Wall Street 2: Not Too Big To Fail

By J. Hoberman in FestivalsFriday, May. 14 2010 @ 10:35AM

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Just like Wall Street, Cannes never sleeps. Thursday brought a string of three terrific films: Manoel de Oliveira’s The Strange Case of Angelica (a sublimely autumnal comic masterpiece based on a script the 101-year-old director wrote 60 years ago); Radu Muntean’s adulterous triangle Tuesday, After Christmas (the Romanians do it again!), and South Korean oddball Im Sang-soo’s The Housemaid (a perverse remake of South Korea’s most famously perverse cult film). Then came Friday and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (even if you might).

Scarcely had the dust settled from the crash of 2008 then it was announced that Oliver Stone would bring back Michael Douglas as the dreaded Gordon Gekko, personification of the boom-boom ’80s, in a sequel. Released from prison and flacking his memoir, the old devil bellies up to the bar with a batch of new homilies: “Greed got too greedy,” “Idealism kills every deal,” “Money is a bitch that never sleeps,” “Speculation is the mother of all evil” (or maybe the other way around). But it’s not Gekko who wrecks the market, nor his goody two shoes daughter (Carey Mulligan) nor her honest broker (Shia LaBeouf); indeed, given the kid’s green-energy plan to turn seawater into power (swiped from Southland Tales?), he should really be advertising in The Nation rather than working The Street. This time around the personification of the system is Josh Brolin, a stand-in for Goldman Sachs who lives beneath an “early sketch” of Goya’s “Saturn Devouring His Son” and actually utters the fatal words, “We’re Too Big To Fail.”

Of course, no crisis is too great for Oliver Stone to over-leverage. If you can’t dazzle ’em with brilliance, baffle ’em with bullshit: Wall Street conceals its trite dialogue beneath a cacophony of rumbling subways and shouting TV nudniks, not to mention a veritable tickertape parade of jargon. It tarts up its stale glamour with split-screen, time lapse, and CNN graphics. The ambition is evident and the effort disarming even if the effect is less than consequential–if ever a movie cried out for 3-D it’s this one!

“Whatsamatter, don’t you believe in comebacks?” I heard Douglas bray as I bolted for the door, unable to savor the crowd response or attend the sure-to-be-fun press conference, in a mad dash to secure a seat at Aurora, the three-hour opus by Cristi Puiu, maker of The Death of Mr. Lazarescu. If I were on Twitter, I’d tweet: “That one went from scattershot boring to intensely… interesting.” Since I’m not, I’ll elaborate to say: Where Tuesday, After Christmas consolidated the Romanian style (long takes, real time, bravura acting), Aurora pushes it toward something new. But more on that soon.