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AT THE TRIPLEX: Satirical magic

Satire is a magic trick.

A talented satirist knows the subject he is sending up so well that, if done right, you won’t know what was farce and what was reality. It also helps if the thing he is sending up is inherently ridiculous, which may be one reason you often see the word “political” directly in front of “satire.”

When it comes to the movies, you often find filmmakers sending up politicians themselves. It is a natural fit, as most politicians rely on the same kind of charisma that actors use to make it in the movies. Films like “Bob Roberts,” “Primary Colors,” “The Candidate,” and “Bulworth” all harness the star power of their leads to capture the energy of a political campaign while exposing the moral failings of its participants.

“Bulworth,” 1998. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios.

But sometimes filmmakers go out of their way to avoid focusing on politicians themselves and instead turn the camera on the career employees, military personnel, and consultants who actually do the bulk of governmental work. These are movies where messy, deeply flawed people are in positions of power, leading to disastrous results that range from murder (“Burn After Reading”) to vast cover-ups (“Wag the Dog”), or even the end of the world (“Dr. Strangelove”).

But if there is one political satire that pulls off this magic trick better than any other, it is Armando Iannucci’s “In the Loop,” which will play at the Triplex this Saturday (April 20), followed by an interview with star David Rasche. A prequel to Iannucci’s BBC series “The Thick of It” and a forerunner to the work he would do on “Veep” (and co-writer Jesse Armstrong’s work on “Succession”), “In the Loop” populates its world of international politics with deeply petty, profane people.

“In the Loop,” 2009. Photo courtesy of IFC Films.

And unlike other entries in this genre, “In the Loop” doesn’t heighten to the point of improbability. There are no hitmen or murders to spice things up — just rooms of bureaucrats arguing about whether or not the world should go to war. It is a depiction of mundane work that leads to catastrophic results, and it is a credit to Iannucci and his collaborators that they keep you laughing throughout.

Because that is the real trick of satire: to make you laugh with joy and scream with rage at the exact same time.

Now Playing

“End of the Road”
A far-out trip from Terry Southern and Aram Avarkian.

Still pushing boundaries 50 years after its release, “End of the Road” is a cult movie that is ready for rediscovery. Starring Stacy Keach and James Earl Jones in some of their first film roles, director Aram Avarkian tells the story of a man driven catatonic by the state of the world who finds new life (and tragedy) when taken in by an unorthodox doctor. Plays April 24 as part of our “Berkshires at the Counterculture” series.

“End of the Road,” 1970. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

“Sasquatch Sunset”
A look at the life of Bigfoot with Jesse Eisenberg.

What’s it like to be Bigfoot? That is the question at the core of The Zellner Bros.’ “Sasquatch Sunset,” which follows the ups and downs of a family of sasquatches over a year of their life. Surprisingly earnest and moving (with an unrecognizable Jesse Eisenberg and Riley Keough in the lead roles), “Sasquatch Sunset” takes a silly premise and turns it into something surprisingly human.

“Sasquatch Sunset,” 2024. Photo courtesy of Bleecker Street.

“A Stage of Twilight”
An emotional tour-de-force with Karen Allen and William Sadler.

A heart-wrenching meditation on how to say goodbye for the last time, “A Stage of Twilight” is centered around two knockout performances from Karen Allen and William Sadler as a couple forced to grapple with end-of-life planning. Karen Allen and producer Brian Long will join us for a talkback following the 4:15 p.m. screening on April 21.

“A Stage of Twilight,” 2022. Photo courtesy of Cardinal Flix.

“Civil War”
A provocative dystopian thriller from Alex Garland.

From writer/director Alex Garland (“Ex Machina,” “Annihilation”) comes a dystopian tribute to the courage of journalists. Starring Kirsten Dunst, Wagner Moura, and Cailee Spaeny as war correspondents traveling through a near future America on the brink of all-out war, “Civil War” is an action-packed thriller that was made for our political present.

“Civil War,” 2024. Photo courtesy of A24.

“Wicked Little Letters”
An uproarious period piece with Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley.

A satirical farce about the biases lurking under the surface of a small town, “Wicked Little Letters” reunites Olivia Coleman and Jessie Buckley from “The Lost Daughter” in a hilarious period piece. When an anonymous writer begins sending profane letters to residents of a small town, all eyes turn to Irish immigrant Rose (Buckley), until the women in town suspect it is not that simple.

Coming Soon

“Alice’s Restaurant”
Arlo Guthrie and Matt Penn in person!

Director Arthur Penn brings Arlo Guthrie’s antiwar ballad to the big screen in this counterculture classic. Featuring many of the actual participants in the infamous littering incident as themselves (including Stockbridge Police Chief William “Obie” Obanhein) and shot on location throughout Stockbridge and Housatonic, “Alice’s Restaurant” shows just how out there the Berkshires can be. Part of our “Berkshires at the Counterculture” series.

“Alice’s Restaurant,” 1969. Photo courtesy of United Artists.

“Challengers”

From Luca Guadagnino, director of “Call Me By Your Name,” comes a sexy, intense drama about what it means to win. Zendaya stars as a tennis-player-turned-coach who becomes romantically involved with two tennis players (Josh O’Connor and Mike Faist) and manipulates their relationships to produce results—both on and off the court.

“Challengers,” 2024. Photo courtesy of MGM.
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The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.