Month: March 2014

This Is Not a Film

Released 2012. Directed by Mojtaba Mirtahmasb and Jafar Panahi.

When René Magritte painted a picture of a pipe and gave it the caption, ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe,’ he was making a smart and humorous artistic statement: this is a representation of a pipe using paint, not an actual pipe. When, however, following a banal sequence of shots depicting Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi’s morning routine, the words “This Is Not a Film” appear on the cinema screen, the effect is very different. Despite the allusion to Magritte’s painting, these words connote something more aggressive. Panahi is making a political assertion, not a joke. His twenty-year ban on directing films, and six-year prison sentence, make this title defiant and powerful. On the one hand, it introduces the tricky question of what the boundaries of the medium of film are; on the other, it aggressively challenges the authorities that threaten his career and life.

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The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street

Released 2014. Directed by Martin Scorsese. Screenplay by Terence Winter, based on the book of the same name by Jordan Belfort. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie.

As ever, the ending of this film is discussed here, as are other things you might not want revealed. So really you should just go and see it, because it’s absolutely brilliant, then come back and read this.

There’s a moment in The Wolf of Wall Street that made my heart briefly stop. In the three hours of fabulously kinetic pandemonium, it might be easy to ignore, but it struck me deeply. Jordan Belfort’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) brokerage firm, Stratton Oakmont, is under investigation by the SEC and FBI, who are interviewing its senior management. It’s predictable that these executives will be uncooperative, but the first time one of them uttered the phrase, “I do not recall”, I sat bolt upright. “I do not recall.” Those four words define the untouchable safety in which the world’s most powerful people live, and the impotence of the legal and judicial systems in attempting to investigate their wrongdoing. The US is most familiar with them with regards to the 2008 financial crisis and collapse of several financial institutions; those in the UK will have vivid memories of its repeated use by the newspaper industry in deflecting questions about its ethical and legal misconduct. Those four words are the catchphrase of the rich and powerful when caught, a magic incantation that disappears severe repercussions. Their use in The Wolf of Wall Street made me realise, for the first time, that these people are real.

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