Recent Articles:

She and He at the Movies

Share on Google Plus

Claes Bang in THE SQUARE, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

 by Katherine Vallin and William Alexander Yankes

The Square, winner of Cannes’ Palm D’Or in 2017, is a feature film by Swedish writer/director Ruben Östlund with actors Claes Bang and Elizabeth Moss.

He: Shall we step into The Square?
She: I’d rather view it from the edge.
He: Unlike the title of this Oscar-nominated foreign film from Sweden, there are no right angles, nor straight lines in this feature production.
She: The story hinges on a charismatic, womanizing museum art curator’s conundrums.
He: Can you blame him? Women flock to him in droves. He doesn’t even have to really pursue them.
She: This journey starts when a journalist confronts him with his own intellectually obscure commentary on art. Befuddled, he finds himself barely capable of making sense of it.
He: There’s a comedic moment when the camera focuses on their respective facial expressions in reaction to this exchange.
She: The curator asks if one places a woman’s purse in the museum, does that make it a work of art? 
He: While exploring the meaning of contemporary art, the film actually takes us into the darker and more profound malaise of our economically divided society.
She: An artist comes up with the idea of creating a square. Anyone stepping into the square is strongly encouraged, if not outright obligated, to treat others with genuine humanity, empathy and compassion.
He: The plot takes a turn when the curator, anxious over dwindling donor contributions, hires a young marketing team to disseminate this notion of the square as part of a campaign to increase public attendance…
She: He is buffeted by the social reality of the homeless, forcing him to grapple with his own sense of ethics in a complex society.
He: This satirical tale questions whether art encompasses how we live, the decisions we make that involve our private values and ethics, as well as our relationships with other people; or is limited to our relationships with material, inanimate objects.
She: Or, whether art provides a comfortable space for the well-heeled at a safe distance from the less desirable sector of humanity.
He: Look, I think the square is a space created on the brick walkway outside the museum as an artist’s attempt to interrupt that distance.
She: The square plays out as a symbol of a frame. What you place inside it becomes art, especially in the sacred place of a museum, where one is predisposed to admire art, even when what we gaze at is eschatology.
She: This film runs itself into a trap by trying to say too many things.
He: Yet, it has humor, dark humor that makes you cringe.
She: There are moments of absurdity.
He: Also, tongue in cheek scenes. What’s taxing is that the film develops on the slow side, even though the music is haunting throughout and the cinematography is awesome.
She: It holds a mirror before a society worshiping absurdity as art.
He: Since art represents the society that creates it, the larger question posed by the film asks whether or not society has become a pile of dirt, as the exhibition in the film seems to suggest. If so, it is the case that the emperor really has no clothes!
She: After a long setup, and many layers later, the film really begins when the protagonist engages in a dramatic interaction with a little boy, who forces him to face his responsibility. Finally, the museum curator steps out of his wealthy cocoon of pretense…
He: …into a symbolic trash bin to take a moral stance.
She: Yes, the viewer feels the vicarious pressure. But I have a bone to pick with it. I wish the film would connect with the audience more emotionally than intellectually.
He: Even though we were ushered into an art museum, the discussion becomes more about the art of living by thrusting us into a story that underscores a stark contrast between the wasteful wealthy and those the well-to-do don’t see nor hear.
She: Hmm. There were many nuances. I could give it another shot.
He: What do you mean by that?
She: Ha!

Katherine Vallin has worked as a production designer and co-producer for many films in Hollywood.  William Alexander Yankes is a film critic and a documentary filmmaker.

You Might Also Like



Brooklyn & Boyle is a print and online magazine dedicated to art, culture and community in Boyle Heights and the Greater East Side of Los Angeles, as defined by the residents of neighborhoods such as Boyle Heights, City Terrace, East LA, Lincoln Heights, El Sereno, South Pasadena, Cypress Park, Arroyo Seco, Highland Park whose lifetime roots in those communities give their stakeholder status that cannot be erased or replaced by gentrification and economic displacement. These are places which in culture and creativity every bit as creative and cultured as one another in which hybrid language and culture have always mattered and have always been every bit as developed and sophisticated as that produced and projected elsewhere in the L.A. Metropolitan Area. Our editorial platform and policies, above all, are based on support support for community integrity and an acknowledgement of--as well as a respect for--the history and heritage of those whose families, have long called these East Side neighborhoods home.

Like us on Facebook

Blog Archive