Francegiving

Bonjour y’all, welcome to the American Fables’ Review… thingy. I really gotta come up with a better name for these. But that’s all just a bunch of hoopla for Season Two, because tonight I welcome you to the much anticipated

~ Season One Finale ~

At long last, the votes are in and it looks like we’ll be doing a review of the international holiday, Francegiving!

So, interesting tidbit about this review before we dig in: I’d already written this review back in November, right after Thanksgiving, but I never published it because I think I had a couple of other reviews that were ready and I thought this lil’ pup was a bit too hot to release just then. Now that it’s had a couple months to cool off, I think I’m ready to take a ~ trip ~ back to that particular time, and that very particular mindset.

Without further ado, let’s unscrew the lid on this little time capsule.

 


 

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Hey, everyone, today we’re going to do a very special review. It’s the beginning of the holiday season, and I thought I’d go ahead and kick it off with a review of the national French holiday, Francegiving. Now, I know a lot of you probably have objections like, “Zack, that’s not a real thing” or, “Zack, you can’t review holidays, that doesn’t make any sense,” but honestly, after a bottle of wine and a day like today, I can review anything I damn well please.

So let’s dig into it. En gros, Francegiving is a holiday celebrated by American expats residing in France. It’s based off the American holiday, Thanksgiving, a day of relentless indulgence (not to be confused with Mindless Self-Indulgence) and intense visceral regret coupled with undercurrents of thankfulness and familial tensions. Traditionally, an American family will hunt down a wild turkey, slay it, pull out all of its feathers, stuff bread into its butt cave and roast it in an oven. Following the ritual hunt, they will then share their turkey with a tribe of Native Americans, so as to render them sluggish and complacent prior to appropriating their land or running piping in or around it—oops! Almost got a little ~ political. ~ That reminds me though: what’s one crucial difference between Francegiving and Thanksgiving? No heated family debates over politics! Not because there aren’t any politics over here, but rather there isn’t any, uh, family here. Not for me anyway, I mean, that is to say,

I am alone.

Let’s go ahead and break down this holiday into its base components: there’s the invitation stage, the meal prep stage, and then the actual feast itself. Naturally we’re gonna take this thing apart chronologically, starting by dismantling the invitation stage. Now, Francegiving is unique among holidays in that it is a celebration that absolutely no one expects you to celebrate, and one that you have zero obligation to participate in. Unlike Thanksgiving, your family won’t be dragging you along to any relatives’ places and you won’t get invited to, like, ten different “Friendsgivings.” This means that when you decide to participate in Francegiving, you have no one but yourself to blame.

That said, I’m a Francegiving veteran, having celebrated it twice in my life, and I’ve learned that this special holiday can look a lot of different ways. For example, my first Francegiving was spent in the beautiful city of Lyon and I didn’t have many friends and I lived in a tiny dorm outside of town, so I bought a whole pizza that night and ate it. All of it. By myself.

But this time was different, and last week I walked into the office and told my colleagues that this year we were going to celebrate Francegiving! Sure, you know, it took a little explaining, but I also told them that I was going to cook food for them and supply beer, so they agreed, and that is how this year’s invitation stage kicked off.

FRANCEGIVING_TWO_test
Holidays are for family.

Since you’re in another country where you don’t know many people, and, depending on when you arrived, the people you do know you probably don’t know very well, it’s quite likely that you’ll accrue an eclectic bunch of thankful, albeit confused, kinda-friends. For example, you might want to invite the nice butcher who reminds you of your middle school band teacher, or perhaps your much older neighbors, or your roommate because they can’t really say no. Just make that a staple in your conversations for a week, inviting everyone you talk to, and making sure to mention that you’ll be cooking food and supplying alcohol. Remember, in the moment, it doesn’t matter who you invite or what you say, because it’s your future self that has to deal with all this and not your present self.

Now, after you’ve invited people over for Francegiving, you’re going to want to devote a very minimal, though constant, stream of attention to the project. This way, you can maximize distress by thinking extra about this event without actually doing anything to prepare for it. This is the psychological equivalent of packing peanuts: you can make it seem like you’ve crammed a lot into a week while having done nothing extra at all. The best way to do this, in my opinion, is to start thinking about preparations every night at 7:45, right when the E. LeClerc closes. Meditate on these feelings of malaise until bedtime, and then coast off the norepinephrine till the wee hours of the morning. This strategy is doubly effective, because not only will you accumulate more stress the next day due to sleep deprivation, but you’ll also miss the free air markets in the morning because you’ll be sleeping in. Since all the seasonal food you know how to make requires stupidly specific ingredients that are only offered periodically in the grocery store and in the markets, missing the markets is essential to securing that last minute frenzy you’ll want the day of Francegiving.

By now you might be feeling a little uncomfortable, maybe there’s some subtext to this review that I should be more forward about. You’re probably saying something like, “well geez, no one made you celebrate this holiday,” and, “golly gee, mister, do you maybe wanna talk about this in a less public space.” But honestly, No, this is just another straight forward review from a straight shooting guy. So, that brings us to the preparation stage which should begin in earnest the morning of, at the earliest. Since celebrating Francegiving necessitates that you live in France, you won’t have the day off work, because the government for some reason doesn’t recognize Francegiving as an official holiday. That’s perfect though, because this means you get to wake up extra early before work, buy everything at the supermarket and then try and cook it all right after work. Hopefully you’ve set the RDV time optimistically early in the evening so that you’ll be sprinting back to your apartment to ram-jam that turkey in the oven.

Pause. Breath. Un-pause.

Let’s talk about what you’ll actually be buying: everything. Buy all the things you could conceivably cook in one day if that day was on Venus, and make sure that you do none of the unit conversions at home. Some of my fondest memories of Francegiving as a twenty-three year old took place right there, in the canned food aisle of LeClerc, trying to figure out how many grams 30 ounces of corn is. Look up none of the translations beforehand either, because Francegiving is all about the journey and part of that journey is trying to explain what nutmeg is to a sale’s clerk while you’re running late for work.

I recommend a price range of somewhere around 100 euros, or roughly one eighth of your monthly salary. Anything less than that isn’t going to be enough to  trigger an existential crisis. See, 100 euros is the threshold for calling into question your motives for planning this event in the first place: why would you spend that much money on something you didn’t need or necessarily want to do in the first place? Not to mention, you’ve known these people for, what, about two or three months, au maximum? This is just going to be awkward. Like, you wouldn’t even normally spend this kind of money on people you’ve known for years, why are you going to do it for virtual strangers? Clearly, you’re not doing this for them, but are you really doing it for you?  You would’ve been perfectly satisfied to Facetime in to one of your friend’s Friendsgivings or your family’s actual Thanksgiving. So if it’s not for them, and it’s not for you, then who is it for?

Let’s talk about the meal. Now, you should anticipate a certain level of

C

O

N

F

U

S

I

O

N. As per tradition, you’ve not explained what Thanksgiving is to any of your guests or why it is you want to celebrate it. You may expect,

for example, that one of your guests brings an apéritif or some biscuits to enjoy before the meal. This will be a

blessing

in

disguise, because testing your oven for the first time on Francegiving means that you’ll have turned the oven off several times by accident

I mean, if it wasn’t in accident, it was self-sabotage. Why would I do that?

Why would anyone do that?

while trying to cook your turkey. Consequently, when you open your front door and accept the apéritif from your neighbor, telling him or her that the cuisse de dinde is cooking as we speak and will be ready in an hour, that will be,

in fact,

what we North Carolinians call,

a lie.

And by extension, this also means that the turkey will not,

in any way, shape, or form,

be ready by dinner time.

… Just needed to refill my glass real quick before continuing on.

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Never fear the black smoke! 

Let’s talk about mysterious black smoke. For any other holiday celebration, mysterious black smoke would be a real canary in the coal mine, indicating that something is clearly amiss. But on Francegiving, never fear the black smoke, it’s great for reinforcing the sense of enigma surrounding your strange hybrid celebration. The annual black smoke hunt is a time-honored tradition, and I think we can all agree, it’s less about actually finding the source than the maddening, frenzied hunt.   

Sooner or later, the nature of time will inevitably see you all seated at the dinner table. Tis’ now the season for merriment and non-familial bonding between you and your melange of hastily adopted family members. Remember all those great equivocating skills you learned in French Lit class? Time to employ all the genre de’s, the Une sorte de’s, the C’est compliqué’s, and all the En fait, je sais pas du tout qu’est-ce que c’est ou comment l’expliquer, mais à la base c’est une…’s that you’ve ~ bien maîtrisé ~ to describe your savory simulacra of recipes you grew up with and still never learned to properly cook.

Some of you might be worried about cooking food for French people given their rich culinary patrimony, but let me just tell you, sample size of four and they all ate my stuffing so don’t you worry about a thing. For those of you who’re reading this that aren’t from the States, stuffing is literally stale white bread that is made to be put inside of a turkey’s excavated asshole. So, really, there are two take away points: don’t be afraid to cook for other people, and the bar for acceptable French cuisine is considerably lowered the moment bread is added to a recipe.

What else did I cook besides stale bread crumbs? Well, let’s break it down, listicle style:

 


Three Recipes you Absolutely Cannot Forget about this Francegiving

Dishes that will make the holiday season memorable for everyone in the office whose first name you remembered.

Corn Swamp,
The Martha Stewart approved recipe for abiogenesis.

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Mega Crispy Turkey Leg, 
Mega crispy, yet somehow still not cooked all the way through.

Mega_Crispy_test

Butternut Squash Puddle,
Perfect pie surface, hiding the sloppy-slop lagoon below. 

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Well, that about does it for today’s review. I don’t want to come off as a sellout, but I should be upfront and disclose that this review was, in part, paid for by Schadenfreude— Schadenfreude, the disconcerting feeling of joy you get when get when you watch someone else fall down stairs or see Sarah Huckabee Sanders take the podium.

In total, I give Francegiving my first score of 0. Zilch. Aucun flocon de neige. What I’m saying is: don’t celebrate this holiday. Just don’t. Thanksgiving is about being thankful for good fortune and family; Friendsgiving is about being thankful for friends (and white affluence, I’d imagine). Francegiving? Francegiving is about an Instagram post.

Look, if you have friends in France, have yourself a Friendsgiving, tag it #Francegiving, and be done with it. But whatever you do, don’t try and build this baby from the ground up. Instead, just buy yourself un demi, or maybe even a pint, and call your mom. Have her put you on speakerphone, say hi to the fam, and tell them all what a wonderful time you’re having across the pond and how much you miss them this Thanksgiving.

 


 

And that’s it. We’ve reached the end of Season One of Today in Review. Yep, that’s what we’re going with, we’re calling the thing Today in Review and sticking with it.

I really do hope you’ve enjoyed this project so far. I know I have.

We’re back in a couple months with another season, but in the meantime, we’ll be focusing our energies on developing our fiction catalogue. If you haven’t read our first two complete short, Sun Shines Bright and A Trip Down Memory Lane, please do. We’ll be publishing new chapters of Lost in the Woods soon, and hopefully releasing all new stories, unrelated to The Escapists.

One final note: we’re always looking to work with new artists, so if you’re interested, feel free to contact us here, at:

Americanfablesofficial@gmail.com

Send illustrations, animations, stories—you name it, we’ll be happy to look over it.

Until next time,

À toute, y’all.

-Z

 

Purée de Sésame

Sésame Butter, Demi-Complète, puréed by La Vie Claire; reviewed by me.

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Photograph of the sesame butter manufacturing process, taken by the AF Media Division.

Bonjour y’all, and welcome to another riveting review brought to you from Saintes, France. Today we’ll be tucking in to the world of gastronomy and French cuisine with a sinfully unsweet jar of La Vie Claire’s Purée de sésame demi-complète.

In a world where the white, middle-class man can live at large without fear of major, non-fiscal consequences for his actions, comes one big jar of repercussion.
It’s the original  “slap-on-the-wrist” for your tongue;
it’s a Trojan horse filled with awful;
it’s La Vie Claire’s sesame butter, and it’s come to sucker punch you in your mouth.

Let’s really get into it, though. First off, I gotta say, it’s pretty bad. Eating this is definitely better than eating bark, but only because you don’t have to chew it first. That said, eating this butter is probably worse than taking a bath in it: it tastes like something that would be way better to rub on your skin, like soap or a good aftershave.

I originally bought this after deciding to go vegan and having no idea what to eat. I was lost, confused, and I didn’t know where to go or what to do… I’d traveled too far down the millennial rabbit hole without a lantern. I needed a light, a guide, and then there it was, in the back of the organic food co-op–my Virgil. Little did I know, Dante’s three part voyage to a more eco-friendly Paradise wasn’t all Musky space cars and community gardens, but it also involved the occasional unsuspecting bite of liquid mediocrity.

I do wonder, though, what did they actually have in mind for this product when they made it? Maybe it wasn’t made to be eaten, and this has all been one big misunderstanding. It’s all too possible that somebody simply moved this purée from the Health & Beauty section and misplaced it in the comestible section. Hmm, if we just have ourselves a look on the back of the jar… “Cette purée est préparée à partir de graines de sésame complet…” blah, blah, blah here’s a summary:

This is a purée composed of shelled and… well, I’d say de-shelled, but that’s not a word. The thing is, there’s already a word for de-shelled: it’s shelled. If you shell something, it no longer has a shell. Which means it’s shelled. But if something has a shell on it, then you can also call it shelled. I… I don’t know what to say anymore. The only word I want to use is shelled, a word now devoid of meaning, torn apart by the duality of its definition.

Anyway, it’s a purée made of half no shells and half shelly sesame seeds, mashed to bits, and thrown in a jar. Apparently, it’s the shelly seeds that give it its ~ strong ~ flavor, and I guess that means they really did intend for us to smear this in our mouth holes. Huh.

It’s not all bad news, though! If you swallow, or just hold it in your mouth for a long time, you’ll absorb a wide range of nutrients such as fiber, magnesium, and phosphorus (which I didn’t know I needed, but if it lights a match, I want it in my body!). Speaking of fire, this mash has never even heard of it: the only thing this purée has been subjected to is ritualistic grinding on the ol’ millstone. No heat, no pasteurization, no preservatives, no sterilization… I presume none of these precautions were taken because even fungi were like, “Oh, better not. I’ll stick with your unsealed bread loaves and warm milk.”

You know, it’s also possible this is all about food combinations or whatever. According to the back of the jar, you can use it in your vegetable pâtés or you can dilute it in water and… add it to your drinks? Seems a little out of left field, but alright, you can add it to your drinks. Actually, I’ve got some oat milk in the fridge—maybe their equal wave functions of awfulness will cancel out and I’ll be left with just, like, normal milk. One final suggestion is to simply spread it on toast, which is, in fact, the first thing I ever tried to do with it. What this does is effectively slow the chewing and consumption process down to increase time spent on your tongue, prolonging the contact between your wriggly taste worm and this wood paste. I would just not.

All in all, I give it nine snowflakes, because eating this product was a genuinely new and invigorating experience for me. Like being pinched in a dream or dunked with water mid-slumber, my eyes have been opened! For too long I’d lived coddled under the flanneled wing of Trader Joe and Whole Foods. Then, La Vie Claire came in to my life like a leather-clad Dom or The Contortionist and showed me what it truly meant to be metal.

I’m not saying this stuff is good; it isn’t. It’s definitely one of the worst things I’ve ever tasted and that’s including many inedible things I accidentally (or purposefully) put in my mouth as a kid. But I’m giving it nine snowflakes because it’s a new perspective for me and it’s just, I don’t know, authentic. It’s genuine—it’s got nothing but the raw ingredients.  We, the consumer, asked for food that was untampered with, with no added sugars, no preservatives, no nothing, and only one champion of truth stepped out from the shadows and dared give us what we asked for. La Vie Claire was the only one who was able to not only call us out on our bullshit, but serve it right back to us with a giant ORGANIC sticker on it.

So, there you have it. Hope you enjoyed the review; feel free to drop a Comment, slap on a Like, or maybe even spread it around with a Share. Whatever’s in your practice today. Until next time, keep it viscous, y’all.

Dirk Gently (Season 1)

Alright, we’re back after the holidays and an extended vacation from reviewing. It seems that the Sun has also been on holiday seeing as we haven’t seen daylight in Saintes since before the New Year… on the bright side, this weather’s been great if your New Year’s resolutions were to, say, avoid melanoma or perhaps be more generally wet. This year is shaping up to be a good one for all the French vampires and pretty trash for everyone else.

~ This image ~ I nabbed off of Itunes. Thanks, ghost of Steve Jobs.

 

Moving on. All this ~ not-being-outside~ has given me some time to catch up on my Netflix queue, and after pounding back episode after episode in rapid succession, I’m ready to review season one of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, created by Max Landis. This series is an adaption of Douglas Adams’ (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) novel by the same name, and has been described by one French critic as a “Dadaist nightmare,” so get yourself in the mood for a post-WWII quest for meaning in a meaningless world type-thing.

It’s a pretty good watch, though, definitely better than being turned into a dog by a gaggle of counter culture cultists looking to blackmail your… spoilers. I guess that’s getting into the realm of spoilers. That said, it’s definitely worse than actually being involved in the Universe’s plan to fix itself. That’s, like, an instant solution to existential dread—step aside, Sartre & Kierkegaard! I’m on a mission from the Universe and everything is connected and there is such a thing as Fate and Destiny, but they’re not mutually exclusive and they only kind of interfere with my free will to an unspecified, definitely non-paradoxical degree. You know how much time that would save me? I’d never worry again about the infinite number of ever multiplying, constantly diverging paths that lead out in all directions, the many headed hydra of possibilities that creeps closer, grows larger with every decision you make. It wouldn’t matter! I’d just be on one big ol’ universal superhighway with no exits, riding it until I eventually fall asleep at the wheel and crash the car.

What a dream that would be.

So, let’s talk about the characters and plot real quick. We’ve got ourselves a sort of Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes-esque character named Dirk Gently. He’s got the superhuman ability to be exactly where he’s supposed to be in the Universe at any given time, and if you’re thinking, “Well, Zack, that’s not a superpower,” isn’t it though? Isn’t it? You can keep your invisibility and flight, because I know, at the end of the day, I’ll have either been hit by a car or shot down by an anti-aircraft gun. At least with Dirk’s superpower, I’ll die knowing that’s exactly how I was supposed to die.

Dirk is accompanied by Todd Brotzman, played Elijah Wood, who will reprise his role from Over the Garden Wall as extremely reluctant protagonist. Watch Todd’s transformation from begrudging sidekick to holistic parrot as he spends the latter half of the season regurgitating the same silly bullshit Dirk shoved down his throat in the exposition. They’ll also be joined by Todd’s sister, Amanda (played by Hannah Marks), and her struggle against a debilitating case of Pararibulitis, a made-up disease that seems like a cross between epilepsy and schizophrenia.  The whole thing with Pararibulitis becomes a little problematic by the end of the season though, but since another, more qualified blogger has already written about it (plus there are a few spoilers), I’ll pass you on over to them. (Click here)

The show’s main villain, played by Aaron Douglas, is fairly compelling and reminiscent of John Goodman’s performance in 10 Cloverfield Lane, just a lot less sinister. He definitely had a good creepy streak going for him in the beginning, but the more you learn about his character’s origin and motives, the more goofy and, at times, pathetic he seems, so by the end of the season, you don’t feel particularly threatened by him and his goons.

So where do we stand on this season? It’s definitely a good time all the way through, but I don’t know that you actually gain anything from watching it. What separates Dirk Gently from other characters in his archetype is that Dirk more often than not has no control over the situation and often becomes very overwhelmed by the absurdity he surrounds himself with. A good example of this is when Todd and Dirk infiltrate the home of Gordon Rimmer (the main antagonist), and Dirk very quickly finds himself well out of his depth. He becomes immediately paralyzed and useless by fear, which seems all the more peculiar as the show progresses and you learn the genesis of what seemed like Dirk’s precognitive and perceptive abilities. I think this makes him seem more relatable, and definitely sets him apart in the genre, but I don’t know that his character is wholly consistent.

Also, this show certainly has its share of gratuitous violence, which to be honest, I didn’t notice until a few episodes in (somewhere around the time the “holistic” assassin enters the fray). I’m not sure if this is more of a commentary on the series or my own viewing habits… or maybe society? Still, something to consider before watching.

All in all, I give this season six snowflakes. I wouldn’t say that it’s a must-see, but if you wanna get into that headspace where you’re mulling over the underlying interconnectedness of the world, this is definitely a good way to do it. Plus, it’s easier to come by than DMT and less of a commitment than LSD, though still not as potent.

I’m gonna go ahead and wrap this review up for now, and hopefully I’ll see y’all next week.

The Square

Directed by Ruben Östlund, reviewed by me. 

Snatched this poster of Allociné’s site. Still not sure if I can do that or not, but here we are, giving credit where credit is due. 

Hey, everyone, so today I’m doing my first movie review. I should probably mention I’m a pretty avid reader of Rotten Tomatoes’ home page, and I’ve read a lot of their certified critics’ one or two line reviews. So, that said, I think I’m ready to go ahead and cut my teeth on this year’s Palme d’Or winner, The Square, directed by Ruben Östlund. I watched the original version of this film with French subtitles about a week ago in the Théâtre Gallia. I wanted to write this review while it was still fresh in my mind, but, like, also ripe enough to really dig into, so that’s why I’ve given it a few days to mature in my mind-garden. I’m sure other film critics would argue that it’s better to write a review right after you’ve seen the movie, or even watched it a second time, but you know what, I’ve never subscribed to that kind of Rorschach, first impression applesauce.

So, all in all, it’s pretty good. I’d say it’s definitely better than watching The Room with your parents, but worse than eating saltwater taffy at the beach. Or eating anything while watching The Square; Théâtre Gallia is apparently too good for a concession stand. Their philosophy seems to be that we’re supposed to feel adequately nourished by the experience of auteur cinema alone, without the aid of snacks or drinks. I even snuck food into the theater once, but I couldn’t eat it because no one else was eating and pretzel M&Ms are too crunchy to eat inconspicuously and alone.

For all my philistine readers who just aren’t in the know, ol’ Ruben’s a Swedish director from Styrsö, a quaint town of roughly 1,300 inhabitants and famous for its exportation of Ruben Östlunds. And this film is, for the most part, in Swedish with the exception of scenes featuring Elizabeth Moss, which are in English. Elizabeth Moss, however, wasn’t in most of the movie, so I spent the better half of two hours reading the movie with my adoptive compatriots. Actually, that reminds me: as I was leaving the film, one of my adoptive compatriots was discussing the film with the lad working the front, and complained that it was a long film in which nothing really happened.

I, on the other hand, would beg to differ. Christian, our film’s protagonist, goes through a whole roller coaster of awkward emotions and encounters. Sometimes Christian shares genuine moments of camaraderie with strangers, fending off staged aggressions against women who then rob Christian of his wallet while he’s distracted. Sometimes Christian yells at obnoxious little boys, who’ve broken in to his apartment, and who’re causing a ruckus during the wee hours of night, much to the abject horror of his daughters. Sometimes Christian tries to flex his affluence, only to arrive at a distressing half-chub of ostensible power that thinly veils his true status as yet another pawn in this cruel and pitiless world. This seemed like a pretty important point, you know, that even though Christian is a well-to-do, white, middle-aged, sexy-in-that-rugged-hipster-dad kind of way dude, he’s gettin’ the business just like everyone else.

And by everyone else, I mean mostly homeless people. This film really drives home the wealth inequality and destitution that the humans of Stockholm are experiencing. If Christian isn’t in the office neglecting his responsibilities as museum owner or at home pulling his screaming daughters off of one another, he’s out and about interacting with the other half. Usually by passing them by and ignoring them only to change his mind later and interact with them in some charitable or recompensing way.

I do see where my disgruntled adoptive countrywoman was coming from though. The movie doesn’t really end on a high note; we’re left with a disillusioned and jobless Christian driving his daughters home after his quixotic quest to right his wrongs against an underprivileged family is cut short. But my boy, Ruby Two-Shoes, was aiming for that glorious, murky sweet-spot of désespoir, weltschmerz and crushing absurdity. Really a winning combo. He stated in an interview that he was aiming to capture that feeling of trying to right a wrong that you’ve committed only to discover it’s now too late and the moment’s passed. Basically, if ol’ Rubes wrote the ending of Chamber of Secrets, Fawkes would’ve arrived a minute later and dropped the sword of Gryffindor on Harry’s petrified corpse.

So, like I said, I watched this movie about a week ago and it was in Swedish, so I don’t really have any good quotes ready for you. But I do have some quotes from my first review, John Green’s Turtles all the way Down, that fit the bill pretty nicely, so I’ll be supplementing square-quotes with turtle-quotes.

Towards the end of the novel, Daisy tells Aza this with regards to their own tale and how it ended in a somewhat unresolved and unsatisfying way:

“You pick your endings, and your beginnings. You get to pick the frame, you know? Maybe you don’t choose what’s in the picture, but you decide on the frame.”

And I think ol’ Ruben would agree with that. See, ol’ Ruben’s not the kind of guy to crop you out of his profile picture; he’s the kind of guy that crops you in and then also the older gentleman photobombing your photo with his fly down, pecker out. When Ruby edits a movie, he doesn’t just leave the fat on the final cut; he leaves a little bit of skin and hair on there too. His shots are just a little bit longer than you want them to be, and you get that extra screen time with moments you just wish would’ve already ended or never existed in the first place.

Midway through the movie or maybe even later there’s a scene in the film where Christian and his two girls are hanging out in the museum, checking out the Square, and Christian explains to them a little bit about what it represents. By the way, the eponymous Square is a piece of modern art that Christian spent way too much money on to have brought to his museum in Stockholm. Sorry, totally should’ve mentioned that earlier. Anyway, allegedly the Square is a place where anyone, no matter who they are or where they come from, can stand and feel safe. The poor can stand among the rich here, and if you need help, help will be given; if you need to talk, then good conversation will find you. Inscribed on a golden plaque near the piece are the words:

“The Square is a sanctuary where trust and altruism reign. Inside, we are all equal in rights and obligations.”

Or something. That’s my translation of the French translation from its original Swedish. Or maybe it was in English… this might be an English translation of the French translation of the original English plaque. Doesn’t matter, it’s a plaque with a kitschy slogan on it. Similarly, in Turtle’s All the Way Down, Aza and Daisy are walking through an old sewer and they see the words ,“THE RAT KING KNOWS YOUR SECRETS,” scrawled on the sewer’s wall. I don’t want to equate the potency of these two masterstrokes of genius, but I think one thing the Rat King has over The Square is its likelihood of actually influencing the life of a homeless person. Although, that’s more of a geographical commentary than a content one.

All in all, I give this film seven snowflakes, because as far as auteur cinema goes it’s pretty accessible in that you can watch it and be pretty interested without having Bourdieu levels of cultural currency. Also, it really highlights the misgivings social classes have about each other and how it can be hugely awkward when they try and interact, even with the best of intentions, and deflates upper-class philosophical philanthropy and idealism, which is good, because a lot of us like to talk a lot and at the end of the day we’ve changed nothing other than the way we feel about ourselves. Plus, Östlund nailed the tone and experience he was going for, leaving us in a uneasy state of moral ambiguity.

I hope you liked this review and feel free to like it, or share it, or print it out and throw it in a bin. Either way, I’ll see you next week!