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Ruben Östlund’s toe-curling comedy

Ruben Östlund’s toe-curling comedy

Our pick of the best new films and television

Our pick of the best new films and television

October/November 2017

FILM

Bella figura
Christian (Claes Bang) runs a hip Stockholm gallery and prides himself on his liberal metropolitan values. His latest installation is a square of pavement marked out in front of the gallery in which visitors are encouraged to be trusting and caring. But when his phone and wallet are stolen, he is forced to ask whether he is quite as enlightened as he thinks he is. The winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2017 Cannes film festival, The Square (above) is another razor-edged comedy of bourgeois manners from Ruben Östlund, the Swedish writer-director of “Force Majeure”. In scene after toe-curling scene, Christian is thrust into situations awkward enough to test his middle-class politeness to breaking point – and beyond. Elisabeth Moss, Dominic West and a show-stopping gorilla are on hand to make matters worse.
In America from Oct 27th

That old black magic
Yorgos Lanthimos’s films are so distinctive that they deserve their own adjective. Whether in English (“The Lobster”) or his native Greek (“Dogtooth”), they are dour, deadpan fantasies, exquisitely acted and wildly original, balancing cruel horror and outrageous comedy. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is his most mainstream work so far, though that’s not saying much. It’s a twisted parable about a heart surgeon (Colin Farrell), his poised wife (Nicole Kidman) and the greasy teenager (Barry Keoghan) who puts a mortal curse on their family. The typical Hollywood treatment would explain where the teenager got his diabolical powers and how the couple could defeat him. But, in Lanthimos’s alternative reality, they just have to accept that they’re doomed and then figure out what to do next. It’s this cool absurdism that makes the film so skincrawlingly disturbing, and so deeply funny: in fact, so Lanthimosian.
In America from Nov 3rd and in Britain from Nov 17th

Through the glass
The first film Todd Haynes (“Far From Heaven”, “Carol”) has made for a family audience, Wonderstruck, like his other movies, glows with his love of period detail and follows lonely souls straining to connect. Adapted from an illustrated novel by Brian Selznick, it flits between 1927, when a deaf girl (Millicent Simmons) travels from New Jersey to New York, and 1977, when a deaf boy (Oakes Fegley) heads there from Minnesota. The way the two converge may seem hokey to older viewers, but beneath the whimsical plotting is a big-hearted tribute to the magic of local cinemas, second-hand bookshops and labyrinthine museums. The film’s craftsmanship is of museum quality, too: the 1927 scenes are filmed in silent black and white, while the hustling, bustling 1977 segments are so authentic you can almost smell the rubbish piled on the pavements.
In America from Oct 20th

Nicholas Barber is a film critic for The Economist and BBC Culture online
 

TV

Naughty business
This fabulously grimy production reunites the team of writers behind “The Wire” – David Simon, George Pelecanos and Richard Price – for the first time since HBO’s celebrated social drama went off air. The Deuce is another sprawling examination of a criminal subculture: in 1971 (the year before “Deep Throat”) the porn business was changing from under-the-counter trade to today’s multi-billion dollar industry. There are fabulous performances from James Franco (playing twins), Maggie Gyllenhaal (above), Gbenga Akkinagbe and Lawrence Gilliard junior as a bartender, a gambler, a hooker, a pimp and a policeman orbiting the dark star of the sex trade. The writing crackles with sympathy and humour and the New York sets are as convincing as anything since “Mean Streets” (1973). Seventies throwbacks full of coke and casual misogyny are becoming a genre of their own, but “The Deuce” rises effortlessly higher.
On HBO from Sept 10th and Sky Atlantic from Sept 26th

Mistress of mystery
The second Margaret Atwood adaptation this year, Alias Grace is a deft and sinister counterpoint to the shattering dystopian horror of “The Handmaid’s Tale”. Based on real events, it stars Sarah Gadon as Grace Marks, an Irish servant sentenced to life for the supposed murder of her former master. Years later, claiming to have no memory of the event, she spends her days sewing for the prison governor’s wife – until a commission of local Methodists hires a psychiatrist to interview her. What is Grace hiding? Her alleged accomplice went to the gallows screaming her name. “Perhaps I’ll tell you lies,” she says with luminous calm. The plot thickens and thickens. Beautifully lit, acted and filmed, this is a darkly gleaming delight.
On Netflix from Nov 3rd

Tim Martin writes about TV, games and technology for 1843

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