From Satyajit Ray and Lars von Trier to Richard Linklater and Edgar Wright: Three is the magic number

One film? Anyone can do that. A set of two? Just bookends. Three is a force to be reckoned with.

Three: that’s the magic number. Trilogies are where it’s at for any world-class filmmaker—think of Satyajit Ray (the Apu trilogy), Krzysztof Kieślowski (the Three Colours films), Lars von Trier (the Golden Heart series: Breaking the Waves, The Idiots, Dancer in the Dark) or Lindsay Anderson’s three films starring Malcolm McDowell as rebellious-schoolboy-turned-coffee-salesman-turned-investigative-reporter Mick Travis (in If…, O Lucky Man! and Brittania Hospital). One film? Anyone can do that. A set of two? They’re just bookends. But three is weighty, commanding, a force to be reckoned with. It’s the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  “Diptych” just sounds silly. “Triptych”? You could hang that baby in the Met.

My thoughts turn to this subject because of the release in the UK of Paradise: Love, the first part of Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise trilogy. Each film is devoted to the search for happiness and fulfilment by a different woman in the same family: Paradise: Love is about sex tourism, Paradise: Faith (which opens next month) concerns religious fanaticism and Paradise: Hope (released in August) takes place at a teenage diet camp. The three films interconnect in small but significant ways; seeing them all in one sitting—as you can do at various cinemas on Sunday 16 June (the Bristol Watershed and four London venues: BFI Southbank, Curzon Renoir, Rio Dalston and the ICA)—helps to highlight those echoes and overlaps. It will also be emotionally exhausting, but that goes for most great cinema.

And next week we’ll see Before Midnight, the concluding chapter in Richard Linklater’s romantic-realist Before trilogy. I’ll be looking at the impact of these wise, intimate films in this week’s NS; I notice also that some cinemas are screening double-bills of the previous two, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, in the next few weeks. They remain essential viewing, and peculiar among trilogies for having such a long gap (nine years) between each segment. But that has only contributed to their value, their weight: the intervening years have enabled each film to mature. Watching them now together is a revealing experience—you can see Ethan Hawke shed his puppy fat and grow wolfish teeth; you can marvel at how Julie Delpy gets looser and funnier with age.

The rule with trilogies, for me at least, is that they have to be made by the same director (which disqualifies, say, the post-Manhunter Hannibal Lecter movies, even though they all star Anthony Hopkins). Also, their trilogy status should ideally not be applied retrospectively. There doesn’t have to be an explicit link between characters or even themes. Next month, for example, brings the release of the last part of the more informal “Cornetto” trilogy—Edgar Wright’s The World’s End, which follows the same director’s Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. All three star the same lead actors (Simon Pegg—who also co-wrote the movies with Wright—and Nick Frost) and feature a scene in which someone buys a Cornetto. Beyond that, there is Wright’s spirited genre-busting to unite them. A trilogy united by tone and sensibility is still a trilogy.

But will the emergence of more Cornetto flavours to follow the original ones (strawberry, vanilla, mint choc chip) around which the trilogy was conceived mean that the series will now extend beyond its natural life? If so, the films need to be better than the new Cornettos. I tried popcorn-and-salted-caramel flavour the other day. It was bloody disgusting.

Paradise: Love opens on Friday, Before Midnight on 21 June, The World’s End on 19 July.

Paradise: Love, the third part of Ulrich Seidl's Paradise trilogy is released this week.

Ryan Gilbey is the New Statesman's film critic. He is also the author of It Don't Worry Me (Faber), about 1970s US cinema, and a study of Groundhog Day in the "Modern Classics" series (BFI Publishing). He was named reviewer of the year in the 2007 Press Gazette awards.

Steve Garry
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The footie is back. Three weeks in and what have we learned so far?

Barcleys, boots and big names... the Prem is back.

Another season, another reason for making whoopee cushions and giving them to Spurs fans to cheer them up during the long winter afternoons ahead. What have we learned so far?

Big names are vital. Just ask the manager of the Man United shop. The arrival of Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger has done wonders for the sale of repro tops and they’ve run out of letters. Benedict Cumberbatch, please join Carlisle United. They’re desperate for some extra income.

Beards are still in. The whole Prem is bristling with them, the skinniest, weediest player convinced he’s Andrea Pirlo. Even my young friend and neighbour Ed Miliband has grown a beard, according to his holiday snaps. Sign him.

Boots Not always had my best specs on, but here and abroad I detect a new form of bootee creeping in – slightly higher on the ankle, not heavy-plated as in the old days but very light, probably made from the bums of newborn babies.

Barclays Still driving me mad. Now it’s screaming from the perimeter boards that it’s “Championing the true Spirit of the Game”. What the hell does that mean? Thank God this is its last season as proud sponsor of the Prem.

Pitches Some groundsmen have clearly been on the weeds. How else can you explain the Stoke pitch suddenly having concentric circles, while Southampton and Portsmouth have acquired tartan stripes? Go easy on the mowers, chaps. Footballers find it hard enough to pass in straight lines.

Strips Have you seen the Everton third kit top? Like a cheap market-stall T-shirt, but the colour, my dears, the colour is gorgeous – it’s Thames green. Yes, the very same we painted our front door back in the Seventies. The whole street copied, then le toot middle classes everywhere.

Scott Spedding Which international team do you think he plays for? I switched on the telly to find it was rugby, heard his name and thought, goodo, must be Scotland, come on, Scotland. Turned out to be the England-France game. Hmm, must be a member of that famous Cumbrian family, the Speddings from Mirehouse, where Tennyson imagined King Arthur’s Excalibur coming out the lake. Blow me, Scott Spedding turns out to be a Frenchman. Though he only acquired French citizenship last year, having been born and bred in South Africa. What’s in a name, eh?

Footballers are just so last season. Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane can’t score. The really good ones won’t come here – all we get is the crocks, the elderly, the bench-warmers, yet still we look to them to be our saviour. Oh my God, let’s hope we sign Falcao, he’s a genius, will make all the difference, so prayed all the Man United fans. Hold on: Chelsea fans. I’ve forgotten now where he went. They seek him here, they seek him there, is he alive or on the stairs, who feckin’ cares?

John Stones of Everton – brilliant season so far, now he is a genius, the solution to all of Chelsea’s problems, the heir to John Terry, captain of England for decades. Once he gets out of short trousers and learns to tie his own laces . . .

Managers are the real interest. So refreshing to have three young British managers in the Prem – Alex Neil at Norwich (34), Eddie Howe at Bournemouth (37) and that old hand at Swansea, Garry Monk, (36). Young Master Howe looks like a ball boy. Or a tea boy.

Mourinho is, of course, the main attraction. He has given us the best start to any of his seasons on this planet. Can you ever take your eyes off him? That handsome hooded look, that sarcastic sneer, the imperious hand in the air – and in his hair – all those languages, he’s so clearly brilliant, and yet, like many clever people, often lacking in common sense. How could he come down so heavily on Eva Carneiro, his Chelsea doctor? Just because you’re losing? Yes, José has been the best fun so far – plus Chelsea’s poor start. God, please don’t let him fall out with Abramovich. José, we need you.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 27 August 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Isis and the new barbarism