Films mine financial collapse for material

'Wall Street,' 'City Below' among pics in the zeitgeist

CANNES -- Two years after the collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers trigged a meltdown of the global economy, a trio of films at Cannes offer very different, but complementary perspectives of why everything went so wrong.

From the Hollywood gloss and Michael Douglas-driven swagger of Oliver Stone's Out of Competition entry "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," to the quiet deliberation and art house introspection of Christoph Hochhausler's "The City Below," running in Un Certain Regard, to Charles Ferguson's blow-by-blow documentary "Inside Job," a Cannes Special Screening, the dismal science of economics has rarely been so compelling.

"There haven't been many films set in the world of finance, with the exception of the original 'Wall Street,' because there's nothing inherently visual about it," Hochhausler told THR. "These bankers and hedge fund managers are the new kings, they have tremendous power but you never see them, all the action takes place in grey office buildings and on computer screens."

Oliver Stone gets around this problem by pumping up the action and, as he did in his 1987 original, shoots "Wall Street 2" like a thriller. The result is mainstream entertainment with a message: Capitalism as practiced in go-go period of the last 20 years has failed.

More Cannes coverage  
Hochhausler took a more interior approach on "The City Below." Instead of trying to make high finance more exciting, the German director shows how the manipulation and amorality of the banking world plays out in a private setting. When Roland (Robert Hunger-Buhler), a top banker, falls for the young Svenja (Nicolette Krebitz), he plays King David to her Bathsheba and arranges to have Svenja's husband transferred to a dangerous post at one of the bank's operations in Indonesia, where he is likely to be killed. Roland is the anti-Gordon Gekko, marked more by cool deliberation than cocky bravado.

"When we were doing research for the film among Frankfurt bankers, we kept running up against 'Wall Street' because for these guys, Gordon Gekko is their idol," Hochhausler said. "It shows how impossible it is to create a true anti-hero in the movies."

Ferguson perhaps gets closest to exposing the true face of Wall Street with "Inside Job." The fast-moving documentary plays like Michael Moore with brains, taking us through the ins and outs of the financial crisis while keeping its sense of head-shaking humor at the absurdity of it all.

Speaking of absurd, a Cannes screening of "Inside Job" provided one of the more amusing incidences this festival of art imitating life.

As the credits rolled on Ferguson's doc, a man sitting next to Oliver Stone muttered to the "Wall Street" director: "Man, that would be a great subject for a feature film."
comments powered by Disqus