Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Slovenian flag for Lady Gaga. Photo from here.

ANOTHER FACELIFT OF WESTERN CAPITALISM

Although "The Wolf of Wall Street" seems to have no point at all, except 3 hours of pornographic cognitive manipulation, there is still something that makes me write about it. At first, I see this movie so symptomatic, that i see this as a performance taking place whenever and wherever it is screened. Secondly, this film might be the tombstone of all Wall Street yuppie-movies. 
The beginning of the film gives a lot of hope - there is a yuppie, driving his Ferrari, while a girl is giving him blow job, but the next moment the same yuppie goes to work to Wall Street with public transport. Aha, this is the mad dream from the Gordon Gekko era, haunting an average idiot going to work in Wall Street today. But no - it is not an independent movie, it is still Hollywood. The film turns out to be "how i made it"-kind of story. And a really bad one!
Seems it has been made out of leftovers: there is a notable pattern of "Goodfellas" in it, there are all the cliches of representation of Wall Street capitalism (drugs, naked female bodies, cars, etc) and - like always - there is the leading narrative of personal man-woman relationship and its crisis, also personal suffering from drug addiction, etc. How the fuck do they (Scorsese and DiCaprio) dare to come out with such a shit, during the era of irreversible crisis, after Occupy Wall Street, etc?
Even the legendary "Wall Street" from 1987, the story of Gordon Gekko was more critical - it was about the struggle of authority - a young man and his ethical crisis, on one side his desired master Gordon Gekko, representing the free market and neoliberal mentality, on the other side his own father, representing real work. The real father wins and Bud Fox becomes a hero through the intervention of state authority that reminds us that the Law still exists. Gordon Gekko goes to jail. The end of the story. But jail, in reality, is not the end! Even Michael Milken, the prototype of Gordon Gekko, got out of jail. And we don't know how Bud Fox is doing! You become a hero - what next?
Year 2013. The Wolf of Wall Street. At least there is one positive thing in this movie - the decreased authority in the representation of Wall Street. The masturbation at Gordon Gekko is over. A stock broker is not an evil genius (like Gekko) or a twisted personality (like Patrick Bateman). A stock broker is a salesman! And this is the one good statement in this film! There is no way to reduce the whole story to one single event of one shitty company, we all know there are thousands of well educated yuppies still walking around, collecting contemporary art and fucking with the world economy. At least there is now less public desire towards them. Or not? Haha. Who is DiCaprio in this movie? Bud Fox, 25 yrs later? DiCaprio - a good guy, who gets carried away, but deep inside he is still this free spirit from "Titanic", etc. And, remember, the dominant line is still based on personal problems - too much greed, drugs, women, etc - but we give him another chance, right? He goes to prison, but gets out. So did Gordon Gekko.
Towards the end of the movie, after DiCaprio has crawled out of his problems, and is willing to quit his company, he makes a speech to his colleagues, starting with the announcement of his leaving, then starts to memorize. He points at a colleague - this woman here, who drives a Mercedes and wears expensive labels came here 5 years ago, asking for couple of hundred dollars advance payment, but i gave her 250 000 etc. Being in the cinema at this point, i sensed that this DiCaprio's speech is not a part of the film. DiCaprio is making the speech to the cinema audience! Look how you used to live before! And look at yourself now! And - as he concludes his speech - he will stay! He won't leave! Wall Street will stay, neoliberal global capitalism will stay!
The West needs to remain its symbolic authority as it has lost its real power. See the speech of Singaporean intellectual Kishore Mahbubani! He compares the rise of Asia with industrial revolution in the West, where human condition developed around 50% within one lifetime. As he says, in China, the human condition has developed around 10 000% within one lifetime! There are millions of people in Asia, who truly believe in free market, which has emancipated them. The West remains as a symbolic authority in this transformation, so it cannot allow the mainstream cinema to become critical. Movies will probably become more and more propagandistic, even monumental. 
"American Psycho" by Bret Easton Ellis came out in 1991, in the euphoric period of the West, after 1989, when the story of the book actually took place. "American Psycho" criticized the effect of total neoliberalization, the dehumanizing force of financial capitalism. But it was probably a bit too much obsessed with ironic repetition - at least it has been wrongly understood and exploited for long time. For example, I remember an interview with Kalev Mark Kostabi (an artist from NY with Estonian origin, who was briefly mentioned in the book "American Psycho"), who started to work out, after he got inspired by Patrick Bateman's "...I'll put on an ice pack while doing my stomach crunches. I can do a thousand now". But the movie by Mary Harron was super and i think it is one of the greatest films of all times. Despite the content, there was no fetish, no masturbation at authority, no female body exploitation, due to the strong and critical presence of female gaze. 
"The Wolf of Wall Street" was full of primitive amusement and pornography. Plus one extra thread, leading to the contemporary globalized world - the inclusion of the former East! But without any conceptual sense - probably only because of the inclusion of Slovenian actress Katarina Cas, the topic of Slovenia was brought up! There was even one party scene with Slovenian flag. And there was a moment where a Swiss banker asked "are you Swiss Slovakian or Swiss Slovenian?". That much about Eastern Europe! It is still a marginal piece of surplus-enjoyment that lasts 2 seconds. What did they want to achieve with this? A symbolic IPO of Slovenia in the global market? Bullshit, it is now 2014. And Slovenia, embodied by Slavoj Zizek, has already been/occupied Wall Street. This primitive trick with Slovenian flag leads back to the decreased yuppie-authority. Salesmen don't follow the Occupy movement. Salesmen see things like this: Slovakian or Slovenian!
Seems that the audience of Hollywood is Asia. It doesn't convince the West for long time. In this context i see the Scorsese movies as a nice piece of history - but he is finished, there is no country for old men! The movie can be seen as a symptom of desperate capitalist facelift or, more generally, as  part of re-westernization propaganda in Asia. Still, Wall Street and Hollywood are standing in front of us, while we are sitting, but not listening to them already for a while. The world is falling apart, people are starving/left homeless. But the Capital is still standing and we are sitting, as we have bought the cinema ticket and they have produced a movie. For some reason we still buy these tickets, we still watch these movies, as if we are trying to reach something, to convince somebody... "Sell me this pencil!" are the last words of DiCaprio, the starring actor and the producer of this movie. He wants to sell me his pencil, but asks me to do it instead of him.