Sunday, November 5, 2017

Yorgos Lanthimos' "The Killing of a Sacred Deer" & Ruben Östlund's "The Square" at SIFF Cinema: Oct 27 - Nov 23

A couplet of the jewels from this year's Cannes, as unearthed by Criterion, The Guardian, The New York Times, Sight & Sound, and the extensive coverage for Film Comment seen in Dennis Lim's "Keeping at It", Kent Jones' "A Six-Letter Word", Nicolas Rapold's "Catastrophes on Parade", and Amy Taubin's "The Speed of Light in a Vacuum", are finally seeing time on domestic screens with a monthlong run at SIFF Cinema. Foremost among them, there's been much ado both in cinema and visual art circles concerning the Palme d'Or winning, "The Square" in which director, "Ruben Östlund Turns Art World Satire into Performance-Art Cinema". Following on his observation on fear, masculinity and European middle-class woes, Östlund now "Takes Aim at Art, Sex, Money and More", in his "Lofty, Laboured Cinematic Lecture on Inequality". Set in a related class milieu, Yorgos Lanthimos' "Replays the Greek Tragedy of Iphigenia as Modernist Guignol", through "‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’ Depicts Familiar Torment" as a thriller in which the movie’s subject becomes the bankrupt sterility of upper middle-class mores. Having built a solid filmography on outrageous premises, a self-conscious deadpan style, and actors skilled in a explicitly cryptic form of straight-faced absurdity, Lanthimos directs the proceedings through a vantage on the hermetic, comfortable privilege of one suburban American family, as it incrementally spins into bourgeois nightmare. But where Lanthimos' "The Lobster" adopted an ostentatiously eccentric, almost farcical mode of political satirism, with "Colin Farrell Playing a Divorced Man in a Loner-Hating Future Society", his newest foregrounds its seriousness in the form of a methodical, starkly ritualistic severity.

As is the tradition with Cannes, opinions diverge among the press. In the pages of The Guardian's coverage, "Cannes 2017 Awards: Visceral Power Overlooked in Favour of Bourgeois Vanity", Peter Bradshaw saw the festival bestow the fruits of this year's awards on a set of elegant dissections of bourgeois absurdity and vanity. In the process overlooking the more visceral power of entries seen in, "An Eerie Thriller of Hypnotic, Mysterious Intensity" from Andrei Zvyagintsev, "Joaquin Phoenix Turning Travis Bickle in Brutal Thriller" as directed by Lynne Ramsay, and Sergei Loznitsa's "Brutally Realist Drama Offering Up a Pilgrimage of Suffering". Similar observations can be found from Nick James in Sight & Sound, in which there was little consensus among critics on, "What Should have Won the 2017 Cannes Palme d’Or?". Arguing the divided nature of the awards are the product of the competition being the weakest of recent times, producing a wide open field expressed in the random enthusiasms of Pedro Almodovar’s jury. Yet there was consistency found in the consensus among critics that Lynn Ramsay's kidnap thriller, "You Were Never Really Here", Andrey Zvyagintsev’s disintegrating family drama "Loveless", and the Safdie brothers’ frenetically chaotic urban misadventure "Good Time", should have all walked away with more notice in the form of awards.