Östlund’s irresistible black humor. His brilliant gaze, full of acumen about class dynamics, privilege, abuse of power, the vulgarity of the new rich, the excesses of capitalism or even sex as currency.
When a bad storm looms and the alcoholic – and Marxist – captain of the ship (Woody Harrelson) throws a gala dinner, the drunken boat rocks and the story of Triangle of sadness turns into a pleasant delirium of all sorts of excess… before inevitably running out at the end of a far too long third chapter. At 2h30, Ruben Ostlünd shows complacency and I wouldn’t be surprised if that hurts the jury. But he was so good at it…
The rise… of the extreme right
In a completely different register, Cristian Mungiu presented on Saturday NMR (for “nuclear magnetic resonance”). “Given the state of the world, I think we all need a brain scan,” the Romanian filmmaker told the magazine. HollywoodReporter this week, to explain the intriguing title of his film.
Matthias, a gruff and stubborn man who went into exile in Germany to find work, returns to his native village, a multi-ethnic village in Transylvania. His father, Otto, is unwell and his 8-year-old son, Rudi, has not spoken since he suddenly became irrationally scared in the woods on his way to school.
When his ex-girlfriend Csilla’s bread factory decides to recruit workers from Sri Lanka for lack of local manpower, the villagers revolt to demand that the workers be returned to their country immediately. “We have nothing against them, they say in unison, but we prefer to have them at home!” †
It is this unrestrained xenophobic discourse, fueled by the far right, that has invaded Europe (and not just Europe…) that Cristian Mungiu is interested in NMR† He was inspired by a news story about a village in Romania, home to citizens of Romanian, Hungarian and German descent, that wanted to evict the foreign workers who were there from the local factory by 2020.
Islamophobia, racist stereotypes about hygiene and disease, fear of invasion, theory of the “great replacement”: Mungiu, Screenplay Prize in Cannes in 2012 for Beyond the hills and director price for Baccalaureate in 2016, especially compatriots are not to be spared.
He underlines the paradox of a community made up of people from different countries, who speak different languages, who are themselves despised abroad, but who do not agree to welcome anything other than white Europeans into their homes. “Exploring the details of this news story, the 54-year-old filmmaker says, made me realize how fragile the notions of empathy and humanity are. But also that it takes very little for people to awaken the dark side that lies dormant within them. †
NMR is, in the image of this observation, a taut film, gray, snowy landscapes and desolation, like most of Cristian Mungiu’s works. The filmmaker’s view of his society is unrelenting. He does not spare the rest of Europe, however, due to the character of a young Frenchman who works for an NGO (and whose job it is to count the number of bears in the forest), for whom we remember the disastrous consequences of colonization. and the failure of the integration of African, black and Arab populations in France.
Cristian Mungiu offers another courageous, disturbing, destabilizing film, whose puzzling conclusion, in the form of a fable, left me doubtful. After 8 of the 21 movies I’m still waiting for an authentic crush in this 75and official competition of the Cannes Film Festival.