Sunday 9 September 2012

CAPITAL - TIFF 2012 - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Master Filmmaker Costa-Gavras who thrilled us with classics like "Z", "State of Siege", "Missing" and "The Confession" is back in action, aiming as his deft, nerve-jangling directorial magic upon the world of high finance.

Capital (2010) ****
dir. Costa-Gavras

TIFF 2012
Special Presentation

Starring: Gad Elmaleh,
Gabriel Byrne, Natacha Regnier, Céline Sallette, Liya Kebede, Hyppolite Girardot, Daniel Mesguich

Review By Greg Klymkiw

“All my means are sane, my motive and my object mad.”
- Captain Ahab, in Herman Melville's classic novel of obsession, Moby Dick

The movie begins, as it should, with a jolting cut to a golfball perched on a tee. It is, after all, a game. So too is high finance. In many respects, the games are the same. The goal is to drive something forward with brute force. The motive is also the same. You play to win. Technique, grit, fortitude, strategy and mastery are everything.

Unlike golf, however, the game of finance is best played when the rules are broken. Nobody admires a cheater in golf.

And so it is, that a crisis of potentially staggering proportions occurs during this game of golf and plunges us into Capital, the new film by Maestro Costa-Gavras (Z, State of Siege, Missing, The Confession).

The handsome, young Marc Tourneuil (Gad Elmaleh) tells us in voiceover and then, boldly, to the camera, that he's been working as a ghostwriter for the CEO of Phenix Bank, Jack Marmande (Daniel Mesguich) who has just been rushed into hospital for an emergency testicular cancer operation. Marc is appointed as Jack's replacement - though in reality, he's to be little more than a public front. The real strings of power are to be pulled by Jack and all the other members of the high-powered Board of Directors.

Marc, has other plans. Once the appointment is public and official, he makes it clear that he's running the bank - his way. He has no intention of being a CEO in name only. He's already been shamed with a take-it-or-leave-it low salary, but the pot has been sweetened with bonuses based on profits and the company's value on the stock exchange. How's an ambitious young fellow going to boost his salary?

Make money.

What's compelling about the film is watching this hot, smart, young guy make bold, but incredibly inhuman decisions (massive layoffs and firings among them) that infuriate the old fogeys around him, please the shareholders and most of all, allow us, the audience to vicariously live through his character.

We clearly get to have as much fun watching him as his character has an equal amount of fun running the company. While many of Marc's decisions are the sort that continue to give financial institutions a bad name, there's a flamboyance to this character and Elmaleh's performance that always keeps us on his side.

This is an international-breakout-star-in-the-making role for Elmaleh. He's a big comedy star in France, and though he appeared in character roles in TinTin and Midnight in Paris, it's Capital where he displays his leading man qualities to perfection. He plays the role straight, often in a deadpan that's perfect for his character. This understated quality is what allows Elmaleh to have fun with a role in which the character he plays is also having a lot of fun - even in especially tense moments.

Gavras is having fun, too. He directs the film with the sort of nerve-jangling propulsion so that this drama about banking is imbued with the qualities of a thriller. We feel the glorious power and manipulation of this world, while at the same time we sense that more can be at stake for Marc than just his job.

And it's fun!

Marc wears only the finest made-to-order suits, parades into ultra-swank fundraisers with his gorgeous wife (Natacha Regnier), attends meetings on Miami yachts outfitted with the most exquisite food, booze and women, parties with a gorgeous fashion model (played by actual super model Liya Kebede), travels to a variety of exotic locales in a private jet, gives endless media interviews where he gets off on spouting as much smart-sounding, but empty nonsense as possible and, of course, he gets to play the best game of all - high finance.

There might be some obvious comparisons between Capital and Oliver Stone's Wall Street and its lame sequel Money Never Sleeps, but the big difference is that the former Stone picture suffers from a bad case of "let's have fun watching Michael Douglas's Gordon Gekko be a scumbag", then in the last third of the movie hand out an almost predictable bummer of overt, humourless moralizing, while in the latter, we're delivered the biggest tub of bull droppings imaginable as Gekko seeks (God Help Us, All) REDEMPTION!

Capital is never predictable. Gavras lays out the world Marc inhabits and details the character's brilliant machinations. Unlike the Stone pictures, we never have to feel bad about enjoying the excess. At the same time, though, said excess is so overpowering that we're pretty much allowed as an audience to make up our own minds about the moral implications of Marc's actions. The picture also allows us to experience the reality of how so few control so many and that we're all pawns in the take-no-prisoners world of finance.

We also get the pleasure of delicious villainy. Marc may be up to all manner of nasty stuff, but early on in the film, one of his chief antagonists is a dark New World Order-styled banker-as-shark. Dittmar Rigule (a zealously slimy Gabriel Byrne), rears his ugly head as a huge threat to Marc, but also to the free world as we know it. Watching Elmaleh and Byrne go head-to-head is fraught with danger, suspense and the pleasure of seeing a game player as committed as Marc facing even higher stakes and hurdles for our him to challenge.

On a strictly personal front, Capital infused me with the same spark of excitement I had as a kid during the 60s and 70s - watching great pictures by Costa-Gavras and so many other tremendous filmmakers. The privilege of being able to experience - at very tender and impressionable ages - movies that not only entertained, but were, ultimately always ABOUT something is never lost on me and is happily reinforced when I see a contemporary picture like Capital.

That said, there's nothing old fashioned about the filmmaking. Gavras was ALWAYS ahead of his time and now he's caught up with the times and made a movie that lives and breathes NOW, but like his previous work, is so expertly rendered that this and his other pictures go well beyond ephemeral pleasures.

They're so modern that they'll always feel fresh.

That's what makes classic motion pictures. That's how filmmakers with cinema hardwired into their DNA, like Maestro Costa-Gavras continue to dazzle us - now and for all time.

"Capital" is playing at the Toronto International Film Festival 2012 (TIFF 2012) Monday September 10 Cineplex Yonge & Dundas 9 3:00 PM and Saturday September 15 Scotiabank 3 8:30 PM. For tickets, visit the TIFF website HERE.