Even before our current economic slump, the financial world and its institutions had mutated over the years since corporate raider Gordon Gekko touted that “greed is good” in Wall Street, director Oliver Stone’s landmark 1987 drama. Returning to the scene of the crime, Stone and his Oscar-winning star, Michael Douglas, have invested right-here, right-now relevance into their follow-up, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. I spoke with Stone by phone about his first-ever sequel and this mess we’re in.
Who knew you would ever make a horror flick? [Laughs.] It’s actually a fun movie. A tough subject like that is best covered in a satiric manner. I wouldn’t get too heavy with the blame, because it’s very hard to focus it in a way that’s understandable for the present audience. Trust was lost between banks. When trust is lost, the system cannot work. So it is a George Romero fucking horror show, and nobody trusts anybody, like in Night of the Living Dead. That’s a good idea! I should have made the bankers into zombies and called it Day of the Living Dead. There are a few good bankers left, but they get venom into their system and start to crack up.
Was it hard to find a place in this modern world for Gordon Gekko? Yeah, he gets out of jail, and that’s the hook. Who was he? There was some identity loss in a sense. His older son committed suicide in his absence, and his youngest daughter is alienated by him. His wife is gone, so he has no family. He’s got nothing. Zero. Outside the game. He’s not a player anymore. How does he get back in? I won’t give that away.
What can you reveal? All I can say is we tried to tell a great story. I like his movies very much, but it’s not a Michael Moore movie. It’s about Gekko, his daughter [played by Carey Mulligan], and a young investor/trader [Shia LaBeouf] who is trying to do some good in this world. Josh Brolin is a surprise as one of the big institutional investment bankers, and Frank Langella is an older mentor of Shia’s. It’s the story of those five people and how it plays out against this two-year period. If you work in this environment, how do you maintain your values as a human being? That was the fundamental question in the original, because Charlie Sheen’s values were threatened by Gekko. The same question applies in a more sophisticated way now. And it’s a love story, believe it or not.
In the long view, are we all just screwed? That’s why we end the movie in a question mark, because I don’t know. You gotta break up the banks. All these bankers, when they went in front of Capitol Hill, had no solutions: “Let’s continue as before. There will be periodic ups and downs, but don’t regulate us too much.” We supersized everything and steroided banking, but it can’t go on like this. Steroided athletes die early, don’t they? This guy, Sandy Weill, super-marketed up the whole goddamn thing. He took brokerage, insurance, American Express card–type companies and banks, and merged them into a huge thing called Citicorp. Nobody’s figured out what the fuck that is, and nobody wants to, because nobody wants it! [Laughs.] It’s very funny. You can’t take this too seriously, because it’s the demise of capitalism at this rate—which is what Lenin and Marx predicted: that we’d hang ourselves with our own rope. But I’m going into too much detail. You wanted a movie preview here, and I’m talking economically.
’Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps’ opens September 24 (20th Century Fox), wallstreetmoneyneversleeps.com
Fall Film Picks
‘Kings of Pastry’
Having grappled with tricky subjects like Bob Dylan and U.S. politics, esteemed documentarians D.A. Pennebaker (Dont Look Back) and Chris Hegedus (The War Room) unexpectedly discover World Cup-–size thrills, tension, and glory in the Meilleur Ouvriers de France culinary competition. Over a three-day endurance contest, 16 pâtissiers pour their marzipan, sweat, and tears into gastro-porn so mouthwatering and jazzily presented that it makes the Food Network look like reheated leftovers in comparison. Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, filmforum.org
‘Enter the Void’
Irreversible provocateur Gaspar Noé unleashes another avant-garde assault upon audiences in this deliriously wicked, undeniably daring acid trip through Tokyo’s neon-splattered underworld. After young American stripper Paz de la Huerta’s drug-dealing brother (Nathaniel Brown) is gunned down by cops, the camera takes the p.o.v. of his disembodied spirit as it floats over buildings, through walls, down sewers, and even inside a fallopian tube. If you’re prone to seizures, anxiety, or staying in your comfort zone, might we instead recommend Kings of Pastry? IFC Films, in limited release, ifcfilms.com
48th New York Film Festival
September 24–October 10
Rarely does the city’s most prestigious fest offer a world premiere on opening night, which means director David Fincher’s The Social Network—starring Jesse Eisenberg as billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg—might be NYFF’s most hotly anticipated film in years. Other must-sees include Cannes faves like Lee Chang-dong’s quietly devastating Poetry, 101-year-old auteur Manoel de Oliveira’s The Strange Case of Angelica, and the enigmatic masterwork Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives—winner of the Palme d’Or. The Film Society of Lincoln Center West 65th Street and Broadway, filmlinc.com
Finally, director Stephen Frears (The Queen, High Fidelity) has made a mainstream romantic comedy that’s witty, sexy, vibrant, and socially aware, and that won’t feel like punishment to manly men on first dates. Formerly an ugly duckling in the rural Dorset village of her childhood, the titular London journalist (Gemma Arterton) returns home post-rhinoplasty as a flirty knockout, inspiring lust in men (enter the philandering novelist, the strapping local hunk, the rock drummer in eyeliner) and madcap jealousy in wives and teenage girls. Sony Pictures Classics, in limited release, sonyclassics.com
Well deserving of this mid-career retrospective, the French critic turned auteur’s work is as consistently stylish and intellectual as it is varied, hopping from unsentimental familial dramas (Summer Hours) to postmodern thrillers about globalization (Boarding Gate, demonlover), period epics (Les Destinées), and angsty youth sagas (Disorder, Cold Water). The series coincides with IFC’s October 15 release of Carlos, an electrifying, five-hour biopic starring Édgar Ramirez as the Marxist revolutionary, playboy assassin, and master of disguise known as “Carlos the Jackal.” Brooklyn Academy of Music, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, bam.org
More than a mere sexploitation pioneer, the Carroll Gardens–born filmmaker (who passed away at 89 this year) likely introduced both unsimulated female orgasms and real-life adult guilelessness—sexual anxiety, suburban malaise—into the erotica genre. Among the undervalued, now tamely softcore ditties in this series are 1966’s Moonlighting Wives (Sarno’s first color film), his 1968 coming-of-age landmark Inga, and 1974’s Confessions of a Young American Housewife—a vaguely Bergman-esque melodrama of swinging and incest. Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue, anthologyfilmarchives.org
Six years after a space probe crash-lands in Central America with squidlike beasties in tow, a career-hungry photojournalist (Scoot McNairy) must escort his boss’s daughter (Whitney Able) through Mexico, which has fallen under military quarantine as a dangerous “infected zone.” Writer-director Gareth Edwards used a laptop to create all the modest DIY effects in his gripping feature debut, an indie sci-fi nightmare similar in plot but more sophisticated, character-driven, and chillingly underplayed than both Cloverfield and the overrated District 9. Magnolia Pictures, in limited release, magpictures.com
If one man’s trash is another’s treasure, then this innovatively shot documentary from acclaimed filmmaker Lucy Walker (Countdown to Zero) is an even richer transformation still. Beginning as a portrait of Brooklyn-based artist Vik Muniz’s latest recycled-material project—a return to his native Brazil to photograph and collaborate with local foragers of the world’s largest landfill—the film shifts focus toward the curious lives of the “pickers” themselves. In essence, Walker becomes a fellow scavenger as she warmly and insightfully explores artist and class responsibilities. Arthouse Films, in limited release, arthousefilmsonline.com
‘Ne Change Rien’
The latest from Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa (Colossal Youth)—whose artfully rigorous work was rescued from obscurity by hardcore cinephiles, the Criterion Collection, and a recent traveling retrospective—is an extraordinary behind-the-scenes doc. In smoky black-and-white chiaroscuros, French actress turned singer Jeanne Balibar (The Duchess of Langeais) breathily rehearses for an upcoming rock performance and an operetta, while Costa looks at her ritualistic discipline as a deconstructive investigation of the creative process itself. Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue, anthologyfilmarchives.org
‘Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench’
Imagine if Jean-Luc Godard and Miles Davis were commissioned to make an old-fashioned MGM musical on a shoestring budget, and maybe now you’re humming the riff that drives Damien Chazelle’s absolutely delightful 16mm debut. A soft-spoken Boston jazz trumpeter (real-life musician Jason Palmer) attracts the attentions of a tap-dancing young waitress (Desiree Garcia), but the meet-cute quickly misfires in a losing battle of love over art. The soundtrack is unforgettably soulful; one eclectic house-party jam session alone is worth the price of admission. Variance Films, in limited release, variancefilms.com
Civil war has scorched an unnamed African country, yet one divorced Frenchwoman (Isabelle Huppert) is too headstrong to abandon her coffee plantation even as colonial whites are blamed for the brutal anarchy in the streets. Substituting taut thrills for her usual opaque mysteries, director Claire Denis still toys with the prism of time in this stunning, rhythmic slow-burner about sociopolitical unrest, dehumanizing savagery, and how both can ultimately lead to hubristic madness. IFC Films, in limited release, ifcfilms.com
Tied to a Carnegie Hall tribute to the legendary Japanese composer and music theorist Tōru Takemitsu, who scored over a hundred films, Film Forum’s series celebrates his unusual trademarks: meticulous use of silence, experimental mixes of regional and Western instruments, and a dedication to the craft that saw him visiting sets to find his muse. Listen for his sparse minimalism in 1964’s Woman in the Dunes and the Mahler-inspired score that halts on a gunshot in Kurosawa’s Ran, plus expect some rare surprises. Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, filmforum.org