The Square

LetterboxD review link

The Square features one of the best scenes I’ve seen this year. You’ve likely heard about it, and there’s a great breakdown of it here. I won’t go into it much, so as to not spoil it, but it doesn’t clearly fit into the plot of the film, more squarely into the themes of the film. In a 2 and half hour movie, it really stands out.

The rest of the film, unfortunately, suffers from unevenness. Walking out of the theater, I heard another viewer describe it as “being lost in the woods, and then suddenly finding a highway.” This generally captures the disparaties between the first three quarters and the last quarter of the film. The themes that Ruben Östlund (whose Force Majeure I loved) include global inequality, modernity, neoliberalism, elitism and guilt. These are all worthwhile topics, ripe for exploration. Östlund, however, turns out to be a better filmmaker than polemic. Some of the lessons he imparts here, maybe summed up as “global inequality is bad and we need more communalism in society” are fine but largely anodyne in the end. In Force Majeure, he turned out to be a pretty sharp commentator on masculinity (and here as well, for that matter). But he’s a somewhat fascile commentator on global inequality and modern questions of morality.

Besides the scene in the banquet, I think my favorite part of this film-going experience was seeing Paul Thomas Anderson’s trailer for Phantom Thread, which looks like the most beautiful movie I’ll ever see.