Thursday, January 20, 2011

Marx returns to bail out finance capital

A film by Jason Barker
Broadcast date: 11 April 2011, ARTE TV

Truth makes only selective forays into film but rumours of a new Terrence Malick flick have been clagging the twatosphere for some time. So when I got the chance to review this ARTE culture doc it was fait accompli. Is Malick involved? The producers are keeping tight-lipped, even though the director is a co-conspirator from days. No UK release date yet confirmed, but I daresay this could make waves on the 2011 festival circuit on both sides of the pond.

First off: don’t be alarmed by the portentous muzak on the trailer, there’s more than one monster teaser on the circuit, this one featuring the new tune by Belgrade electro combo Ljubavnici. It’s been many moons since I visited the Serbian capital but the club scene there is your homegrown organic variety, not some tourist penthouse of superstar DJs lording it over sunset backdrop. If you want all that then go to Exit.

Back to the film. If, like me, Matrix-style cod-philosophy leaves you cold then have no fear: prize charlatan and walking evangelical self-parody Cornell West is not involved here. Only the real philosophers get a look in. On the face of it the ubiquitous Slavoj Zizek, Peter Sloterdijk (the Hobbit-like sage with his own TV show in Germany), French anarchist and icon pour les soixante-huitards Jacques Rancière, Messers Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri of Empire fame, Albero Toscano and Nina Power are all rolled out to pontificate on capitalism’s imminent demise. Is the relentless global financial crisis the final or penultimate pit stop before The Crash to end all crashes? Could it even be The One?

Cut to, er, Matrix-themed cartoon adventures of Karl Marx, lost in an Alice-style commodity-induced nightmare with only one way out. Or is there? The final chapter of the witty and informative film left me wondering whether the point was to debunk the myth that capitalism alone is destroying the world, not that we need to do something about it.

Unlike irritating conspiracy movie Collapse or the aimless Big Ideas waffle of Examined Life the ideas get a serious treatment here. The basics of the differences between the return or “reloading” of Marx-as-cultural-icon and Marx’s philosophy itself are explained and placed in the broader context of our financial crisis-ridden times. And by no means is there just one brand of ‘Marxism’ on offer here. To his credit, director “Lacanian Maoist” (it says here) Jason Barker has resisted the temptation to knock down straw men with “radical” soundbites. Clearly there’s as much distance between Toscano, Rancière and Negri as leftist critics as between all of them and Thatcherite headbanger Eamonn Butler of the Adam Smith Institute.

And is my mind playing tricks on me or did Sloterdijk really describe himself in this film as being “on the left”? Surely this Heidegger lover, who makes parallels between ontology and air-conditioning systems is a closet conservative to put it mildly.

But will Reloaded be a trilogy?
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