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The Square is a Caustically Elegant Satire With No Right Angles

The Square is a Caustically Elegant Satire With No Right Angles
From TIME - October 26, 2017

It's challenging enough to make a comfortable life for yourself. How much are you supposed to care about the welfare of others, particularly people who have fallen through society's cracks?

There's no measurable answer to that question. Which is perhaps why, in wrestling with it, Swedish director Ruben Ostlund's caustically elegant satire The Square has no real ending. It does, however, have a beginning and quite a few terrific middles. The picture, winner of this year's Palme d'Or at Cannes, is ambitious and frustrating, teasing us into wanting to know exactly where it's going, only to slip away with a final shot that's barely a whisper. Yet its seductiveness is sublime. Instead of making you think--a tack that never works anyway--its way of thinking trails you, devilishly, out of the theater. It's a trickster in movie form.

Danish actor Claes Bang plays Christian, the suave, 50-ish chief curator of a Stockholm museum dedicated to out-there art. This tony institution is gearing up for a new exhibit, "The Square," whose chief feature is a strict arrangement of cobblestones accompanied by a plaque that reads, in part, The Square is a sanctuary of trust and caring. The exhibit is an invitation to ponder the nature of the social contract, and how on earth does an institution sell that?

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