Dvd let­ter­box

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - Michael Bodey

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.

This week

(M) Dis­ney (179min, $29.99)

(MA15+) Hop­scotch (219min, $29.99)


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