Mark Brown , arts correspondent. Friday 18 November The director of a film about the banking crisis described as "the best Wall Street movie ever made" says he fears the Occupy protests may have come too late for a major difference to be made. JC Chandor's debut feature film, Margin Call , received stellar reviews when it opened in the US last month and is being talked about as a surprise gatecrasher at next year's Oscars.
The film, which British cinema audiences will get to see in January, focuses on 24 hours in the life of a US investment bank just before the meltdown. Chandor admitted the timing of his film was "insanely fortuitous", given that "people finally started marching in the streets".
But he told the Guardian he feared the Occupy movement in the US had come too late. If people had been doing this a couple of years ago when he could have really spearheaded something, things might have been different. When people are sleeping in the streets over an issue, it's a canary in the coalmine that all is not well. Chandor's father worked for more than 35 years at Merrill Lynch, and the director grew up in a world of bankers and banking, also spending four years at the American School in St John's Wood when his father worked in London.
His film has been widely praised for getting to the heart of much what is wrong in the world of banking, without caricaturing the bankers as simply dumb and evil. Chandor says the Occupy movement is a good thing as it issues a warning that should not be ignored.
To call it a bunch of kooks or whatever is silly, and you ignore it at your peril, whether you're running a bank or you're a journalist. Yes, I'm glad that kind of anger and that kind of unrest has shown itself. But he admits he takes a more middle-of-the-road stance when looking for answers to the crisis.
All systems have flaws and that is capitalism's. Margin Call is set in the striplighted offices of a Manhattan investment firm on the precipice of disaster, not just for them but for all of us.
It plays almost as a white-knuckle thriller as evidence of all not being right is passed up the ladder, from Stanley Tucci's freshly sacked executive to his protege Zachary Quinto, and then up through the chain of command of characters played by Paul Bettany, Spacey, Moore and Simon Baker, finally reaching the big boss John Tuld, played by Irons, whose strategy is to sell what he calls the "greatest pile of odiferous excrement in the history of capitalism" as quickly as possible with, of course, the promise of bonuses all round.
The film has been rapturously received in the US. The LA Times called it a "confident" and "convincing" film that "will open your eyes" , while the New York Times called it "an extraordinary feat of filmmaking".
Some are also predicting it could be shortlisted for an Academy award —if a film about toxic mortgage securities is ever going to win big then now is the time. Chandor, who spent 10 years directing ads and documentaries, believes there needs to be more diligent regulation. I am a capitalist who believes in strong regulation. The way that capitalism does use some of the most base instincts of human beings and tries to steer that in positive ways is a fairly effective system.
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