Saturday, November 10, 2012


Keinottelua / Bedragaren. US © 2012 Arbitrage LLC. P: Laura Bickford, Justin Nappi, Robert Salerno, Kevin Turen. D+SC: Nicholas Jarecki. DP: Yorick Le Saux - Camera: Arricam LT, Cooke S4 and Angenieux Optimo Lenses - Laboratory: DeLuxe, New York (NY), USA - Film length (metres): 2916 m (Portugal, 35 mm) - Film negative format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision3 200T 5213, Vision3 500T 5219, Vision2 Expression 500T 5229) - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), Super 35 (3-perf) (source format) - Printed film format: 35 mm (spherical), D-Cinema - Aspect ratio: 1.85:1. PD: Beth Mickle. AD: Michael Ahern. Set dec: Carrie Stewart. Cost: Joseph G. Aulisi - Brioni (Richard Gere) - Mendel (Susan Sarandon - tbc). Makeup: Joelle Troisi. Hair: Pamela May. VFX: Alvernia Studios - Mikolaj Valencia. M: Cliff Martinez. "I See Who You Are" (Björk, Mark Bell) perf. Björk. S: Alvernia Studios - Piotr Witkowski. ED: Douglas Crise. Casting: Laura Rosenthal. C: Richard Gere (Robert Miller), Susan Sarandon (Ellen Miller), Tim Roth (Det. Michael Bryer), Brit Marling (Brooke Miller), Laetitia Casta (Julie Côte), Nate Parker (Jimmy Grant), Stuart Margolin (Syd Felder), Chris Eigeman (Gavin Briar), Graydon Carter (James Mayfield), Bruce Altman (Chris Vogler), Larry Pine (Jeffrey Greenberg). Loc: New York City. 106 min. Released by FS Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Suvi Tohmo / Carina Laurila-Olin. 2K DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 7, Helsinki, 10 Nov 2012 (premiere weekend).

Official synopsis: "Arbitrage, the feature directorial debut of writer Nicholas Jarecki, is a taut and alluring suspense thriller about love, loyalty, and high finance. When we first meet New York hedge-fund magnate Robert Miller (Richard Gere) on the eve of his 60th birthday, he appears the very portrait of success in American business and family life. But behind the gilded walls of his mansion, Miller is in over his head, desperately trying to complete the sale of his trading empire to a major bank before the depths of his fraud are revealed. Struggling to conceal his duplicity from loyal wife Ellen (Susan Sarandon) and brilliant daughter and heir-apparent Brooke (Brit Marling), Miller's also balancing an affair with French art-dealer Julie Côte (Laetitia Casta). Just as he's about to unload his troubled empire, an unexpected bloody error forces him to juggle family, business, and crime with the aid of Jimmy Grant (Nate Parker), a face from Miller's past. One wrong turn ignites the suspicions of NYPD Detective Michael Bryer (Tim Roth), who will stop at nothing in his pursuits.  Running on borrowed time, Miller is forced to confront the limits of even his own moral duplicity. Will he make it out before the bubble bursts?"

Arbitrage is a strong contribution to the cinematic accounts of an essential contemporary theme, epic fraud in the world of big finance, handled with distinction in documentaries such as The Inside Job, studied in more general-allegoric ways in Cosmopolis based on the novel by Don De Lillo, and appearing as a central theme in modern fantasy adventures such as The Dark Knight Rises (Bruce Wayne loses his entire property in financial fraud masterminded by his supposed partner Miranda Tate). Oliver Stone has also contributed with a well-timed sequel - Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.

The roots of this kind of fiction go back to Émile Zola and his novel L'Argent (1890), filmed with distinction by Marcel L'Herbier in 1928 just before the Wall Street crash and the Great Depression. During the Depression itself the world of financial speculation was impressively covered by artists such as Julien Duvivier in David Golder, based on the novel by Irène Némirovsky, and Max Ophuls in his brilliant Komedie om Geld.

In the 1980s there was a huge rise of what we in Finland called "casino economy" with financial gambling, swindling, fraud and speculation rampant, along with the early information technology bubbles. There were unheard-of dimensions to credit and speculation. Tom Wolfe caught something of the spirit of the age in his novel about "the Masters of the Universe", The Bonfire of the Vanities, not quite successfully filmed by Brian De Palma. Oliver Stone had more success in his original Wall Street ("greed is good"), where he could draw on family experience on Wall Street dealers (his father was one).

Nicholas Jarecki in Arbitrage is aware of the tradition, and The Bonfire of the Vanities looms in the background with its subplot of the master of the universe covering up his participation in a fatal car crash.

Today I read in Financial Times Weekend that the role of the one percenters has been exaggerated. It is those who belong to the one per mille whose influence is huge. Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is one of them.

Arbitrage is about facade and reality. It starts with the 60th birthday of the protagonist ("age is about mind over matter: when you don't mind it doesn't matter"), it's all smiles and happiness on the surface. Behind the sunny, glossy surface the business is based on fraud, and Robert breaks her daughter Brooke's heart when she finds out that her father has cooked company books. Robert has already broken his wife Ellen's heart by focusing his love-life on his French mistress Julie, an art dealer. When Julie dies in a car crash caused by Robert the accused is the young black Nate whom Robert had summoned to help.

Robert is a villain about to face two trials, for fraud and for manslaughter. But his cooked books work and he manages to sell his company and save himself financially before the bubble bursts. And the over-eager policeman on the case of the car crash makes the mistake of faking evidence about Nate's car entering a certain road, and when the policeman is exposed, the case against Nate (and Robert) is dismissed.

Robert has evaded legal justice, but he still has to face his daughter and wife who have lost their respect towards him. In the eyes of those closest to him he is a fake. Ellen knows about Robert's guilt in the killing and blackmails him: "I'm not going to lie if you don't sign" (their separation agreement with heavy terms). In Julie's funeral nobody knows about Robert's guilt except Robert, himself. The film ends with a benefit gala where Robert is celebrated as a philanthropist, the introductory speech given by Brooke. The film ends abruptly as Robert is about to take the floor.

Memorable features: - Robert's lawyer advises Robert to tell the truth, because with lies, everything gets worse. - Like in Shadow of a Doubt, the protagonist is a villain who is not caught and convicted but who loses the trust of his closest ones and gets stuck in a web of lies. - Nate: "Money's gonna fix everything?" Robert: "What else is there?" - "Nothing's beyond money with you." - "The world's cold. You gonna need a warm coat."

Arbitrage has been shot on 35 mm film, but the visual quality in the digital screening was only passable, not very good. The restrictions of the digital intermediate were especially notable in nature footage.

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