Le Capital Breaks with Conventional Evil-Banker Motif

Gad Elmaleh and Gabriel Byrne.

Costa-Gavras is probably best known for two films: the feature-length Missing (1982) and much acclaimed Z (1969). He is very much associated in the public mind with political cinema. His most recent finance-themed feature Le Capital (2012) has rather broken this previously mentioned conventional political statement.

On the surface, this latest Wall Street installment delivers the expected for film: typical situations, the fraudulent bankers, the distrustful American,  high fashion supermodels and obviously, the obligatory travel between continents.


Typically tough in emphasis, the film follows Marc Tourneuil played by Gad Elmaleh. On a personal note, this is not a very thoughtful choice of an actor. His transition from stand-up comedy shows to cinema did not produce much optimism among the French. Tourneuil is the head of Europe’s Phoenix Bank that is facing a hostile takeover from top American fund company, while also making a play to acquire a debt-laden Japanese bank.

In short, Le Capital is another archetypal film that contributes to the cultural discourse  on the relationship between man and power, money and patriarchy. It presents the corporation as an institution central to the “Greed is good” mantra.

Now, the question is, what does Le Capital show the audience that Wall Street did not?

Le Capital. Gad Elmaleh.

Le Capital. Gad Elmaleh.

The viewer  expects the most stereotyped clichés from The Capital: the young upwardly-mobile professional ascending to the role of a freshly minted millionaire; his unfortunate encounter with the realm of corruption, envy and greed; ethical scandals; and atonement. However, the film reveals  Tourneuil is emotionally prepared for these things. He does not dare to settle down to a fixed, puppet-like corporate routine. Elmaleh portrays him as a hard-working idealist whose values are severely tested when he is forced to socialize with the bourgeois society that he despises. He understands the amorality behind his nomination as chief executive officer of the bank. Furthermore, he recognizes a lifetime opportunity to earn money and become ruler of his own life and actions. That is a breakthrough from the usual deal-with-the-Devil conventional narrative (i.e. The Wolf of Wall Street).

Le Capital pinpoints one of the major difficulties that contemporary society is dealing with: growing decentralization and autonomy of an exclusively financial economics that create no wealth but instead demand to make money with money. Such an excessive and unregulated financialization is more threatening and risky than the issue touching on the currently exposed rapid globalization.

Le Capital opens January 31st in select theatres. 




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