Costa-Gavras may be a dyed-in-the-wool lefty filmmaker with titles to his credit like "Z" and "Missing," but that doesn't mean he lacks a sense of fun (his harrowing, sometimes overly-broad film about the Holocaust, "Amen," notwithstanding).
With 2012's "Capital," Costa-Gavras -- pushing 80 when he made the movie -- shows plenty of signs of playfulness, even as the film's dynamism presents a strong argument both for the director's age-defying creative energy and for the idea of the economically-based thriller. The social message balances nicely with the art, and the imagery is cutting, concise, and clever: One matched pair of shots shows a work of modern art in a gilded frame aboard a fancy yacht in a Miami marina and, later on, a window (sporting a similarly elaborate "frame") offering a view of the Eiffel Tower as seen from corporate offices. Democracy is meaningless to the people in this movie; nations, social contracts, and the law itself is up for sale, and all is made malleable by money.
"Capital" traces the journey of an opportunistic, ambitious executive named Marc Tourneuil (Gad Elmaleh) who, thanks to a sudden health crisis and inter-office politics, finds himself elevated to CEO of a major French bank. As it happens, Marc's tenure serves the interests not only of those within the bank's hierarchy who are waiting for a chance to depose him, but also provides an opening for scheming hedge fund manager Dittmar (Grabriel Byrne) to maneuver him into a compromising position that will enrich shareholders, gut the bank, and weaken government and social protections. Marc is smart enough to see what's going on, and his conscience pricks him endlessly; again and again, to the sound of his own frantically racing heart, he entertains fantasies in which he surrenders to red-hot righteous wrath; in reality, however, he keeps a tightly disciplined lid on his conduct... except where a sultry supermodel (Liya Kebede) is concerned.
The satirical edginess of the film is bracing, as Marc pieces the plot together and then devises a counterattack. At the same time, Eric Gautier's long-shots and vital camera work, together with Armand Amar's score and location shooting at several major cities around the world lend "Capital" the air, pace, and style of a flat-out thriller (props to Sebastian Birchier for his production design and Eve-Marie Arnault for costuming that speaks, and reeks, of monied privilege).
There are three noteworthy extras, plus a theatrical trailer. Costa-Gavras and Gabriel Byrne are both interviewed about the film; there's also a "behind the scenes" featurette that follows star Elmaleh around, showing him at work on different scenes from the film, conferring with Cost-Gavras, and clowning around.
Fans of Costa-Gavras will delight in this Cohen Media release, which has been meticulously re-mastered for hi-def home viewing. Anyone interested in filmmaking with dash and élan will find this a turn-on, too, as will the readership that's been so passionately aroused by French economist Thomas Piketty's similarly-titled (but non-fiction) best-selling book "Capital in the 21st Century."
Cohen Media Group
Blu-ray and DVD