Inside Job – Review

INSIDE JOB (2010) 

Directed by Charles Ferguson. Narrated by Matt Damon.

When reviewing a documentary like this I think it’s fair to make a distinction between the subject matter of the documentary and the actual merits of the film-making itself.

On the subject matter front, “Inside Job” surely deserves all the awards it is receiving (it recently won the Oscar for best documentary too). The film sets to explain the reasons (or arguably, some of the reasons) behind the financial crisis that’s hit the whole world. How did we end up where we are and whose to blame?

It could be a fairly dry and dull subject , and a rather complicated one too, but Inside Job, for most of it, manages to keep it simple and gripping at the same time without dumbing it down too much. Inevitably it ends up focusing more one one side of the argument (the  bankers) as opposed to following the more controversial route (going against the politicians. Though they do get mentioned, the film prefers not to be so hard on them as it is on those corporate people, obviously a much easier target).

And since we are all on the same boat in this never-ending financial crisis and we are, forgive me the term, rather pissed off at the way the whole thing has been carried out and handled, we are perfectly happy to see it all laid out the way it is and eventually everyone will come out it feeling even more angry and frustrated than they were before.

On that respect the film obviously really works.

As a piece of film, “Inside Job” is less interesting.

Its pace is very uneven: sometimes a bit too fast when it should be slow and a bit slow when you just want it to get on with it, for example there are way too many beginnings (one of them is probably there just because it plants the seeds for one of the best jokes  of film later on about the instability of Iceland). Not everything hits home as it probably should and not everything is as clear as it should be. After a while one million begins to sound a lot like 10 millions or 100 millions or even a billion… it’s just a whole lot of money which we’ll never see anyway… It gets slightly repetitive.

In most sequences the documentary unravels like a series lectures of economy: it is mainly voice over driven (read by Matt Damon who seems to be everywhere these days), visualized by unimaginative graphics and straight forward unremarkable archive footage. The real skill here seems to be more in the writing than the actual film-making. That’s by no means a criticism. This isn’t a film by Micheal Moore and, for most of its length, it doesn’t even try to be one: there are no stunts, and, on the surface, no tricks either.

And yet, everyone who has seen this film will most likely remember the last third, which is probably the closest thing to something that Michael Moore would do, and to me, the most interesting part. It is the moment the film-makers turn against their contributors: economists, journalists and professors, who are just as guilty as everyone else.

Watching them squirm in their seats having to defend  themselves when they thought they were just there to give us a history lesson is the most pleasurable part of the film.

And because we all want to point fingers and blame everyone for their greedy needs, we probably fail to notice the slightly biased use of the editing: I’m thinking of all those moments when questions are asked off-camera just so that we can catch the surprised faces of the people who are being interviews, and then the films cuts away to the next sequence, without giving them really the chance to answer.

We really don’t mind though: we hate those people anyway and as long as they look stupid and guilty we are happy with it.

In the end, it’s great to see a documentary like this, on a subject like the big economic crisis, getting all the awards it’s getting and though that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a masterpiece, I hope it does mean we are ready to chance the way people regulate our economy…

7/10

Catfish – Review

Catfish

Directed by Henry JoostAriel Schulman. Starring Yaniv SchulmanMelody C. RoscherAriel Schulman

It’s virtually impossible to talk about Catfish without spoiling it for all those people who haven’t seen it. As the poster itself says “don’t let anyone tell you what it is”, so I’ll try to be extremely careful, just  in case, because I do think people should see this film!

Catfish will suffer from the expectations that moviegoers might have been given by the advertising campaign, which once again is very misleading.

The trailer sells is as something that it is not: A thriller or some sort of dark twisty tale. And it’s certainly dark but not in the way you’re expecting it to be: it’s actually so much more than that. It’s a window into today’s world. A touching modern tale of online dating and chatting. A look at today’s society and the ability anyone can have of living a “second life”.

If you go into it thinking that it is a horror, you will leave very disappointed. However if you go in with no expectation or an open mind, you will find yourself moved by this touching documentary.

The authenticity of the documentary itself has been called into question (though the film-makers swear it’s all true). Personally I don’t think the documentary is a fake, or at least the main story isn’t, mainly because it all seems way too plausible.

Yes, of course, some of the sequences might have been re-staged afterwards and some of the realism looks a little too real: for example, all the stuff around the setting up of the microphones, or the shots were the camera has been left on in the car just long enough for us to get the idea that our characters are getting ready.Or the shots of our main guy, with his hand in his pants, as if he didn’t even realized that the camera was on him… Or the final few scenes around the last package that arrives. Even the main’s character’s haircut conveniently changes when we need to know that time has passed .

However whether it’s all true or not is irrelevant to me.

It’s interesting to compare it with fake-documentary (released only few months ago) “I am here” by Casey Affleck. In that case, the fact that the documentary had been faked it, made the whole thing seem pretty redundant and in the end, you’re just just left with a scam which is hard to take seriously.

Here the message of the film is clear and yet at the same time it manages to be quite subtle.

It works either way, whether the whole thing has been set-up or not… Oh I wish I could say more!

I should probably watch this film again to be able to tell you whether the film is a one time trick or if it might even work on repeated viewings, however I was hooked and on the edge of my seat all the way through.

On the visual side of things, Catfish has the usual “handheld/shaky-cam” style we are so used to seeing these days, but it’s also full of little touches that fit the story so well. For example the Google-Maps and Street View style to show characters’ locations both in New York and Michigan and the houses of people miles away and yet so clear and so real…

This is what good storytelling is. It’s a clever, thought-provoking and intelligent documentary that will stay with you long after the credits have rolled on.
I saw this a week ago and I am still thinking about it.

8.5/10

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