7 August 2014 | l_rawjalaurence
Familiar Subject Crisply Handled
LE CAPITAL is an interesting film to compare with Martin Scorsese's WOLF OF WALL STREET, released a year later. Both contain similar subject-matter (the rapacity of the modern-day banking world) inspired by recent events in major financial centers such as London, Paris and New York. Nonetheless Costa-Gavras' film works much better as an indictment of contemporary greed as compared to Scorsese's. There are several reasons for this: unlike Leonardo DiCaprio in the Scorsese work, Marc Tourneuil (Gad Elmaleh) is a genuinely unsympathetic central character. His expression (in public, at least) seldom changes as he ruthlessly consolidates his position as CEO of Phenix Bank, a Paris-based institution with aspirations to participate on the world stage. Anyone getting in his way is ruthlessly brushed aside; even those who support him in his quest for power are not exempt. His personal life is treated equally ruthlessly - although married to Diane (Natacha Régnier), he shows no scruples in his relentless pursuit of supermodel Nassim (Liya Kebede), even though she strings him along with equal ruthlessness. At the same time Marc is well aware that he is putting on an act; there are several moments where he uses voice-over to communicate his true feelings to the audience, and he sometimes addresses them direct to camera. He is nothing more than a prisoner of ambition; in the dog-eat-dog world of high finance, he has to play the game, however much he dislikes it. Sometimes LE CAPITAL does seem a little over-moralistic in tone - the sequences involving tyro banker Maud Baron (Céline Sallette)(who sacrifices a promising career in Phenix Bank's London office in order to expose the corruption lurking beneath a proposed business deal) tend to be rather static, especially the one taking place next to the Seine, where Maud invites Marc to give up his money-dominated existence and pursue the path of righteousness. On the other hand Costa-Gavras' film makes intelligent use of modern technology: much of the communication, especially between Marc and his US-based patron Dittmar Rigule (Gabriel Byrne) is done via videophone. This strategy indicates how debased the financial world has become; no one favors face-to-face talk anymore, but would rather put a screen in front of them, that can be switched off at will. The narrative of LE CAPITAL unfolds swiftly, making intelligent use of high-tech locations in London, Paris and New York. Its subject might be familiar, but its impact remains powerful.