The Corporation

The Corporation


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Billed as "Farenheit 9/11 for people who think", The Corporation is an ambitious bundle of left-wing rhetoric which simultaneously attacks capitalism and leaps aboard the gravy train created by Michael Moore's award-winning film. It has some honest reasons, of course. At two and a half hours long, it's clear the makers felt they had important things to say. Their dissatisfaction with the fast-cutting, humourous techniques which mark this year's successful political documentary films is clear.

Their presentation is altogether more stark, often simply a series of talking heads interspersed with graphics that might have come from a government information leaflet. This isn't so much cinema for those who think as cinema for those who have convinced themselves that thinking can only be approached in one way - in a dry, academic environment, and punctuated with clever references to familiar theorists, preaching to the converted, with very little in the way of new ideas.

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The central theme of this film is an examination of what we understand by 'the corporation' - what such a thing is, how it came to be, and how it has influenced the world we live in. Interesting use is made of archive footage, but sadly this only serves to highlight the shortage of original material, and the early cutting is so crudely done that one soon tires of the images on display.

There are occasional bursts of genuinely interesting material - especially those retrieved from foreign sources - but the whole is poorly structured and poorly paced. A succession of cards indicate the beginnings of new chapters, but this only serves to make one more aware of the rambling nature of the arguments unfolding. Intrusive music exacerbates the situation.

To the casual viewer, it is possible that some of the arguments made in The Corporation may be new, and therefore of interest, at least for the first hour. Michael Moore himself is interviewed, showing a little more subtlety than usual, alongside stalwarts like Noam Chomsky and Milton Friedman. What's unfortunate is that each of these speakers seems to have been set at liberty to say whatever he wants, with no challenges presented. The first thing a strong argument requires is an examination of its own weaknesses. It's all too easy for a thinking person to spot the holes in some of this rhetoric and, as the obvious problems are never raised, there is no way for them to be dealt with. This serves to undermine the case which the film is trying to make.

For the most part, The Corporation approaches everything in dogmatic terms, with big business as the bad guy and the people as the heroes. Later attempts to examine this more subtly acknowledge business people can be nice people too, but let themselves down by pointing out that concentration camp guards might also have been nice people to their friends. The identification of corporations with psychopaths is similarly crude. In taking a stand against all business, the film loses track of what distinguishes the type of business which it initially identified as problematic, and loses its way.

Beginner students of political science and those who simply enjoy feeling reassured that there's a left-wing movement out there will probably find this film appealing. Others will find a few humourous moments, a few really smart moments and some scattered but satisfying examples of the success of mass movements against corporate abuse. It's a real shame that this film wasn't edited down into something which showcased these points without turning off more viewers than it might hope to enlighten.

Reviewed on: 03 Oct 2006
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If corporations are legally individuals, then they are psychos.
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Director: Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott

Writer: Joel Bakan, Harold Crooks, Mark Achbar

Year: 2003

Runtime: 144 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: Canada


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