The Emperor's New Clothes
Cert: 15 / 99 mins / Dir. Michael Winterbottom / Trailer
This just in: Cleaners don't earn as much as financial executives, and if the super-rich were taxed a bit more, that'd probably be very helpful to all of us. There, I've just saved you 99 minutes. Michael Winterbottom and Russell Brand's documentary about the UK's ongoing financial crisis has its heart firmly in the right place, even if its mouth frequently gets in the way of the message.
Filmed primarily in London but occasionally branching out as far as his hometown in Essex, Brand explores the causes behind the current state of the national and global economies, the effect on regular people (ie those who aren't bank executives), and the apparent unwillingness of global governments to fix or even slow down the escalating rate of the crisis.
At just shy of an hour and forty minutes, it's not a smash and grab affair, but neither does it seem to get past the surface of the problem. It's an odd paradox that the film seems to spend far too long complaining about one thing, while at the same time not being able to concentrate on the various facets of that one thing, or indeed propose any workable solutions. The film is never short on facts but carries an equal or greater amount of opinion to go with them, the result being that The Emperor's New Clothes preaches to the choir for the most part.
At best, the film is optimistically non-committal, highlighting the problems we all face without feeding the audience answers or inciting an uprising; at worst, it's wilfully naive and insultingly patronising, like a petulant teenager shouting down the stairs that the world isn't fair while refusing to go out and change it. By the time we bolted on a live Q&A session during which Russell looked incredibly uncomortable*1, and the entire evening's programming beginning 40 (forty) minutes later than advertised*2, I have to admit that I left the cinema faintly more miffed than when I'd arrived. Just not necessarily for the right reasons.
While I didn't always enjoy the tone of The Emperor's New Clothes, an idealistic liberal like me couldn't help but wholeheartedly support its founding ethos. The problem is that the film didn't make me any more determined to change the system or any more outraged at the injustices committed in the name of freedom.
And if your documentary can't win over the people who are already on your side, what's it really for?
Well this is the thing really, isn't it? As a special event-cinema screening, even us Unlimited Cardholders had to pay an uplift fee which isn't the end of the world of course, but can you really rail against capitalism when you're charging people money to watch you doing it? The only people likely to pay to watch this are the ones who are already on-side.
With the best will in the world, this is a TV documentary, shown in a cinema.
For Brand? Not really. As far as Winterbottom goes, I'm afraid I haven't seen enough of his work to know.
Infuriatingly, not well enough.
No, then again I didn't expect there to be.
Russell Brand starred in 2010's Get Him To The Greek, as did Rose Byrne; best known, of course, for playing handmaiden Dormé in Attack Of The Clones.
*1 To his credit, the Q&A interviewer did try and bait Brand into his 'don't bother voting' rhetoric, to which he basically rolled his eyes and said "oh, do what you want". I get the distinct impression that Brand's management had reminded him that discouraging the democratic process two weeks before a general election wouldn't have been the best PR move for the film.
*2 …with none of the cinema staff having any idea why the programme wasn't starting as it was a live-feed broadcast to them by Picturehouse. I ended up speaking to people via Twitter in other cinemas who told me they were having the same delay and technical issues. Well done, Picturehouse! That's almost as good as the time your Oxford cinema fucked up the start-time of Driving Miss Daisy, eating directly into the live Q&A afterwards! At least with this one, everyone started later than expected, so the Q&A had no choice but to follow suit. I really hope the revolution is going to be better organised than this...
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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