Art for Art’s Sake

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Great art is supposed to make you think hard and often feel uncomfortable doing it. Such is the case with The Square, a dark comedy from Sweden in which A Night at the Museum meets Curb Your Enthusiasm – with squirm-inducing results.

Set for screening April 6-8 at the Flint Institute of Arts, The Square won the prestigious Palme d’Or, the top prize at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, and was nominated for the Academy Award for best foreign film. Its satirical targets are art, sex, money, altruism and hypocrisy, as the handsome, high-minded curator of a Stockholm modern-art museum falls from grace when he fails to practice what his new exhibit preaches. The titular exhibit is described as “a sanctuary of trust and caring,” but the museum head lacks such noble qualities.

The curator, who gets caught up in a series of increasingly strange happenings involving an American journalist and others, is played by Swedish actor Claes Bang, but his co-stars, Elisabeth Moss (from TV’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Mad Men, here as the journalist) and Dominic West, are more familiar to U.S. audiences. Their efforts dare to be stolen by smaller-part actor Terry Notary, who pretends to be a chimpanzee in a striking example of performance art. (A personal note: working for the Flint Institute of Arts is fun, but refreshingly chimp-free.)

The director of the R-rated The Square is Ruben Ostlund, whose similarly cringy Force Majeure – another not-so-rosy look at human nature, that one set during and after an avalanche – showed at the FIA three years ago.

April’s other options in the FIA’s Friends of Modern Art film series are two other Oscar-nominated titles and a romantic dramedy featuring two much-honored veteran stars.

Coming to town April 13-15, Call Me by Your Name brought its screenwriter, longtime filmmaker James Ivory, his first Oscar. In a transcendent tale of first love, a precocious 17-year-old (Oscar nominee Timothée Chalamet) in Italy bonds with his father’s research assistant (Armie Hammer).

Lady Bird – at the FIA April 27-29 – earned five Oscar nominations: nods for screenwriter and director Greta Gerwig and for best picture, plus plaudits to Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf as a rebellious, ambitious teenager and her prickly, cynical mom, respectively.

Also on the FIA slate, for April 20-22, is The Leisure Seeker, in which the pleasingly familiar Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland play a runaway couple in a remarkable East Coast road trip in their rundown RV.

As always, information on all screenings at the FIA is available by visiting FlintArts.org or calling 810.234.1695.

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