The Corporation Review
By Keith Breese
There was a popular bumper sticker last year that read: If you aren't completely appalled then you haven't been paying attention. It was most commonly seen on vehicles that also had a Kerry/Edwards sticker or the one with a simple illustration of falling bombs that read "Bush Family Values." The same sentiment could very well apply to big business -- corporations. And indeed the new documentary The Corporation wants you to make that link. The Corporation is a documentary about corporate law. Sounds boring, but not when you have talking heads like Michael Moore and Milton Friedman. It's a polemic film, biased but cutting. Think Fahrenheit 9/11 meets Wall Street.
Few words have the baggage that the word corporate does. It's gone from the economic textbooks, dry and undistinguished, to a near anathema curse. No one, whatever their profession, likes to say they are "corporate." And yet the majority of workers in the United States work for corporations. These days you're most likely to hear the word corporate bandied about as a rallying cry. It's leveled at artists who "sell out," or go "corporate." Thrown like pies at politicians with "corporate" interests. Corporate goons are the lynchpins of countless cuckold and old boy jokes. And yet corporations are stronger now than ever, driven by favorable political winds, fed by a steady stream of willing workers, and nestled deep and safe inside the American psyche.
The Corporation's directors, Jennifer Abbott and Mark Achbar, attempt to distill all this into a 145-minute film. For the most part, they succeed brilliantly, providing both entertainment and intellect. There are times they overreach and the preaching becomes pedantic but the filmmakers are skilled enough to wrangle reams of disparate information into a very tightly wound film. This is a work as acerbic as it is scholarly, as provocative as enlightening. We see the environmental tolls, the Machiavellian unethical practices, and above all the almost anti-human greed. The corporation, viewed metaphorically, is a sociopath - a "human" monster that consumes everything in its quest for power, for growth, for money. Viewing this monster, one can't help but be sickened. The commercial atrocities on display (Hitler and Coca-Cola, the destruction of the Amazon) all help to reinforce the hypothesis that corporations are bad, bad, bad.
Here's the rub (and it goes back to the bumper sticker): If you already know about the sociopathic nature of corporations why would you need to see this film? And these days even the folks who work for the big corporations are aware of the image corporations have. Maybe it's the Fast Food Nation effect: Everyone read it but we all still eat McDonalds. In our current polarized cultural climate, it seems there are fewer and fewer people for whom The Corporation is a wake up call.
If 145 minutes isn't enough for you, you can get plenty more Corporation on the two-disc DVD, and epic collection of so much anti-imperialist rhetoric that you may come out the other side a Maoist.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 4th June 2004
Box Office Worldwide: $1.9M
Distributed by: Zeitgeist Films
Production compaines: Big Picture Media Corporation
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Fresh: 98 Rotten: 11
Cast & Crew