Saturday, 19 February 2011

inside job (d. charles ferguson; w. chad beck, adam bolt)

1. Whilst the financial crisis of '08, (since it has failed to obtain a less prosaic monicker), was occurring, and indeed it its aftermath, experts and laymen alike would say, and still say, that the world of derivatives and credit swaps and the like was so baffling that its complexity in some way became linked to the notion of a black hole of (toxic) money. The banks and their experts had created a black hole of knowledge, something so devious that it had outrun even the gurus of the financial world. As though that knowledge had in some way morphed into an anti-knowledge, one capable of bringing down the whole house of cards. Inside Job, with the help of a few simple diagrams, comprehensively punctures that myth. It's not that complicated. People knew what they were doing. They are responsible. Not the anti-knowledge.

2. This clarity extends itself to the interviewing style. We never see the interviewer, or interviewers. But we hear their voice. Common sense is a somewhat ephemeral concept which can doubtless be manipulated. But when an interviewer asks a perfectly reasonable question and is rebuffed, the confidence of the interviewer in resisting the rebuff reminds the viewer of its common sense. Does it matter that an expert changes the name of his paper from 'Stability in Iceland' to 'Instability in Iceland'? Not a lot, in the wider scheme of things, but revealing the expert's reaction to the disclosure of this fact helps to reveal the levels of duplicity and intellectual laziness necessary to construct and support a system as catastrophic as the one that was constructed, with the expert's help. If the interviewer were an actor we would be lauding his understated brilliance.

3. The words 'holy cow' in the mouth of a Frenchwoman are surprisingly potent.

4. I watched this in a cinema in Notting Hill. The audience was not, I'd imagine, what could be described as downtrodden. They gasped in amazement at the film's revelations. What happened in 08 in some ways transcends political boundaries. Which is not to say it was not the work and product of right wing thinking, but is to say that the creators of the economic model which lead to '08 were not acting out of an ideological instinct. Unless greed is ideological. What the film shows is the complete lack of any ethical dimension to the actions of those promulgating and profiting from an economic model they themselves instigated. In that sense this class (a tiny elite with appropriate intellectual underpinning) seems to embody a form of fascism, whereby the actions of the individual have become entirely disassociated from the actions of society. The miracle of all this, which perhaps encouraged their sociopathy, is that they are the ones whom society chose to reward or allowed to be rewarded on what can only be described as a disproportionate scale.

5. It is a pity, as well as presumably revealing, that the film didn't succeed in conducting an interview with any single banker working for one of the significant corporate players during the events of '08.

6. Who really matters? Mervyn King appears in one shot in this film. He is not name-checked.

6. The cinematography is impressive. If ever a documentary could get away with sweeping helicopter takes of NY riverfront, this is it. All to often a documentary's aesthetics get in the way of its intentions. In this case, the film cannot afford not to be watched because its aesthetics could be dismissed as being those of a low-budget attention seeker.

7. Final point. It's not my style to bullet point a review, but in some ways Inside Job seems such an important film, that the critic's job with regard to it is not to give an opinion, but to attempt to highlight why it should be seen. Furthermore, it will be ignored and tarred with the accusation of being in some ways ideological. Because merely to document what occurs in certain parts of our world is deemed 'left wing'. [There will be those who say it is left wing to watch Al-Jazeera when today, of all days, shows why it is an imperative if you regard news as being a source of information regarding what's going on in the world.] If Inside Job has an axe to grind it is that the events which lead up to the financial crisis of '08 have been ignored, marginalised or mystified by mainstream media. Which allows politicians to do the same thing. Next time this kind of financial collapse occurs, the outcomes will be even more malignant than in '08. And we still don't have any real idea of the full cost of '08.

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