By William Wolf


Still in stride in his impressive career, Costa-Gavras, known for such important films as “Z,” ‘Missing,” “State of Siege” “Amen,” “Eden Is West” and “My Colonel,” has a timely new film called “Capital,” which sharply and uncompromisingly exposes international bank manipulations. It has been imported from France and is being distributed in the United States by the Cohen Media Group.

Costa-Gavras was enthusiastic about his latest work when I renewed our old acquaintance in the hotel where he was staying during a trip to New York. Asked what got him interested in the subject, he told how when he was in a French town the local mayor remarked in frustration about getting anything done that everything came down to economics. When the director read Stéphane Osmont’s book “Le Capital,” on which the new film is based, he found it a good story.

The plot deals with a ruthless, manipulative banker who was punished at the end. But Costa-Gavras noted that in the real-life bank corruption situations, nobody gets punished. “So,” he said, “I tried to get much closer to what I discovered.” He changed the ending accordingly.

He also had discussions with bankers whom he had met. “I’m not doing a story about celebrating the banking system,” he said, noting that all the bankers with whom he talked frankly came to the same conclusion about what was needed to stop the corruption. “You have to regulate the banks around the world,” Costa-Gavras recounted.

The film has a strong star in Gad Elmaleh, who plays Marc Tourneuil, filled with ambition and cleverly working to outwit those who would manipulate him. Gabriel Byrne has a strong role as his competitor in the wheeling and dealing. The screenplay was written by Costa-Gavras, Karim Boukercha and Jean-Claude Grumberg.

Regarding his leading man, the director said “I like Gad. I didn’t know him, and when we met, he asked, ‘Why me?'” I told him that he would be different. I was very happy working with him. He is very funny on the set. He’s excellent in the movie. I don’t think other French actors could do what he does.” Elmaleh is known as a comedian as well as an actor, and was booked into a comedy gig while in New York to promote the film.

I asked Costa-Gavras, who lives in Paris but visits Greece, where he was born, about what’s going on in the Greek economy. His 1969 landmark film “Z” exposed the junta that had taken over the country and was a touchstone for those who eventually ousted the repressive dictatorship. In assessing responsibility for the dire economic condition of Greece today, he said that politicians were responsible, and accused of politicians on both the left and right of being crooks. He also blamed European countries who sold Greece all kinds of things. “Take them—you can pay later,” was the policy, Costa-Gavras said. “But then Greece couldn’t pay it back.”

Judging by “Capital,” Costa-Gavras” is still at the top of his game at the age of 80 and he is already thinking about making his next movie, although he says it is too soon for him to talk about it.

“Working—it’s the only thing to do,” he said. “I don’t like vacations.” He noted that French director Alain Resnais, now 91, was still making movies and he pointed to Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira, now 104, who has still been working. It remains to be seen what kind of a reception “Capital” gets in the United States, but from this corner, it ranks among Costa-Gavras’s best and addresses a subject that dovetails with so much of what has been going on here and elsewhere to undermine the economy. It is also tense, suspenseful and cleverly entertaining. Posted October 11, 2013.


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