Matthew Lickona 3:45 p.m., Dec. 15
Writer-director Ruben Östlund takes aim at the whited sepulcher of Western Civ and liberal democracy with the story of a Stockholm museum curator and his new exhibit: a lighted square that serves as “a sanctuary of trust and caring. Within its boundaries, we all share equal rights and obligations.” Outside its boundaries, it’s a nasty world of operators, beggars, and thieves, and it’s purest folly to imagine that things will change just by stepping inside. The monkeys tell the story: first, the chimp lolling about the apartment where our curator uses his alpha male status to bed a spunky journalist; second, the performance artist who apes a gorilla at a swanky museum gala, with awful and predictable results. And the story they tell is this: never mind your dreams of culture and sophistication: you’re just beasts in black tie. Everything — from the exhibit’s marketing to the curator’s quest to retrieve his stolen wallet and phone — testifies to the same sad truth: The Square is pious nonsense. All that matters are tribes and territories, and even your efforts to toward genuine humanity serve only to ruin your imaginary edifice. Östlund is blunt but not bald in his pointmaking, but he does seem to enjoy the audience’s discomfort, which makes it both surprising and gratifying that he’s able to offer a morsel of hope by the end. 2017.
- Barbarians at heart • November 15, 2017