3 things about Justin Pemberton’s CAPITAL IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

Capital in the Twenty-First Century [2019]

1. Graffiti: Liberté Egalité Beyoncé
2. Not one of the winners mentioned the fact they’d started the game with an advantage.
3. Comparing workers to horses.

What a disappointment. Wealth inequality is an urgent topic that all of us should be thinking about and discussing, especially right now, but this documentary’s pedestrian treatment does not rise to the challenge. Rather than finding new ways to illuminate its ideas it instead takes the lazy stock footage approach, throwing up endless connect-the-dots montages of ideologically charged images. Banal wallpaper. Especially galling are the many powerful moments lifted wholesale from Koyaanisqatsi; here’s hoping that Godfrey Reggio was at least well paid. It does take an international view of the problem–but, shockingly, Africa isn’t even mentioned! The moments of genuine epiphany, like a sequence involving a college study of Monopoly players, made me realize how much better the film might have been. What Adam Curtis could have done here! In conclusion, read the book or just wait till someone makes a decent podcast out of these ideas. That this documentary has garnered so much acclaim must be put down to the common practice of confusing a worthy subject with a mediocre exploration of it.

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