Posts Tagged ‘Bunuel’

Film” “Force Majeure”

January 22, 2015


A prosperous Swedish family – husband, wife, young daughter and son – are on a 5-day vacation at a French ski resort. They are having lunch at an outdoor cafe when they hear a rumbling, and see a wall of snow slowly descending the mountain. It is awesome, and the husband, Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke), films it with his smartphone. But it grows larger, and is soon a roaring wave that threatens to drown them all. Tomas quickly grabs the phone and runs, leaving wife and children behind him. Fortunately, there was no avalanche – it died at a safe distance – but the husband’s cowardly act cracks a fault line in the marriage, and is the basis of this slyly comic, but unsettling film, the fourth feature by Swedish director Ruben Ostlund.


l to r: Kristofer Hivju (Mats), Johannes Kuhnke (Tomas), Fanni Metelius (Fanni), Lisa Loven Kongsli (Ebba)

Ebba, the wife (Lisa Loven Kongsli), hides her resentment at first, but soon advances it, relentlessly. She uses it to humiliate him with another couple, and then does it again at dinner with his friend Mats, who is divorced and vacationing with Fanni, a girl half his age. At first Tomas denies it, saying Ebba “misperceived” what happened. Mats, uncomfortably, tries to defend him. Then, in an excruciating scene, Ebba slam-dunks it by playing the video that Tomas shot on his phone. The image of both couples peering down into a tiny screen is one of the funniest in the film.

Ebba’s victory proves hollow, however. Tomas sinks rapidly into self-pitying, and the children are terrified that the family will break up. Without recourse, Ebba resolves to save the marriage. Finally, on the last day’s ski run, the crisis is resolved in a harrowing scene.

This is the first of Ostlund’s films that I’ve seen. While the story does grip, the characters are off-putting, to say the least. The contest of wills is played out icily, without passion. There is no violence or screaming; sobbing only prevails. The spectacular winter scenery seems to trivialize the discomforts of these pathetic humans, as I think was Ostlund’s intent. He’s been likened to some of the masters – Bunuel and Michael Haneke in particular – and this is not invalid. But Bunuel, even when skewering the upper classes in late works like The Discreet Charm of the bourgeoisie, kept it comically surreal, making the movie more fun, if less disturbing. Haneke is closer, but Ostlund can’t begin to match the brilliance of his dialogue or skill with actors.

But his skill in undeniable. What appears to be a flying saucer hovering over the night snowscape is revealed as a children’s toy. Also memorable is the tableau of the children and Ebba, in despair, covering a weeping and prostrate Tomas with their own bodies. And yet, you are always reminded that the characters may only be demonstrating emotions to each other, without true feeling, much as the actors who are playing them.

I admit that I was absorbed, but also confused by the film. Does Ostlund’s contempt for his characters extend to us, the viewers? Does he delight in manipulating us, but have no moral center? If true, and he’s just a smug bully, he’s not doing it for our lunch money. He just wants to tease, point and laugh. But he gets a pass – this once – because he is clever and original. Just be wary.


Jobs Follow Demand

May 31, 2011

      Paul Krugman’s latest semi-rant in the Gray Lady is no different from his earlier ones — except that he grudgingly admits to the “sin” of innocence.  He should be faulted, he says, for his innocence of the political realities that keep our economy in this prolonged slump; that maintains a jobless rate near ten percent after more than two years.  If only they had listened, he froths.  Ah, but there is till time.

   His solution? Why, another WPA project of government works, he says, one that repairs our fast decaying infrastructure.

   Did I read that right?  Another WPA?  Krugman still believes that because it worked the last time — or almost worked, at least until FDR recoiled and tried to balance the budget — that it can work this time if only we carry out the program fully.  He also seems to believe that the damned obstructionist Republicans are the only obstacle, but that because they are pitifully devoid of coherence and leadership now (no argument there), we might actually get the chance to do it right this time.

   Provided Obama mans up and unifies his own party behind him.

   Is that all there is to it?  I think not.

   What Krugman seems to overlook about jobs created as part of a frantic, jerry-built public program like that is that those jobs give no real boost to the economy at all, and that the increased debt only adds more dead weight.  The marketplace doesn’t need that.  What it needs is something that sharpens the public’s appetite enough so that they are willing to wait in line for the product.  And, yes, I’m am talking about the IPad2.  Only we need at least half a dozen more like it.  Although this country no longer produces the absolute best in consumer goods, we remain the leader in marketing and distribution on a massive scale.  I think we need government to partner with our largest employers, as well as our most promising startup companies, to break into foreign markets at a level of penetration that we haven’t seen for years.

   Stoke the demand first; the jobs will follow.

The New Woody

   Just a brief word on Midnight in Paris.  Yes, it is a delight, and his wittiest script since Deconstructing Harry.  But that Times article on the artists from the 20’s portrayed in the  film slipped up big time.  The mini gaffe was not to mention that hideous, and hilarious, faux Picasso.  Supposedly a portrait of his fictional mistress, this goofy doodle was as witty a parody as any of the pretentious bilge uttered by his imaginary Hemingway.

   But the bigger gaffe made that one a trifle.  The article misidentified the Bunuel film about the dinner guests who couldn’t leave as The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.  It was actually The Exterminating Angel (1962).

%d bloggers like this: