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CANNES — “Cleveland vs. Wall Street” is subprime filmmaking. In this documentary on the devastating numbers of foreclosures that have crippled certain neighborhoods in the Rust Belt city, filmmaker Jean-Stephane Bron concocts a mock trial in which Wall Street is the defendant.
Usually one must drop by street theater to witness drama this crude or attend a university production to find a message this didactic. Like many documentaries, this Directors’ Fortnight presentation has a clear editorial viewpoint and thrust: Cleveland is the innocent victim and those far-off rich people are the culprits. That may be so, — a much better-made and intelligent film at this festival, “Inside Job,” indicates that — but under Bron’s heavy-handed direction, this is a cinematic sermon that is merely preaching to the choir.
Much of the film is set in a courtroom where a kindly plaintiff’s attorney calls witnesses to tell of their plight, and then be cross-examined by the defense attorney. As such, “Cleveland” is a talking-heads bore. On the plus side, that may be an enticement for weary festival attendees who might close their eyes during much of the production and simply listen to the pro-forma questions and answers.
There is one interesting witness, however: A former drug-dealer revels in getting out of the ghetto by applying his street-corner savvy to mortgage lending, a profession which calls for the same mathematical skills and morals. Unwittingly, he doesn’t appreciate how he shoots Cleveland’s case against the predatory outsiders in the foot.
When Bron does open things up visually, it’s with prolonged pans of blighted neighborhoods and other crude techniques usually ironed out in Filmmaking 101. In this inadequate filmic case, Cleveland deserved better professional representation.
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