(Cannes) It was a heavyweight Saturday at Cannes when two former Palme d’Or winners came into play, with works highly critical of the flaws of the time: Ruben Östlund, for Square in 2017, and Cristian Mungiu, 10 years earlier for 4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days.
sadness triangle is the first feature film in English by Swedish director Ruben Östlund, which was presented at Cannes in 2014 thanks to the excellent Force Majeure, Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard section. The 48-year-old filmmaker signs another social satire in the tone of Squarewith an extra dose of cynicism about the human condition.
At the heart of this tragicomedy is the young couple Carl and Yaya, both models and influencers. At the beginning of the film, the meaning of the film’s title is revealed, as a shirtless Carl auditions for a fashion show. “Maybe you need Botox?” asks one of the evaluators, speaking of a wrinkle on Carl’s forehead.
“In Swedish we call it the worry wrinkle,” explained Ruben Östlund at a press conference with the Festival. “She would be a sign that we had a lot of trials in her life. I found it indicative of our time’s obsession with appearance and the fact that inner well-being is, in a way, secondary. »
It was Östlund’s wife, who is a fashion photographer, who inspired him with characters from that superficial world full of hypocritical advertising slogans about equality, diversity and respect for the environment, while we know that the fast fashion It is anything but environmentally friendly.
sadness triangle is divided into three chapters. We initially meet Carl and Yaya through an ethical dilemma reminiscent of that of Force Majeure, while a father, faced with the threat of an avalanche, had the reflex to grab his phone instead of his son, causing a crisis in his partner.
Carl can’t hide his irritation when his girlfriend once again allows him to pick up the tab at the restaurant. She is richer than him and she had promised the day before to pay the bill. He thinks she is a feminist when it suits him. She can’t get over his lack of gallantry. He doesn’t let go. She is manipulative. She lacks self-confidence.
No one stages “beautiful discomforts” like Ruben Östlund. After attending Fashion Week, Carl and Yaya are treated to a luxury yacht cruise, courtesy of their numerous Instagram followers. She gives the impression, of course, of leading a dream life, but Carl’s jealousy and Granny’s princess fantasies create a lot of tension between them.
On the ship, billionaires rub shoulders with much less fortunate employees. The self-proclaimed “shitty king” of Russia who made his fortune in fertilizers, a Swede who recently sold his tech business for a fortune, an elderly British couple whose family business specializes in “democracy access tools,” that is, grenades. and anti-personnel mines…
We recognize, in particular in this second chapter, the irresistible black humor of Ruben Östlund. His brilliant gaze, full of sharpness on class dynamics, privilege, abuse of power, the vulgarity of the new rich, the excesses of capitalism or even sex as currency.
When a heavy storm brews, and the ship’s alcoholic, Marxist captain (Woody Harrelson) throws a black tie anyway, the drunken ship rocks and the story of sadness triangle turns into a pleasant delirium of excess of all kinds… before inevitably running out of steam at the end of an overlong third chapter. At 2:30, Ruben Ostlünd shows complacency and I wouldn’t be surprised if that hurt him with the jury. It was so good though…
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. hollywood reporter this week, to explain the intriguing title of his film.
Matthias, a gruff and obtuse man who went into exile in Germany to find work, returns to his multi-ethnic hometown in Transylvania. His father, Otto, is unwell and his 8-year-old son, Rudi, has not spoken since he suddenly freaked out in the woods on the way to school.
When the bread factory run by his ex-girlfriend Csilla decides to hire Sri Lankan employees, due to a lack of local labor, the villagers rise up to demand that the workers be immediately sent back to their country. “We have nothing against them, they say in chorus, but we prefer them at home!” »
It is this uninhibited xenophobic discourse, fueled by the extreme right, which has invaded Europe (and not only Europe…) that interests Cristian Mungiu NMR. It was inspired by a news story about a village in Romania, where citizens of Romanian, Hungarian and German origin live, who wanted in 2020 to expel foreign workers who had been there from the local factory who had been hired.
Islamophobia, racist stereotypes about hygiene and disease, fear of invasion, “great replacement” theory: Mungiu, Screenplay Award at Cannes 2012 for beyond the hills and Director Award for Baccalaureate in 2016, especially without sparing his compatriots.
It 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 accept to welcome anything but white Europeans into their homes. “Uncovering the details of this news, says the 54-year-old filmmaker, I realized how fragile notions of empathy and humanity are. But also that the human being has very little trouble awakening the dark side that lies dormant in him. »
NMR It is, in the image of this observation, an austere, gray film, with snowy and desolate landscapes, like most of Cristian Mungiu’s works. The filmmaker’s gaze on his society is relentless. He does not forgive, however, the rest of Europe, through the character of a young Frenchman who works for an NGO (and whose job is to count the number of bears in the forest), to whom we remind the disastrous effects of colonization. and the failure of the integration of African, black and Arab populations in France.
Cristian Mungiu offers another brave, disturbing, destabilizing film, whose enigmatic ending, in the form of a fable, nevertheless left me doubtful. After 8 out of 21 movies, I’m still waiting for a real crush on this 75Y official competition of the Cannes Film Festival.
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