The Square (2017)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Square</strong> (2017)

(On Cable TV, August 2018) There’s an upsetting mixture of funny and troubling moments in The Square that makes it impossible to recommend as anything more than a collection of dark comedy sketches about the management of a modern art museum. On the positive side, there’s some biting satirical material about the hypocrisy of art marketing in an age that feeds on outrage (how far is too far when satire and reality blends?) On the other hand, wow—writer/director Ruben Östlund really isn’t interesting in delivering anything like a film with a beginning, development and conclusion: Dramatic and comic arcs are proposed, abandoned, settled within two scenes, revived-but-not-really, and then drawn out at the expense of more interesting material. Worse; the film positively delights in humiliation comedy and never knows when to quit a scene on a high note. Much of what’s strong about the film is usually inseparable from its worst qualities: The Man-Ape sequence (featuring Terry Notary), for instance, is unforgettable as much for its conceptual hilarity than for the excruciating experience of watching it play out over several very long minutes of acute discomfort. The lack of an ending is perhaps the film’s worst sin—after its wild ride, The Square doesn’t offer anything like a satisfying resolution, just dropping its plot threads one after another. Perhaps that’s part of the joke … but it won’t work as well on all audiences.

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