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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 10.04.17] Sweden comedy drama

Writer/director Ruben Ostlund left a huge impression a couple of years ago with Force Majeure in which he tackles the breakdown of a relationship when, in a moment of tragedy, a husband acts to save himself rather than his wife and children. It's a sometimes funny, often poignant exploration of relationships and self preservation and that marked Ostlund as one to watch.

His follow-up, the Cannes winning The Square, is an equally audacious piece of work, this one exploring everything from art to social political issues.

Ostensibly the individual at the centre of this story is Christian (Claes Bang), the director of a museum of modern art who finds himself in the impossible position of acquiring new, important work while also engaging the media and the public at large with said work. His entire world view comes from a place of privilege and when he's duped by a couple of street hustlers, he takes matters into his own hands and though he eventually gets his stuff back, it causes more trouble and uproots his life far more than simply having lost the stuff to begin with.

In parts, The Square is a work of genius; one of the best and funniest commentaries on the insular art world, an often irritating observation on the prejudices of having a lot of money and perhaps most poignantly, popular culture's self-obsession. The problem is that in trying to tackle so much, the movie also gets repetitive, occasionally long winded and in the end, boring.

As Christian becomes more embroiled in dealing with his missing stuff, the less interesting the movie gets and the introduction of his daughters add little to the story other than bloating the running time. It's clear what Ostlund is going for - having Christian come to self realization and in the process teaching his kids to not make the same mistakes he's made - but the payoff is doesn't justify the bloated storyline.

While on a scene-by-scene basis The Square is perhaps one of the funniest movies I've seen all year, as a whole it doesn't work. It's simply too long to sustain its themes which start to wear thin at the hour mark and in the second half, it reverts into a circular pattern, repeating itself over-and-over to the point that I was pretty much ready to walk away. Art is a construct. We get it. Now let's move on.

The fact that Elisabeth Moss, perhaps one of the best actresses currently working, is relegated to little more than a walk-on role (with some amazing scenes) doesn't help matters any. I far prefer Force Majeure to this latest offering.

The Square opens in limited release on October 27.

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Recommended Release: Force Majeure

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