THIS space has previously revelled in the rush of films, documentaries and telemovies about the recent global financial crisis. Hollywood has been particularly quick to document or dramatise the meltdown of Wall Street and US banking a few years ago, way more so than previous recessions or financial crises in 1992, 1997, 2000 and even 1987, notwithstanding the seminal film from that moment, Wall Street.
There is some irony in US filmmakers chastising the financial and political powers on the east coast when the bigger west coasters in Hollywood are subtly wreaking havoc on their own industry. Today, big, bloated franchises or adaptations reign and those with financial muscle have a huge advantage in making and marketing their films.
And in an unrelated occurrence, The Avengers is the big DVD release this week.
While US filmmakers have attacked the Wall Street personalities and the behaviour of those close to Capitol Hill, the financial crisis is being reflected more subtly in cinema from other nations. A swag of dark dramas from Italy — including Il Divo, Gomorrah and I Am Love — in their own ways reject the dirty power and wealth that dominated Italy under Silvio Berlusconi.
And the ‘‘weird wave’’ of modern Greek cinema — including Attenberg, Alps and Dogtooth — suggests a kind of off-kilter malaise that reflects, at least to me, a people unsure of legacies they’ve been handed and not knowing where to head, so they’re putting their heads in the sand.
American filmmakers have been far more obvious about their economic dilemma. The beauty of the new release Margin Call (MA15+, Becker, 107min, $39.99) is not being so obvious. J. C. Chandor’s Academy Awardnominated screenplay in a way rejects the Hollywood notion that Wall Street, no matter how many nefarious types inhabit it, remains a hedonistic, aspirational place.
Of course, the casting of good-looking types including Demi Moore, Paul Bettany, Simon Baker and others as scheming bankers perpetuates that myth.
But the top people in a fictional trading firm undertaking massive layoffs and despicable trades to work itself out of the mire are all falling hard, mostly nervous and introspective. If there’s glamour, it’s squalid.
Chandor has a great cast — also including Stanley Tucci, Zachary Quinto, Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons — and he lets them act with sharp dialogue and, mostly, multi-dimensional characters. Bettany is wonderful and Spacey terrific while Irons lets rip as the unapologetic chairman. The performances allow a potentially claustrophobic film to breath. I’M off for a big break now. Thanks for reading and for your feedback. We’ll take up the conversation in the new year — and in the meantime, welcome Stephen Fitzpatrick, who’ll be taking DVD letterbox under his wing while I’m away.
(M) Disney (179min, $29.99)
(MA15+) Hopscotch (219min, $29.99)