Dvd let­ter­box

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - Michael Bodey

MICHAEL Win­ter­bot­tom is one of the cinema’s most in­trigu­ing di­rec­tors.

The Brit doesn’t con­fine him­self to any genre or style. He can jump — though not al­ways ef­fort­lessly — from con­tem­po­rary drama ( Go Now) to pe­riod drama ( Jude) to pe­riod spoof ( Tris­tram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story) to com­edy ( The Trip) to drama­tised doc­u­men­tary ( 24 Hour Party Peo­ple) and more.

He de­liv­ers a film ev­ery year and his high­turnover, high-risk ap­proach presents many sur­prises. One must ad­mire his abil­ity to turn a creative rest­less­ness into such a con­stant stream of movies, but it comes with a caveat. The oc­ca­sional film emerges as lit­tle more than the un­der-de­vel­oped idea he be­gan with.

The Shock Doc­trine (M, Hop­scotch, 78min, $29.95) is a case in point. It is a hastily as­sem­bled adap­ta­tion of Naomi Klein’s best­selling book of the same name that ex­plores an al­ter­na­tive his­tory in which eco­nomic or po­lit­i­cal shocks be­come po­tent in­stru­ments of change, and may even be ma­nip­u­lated to be so by gov­ern­ments.

The film is an ex­ten­sion, of sorts, of Win­ter­bot­tom’s far more con­vinc­ing 2006 film (also co-di­rected with Mat Whitecross), The Road to Guan­tanamo (the three Brits fea­tured in that film also ap­pear to­wards the tail of this one).

The Shock Doc­trine ca­reens through a pros­e­cu­tion of an ar­ray of con­tem­po­rary shock ther­a­pies, sheet­ing them all home to econ­o­mist Mil­ton Fried­man’s pow­er­ful push for free-mar­ket cap­i­tal­ism. It’s a di­dac­tic film, and this isn’t the forum to de­bate the le­git­i­macy of Klein’s the­ory.

Of course, re­views have been po­larised be­tween those of lib­eral-lean­ing view­ers who agree whole­heart­edly with Klein and those who can ap­pre­ci­ate the film’s short­com­ings.

And they are ob­vi­ous. It is busy but un­fo­cused. It comes across as an un­der­grad­u­ate the­sis, bar­relling from one blind­ing light of in­spi­ra­tion to an­other with lit­tle the­matic struc­ture. Win­ter­bot­tom’s great strength as a di­rec­tor is he is his own man. Un­for­tu­nately, on The Shock Doc­trine, he could have done with a tu­tor over­see­ing and straight­en­ing up his work.

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