Dir: AlexGibney. US. 2005. 110mins.
The Enronscandal may have happened mostly behind closed doors - but that doesn't stopdocumentary film-maker Alex Gibney from finding the visual drama to tell asthrilling a tale of corporate malfeasance as any Hollywood blockbuster with Enron:The Smartest Guys In The Room. Here he creates a sense of urgency, whenmany audiences already know the outcome and have heard the details hashed andre-hashed in news reports and the like.
The slickpresentation of the documentary - with its punchy music, cute graphictitles and anti-corporate message - pin it as this year's Super-Size Me orThe Corporation. It should play strongly to liberal-minded crowds atAmerican arthouses and may also find some play abroad. There, the scope of thiscorporate scandal and the hubris of the American company involved could proveeven more shocking to audiences, coming as they are to events anew.
Financed by Texasbillionaires Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner for their HDFilms division, it will bedistributed by their own Magnolia Pictures, which also has distributed theSundance docs The Control Room and Capturing The Friedmans.
Despite thehigh-def origin of the film, it doesn't push any envelopes on the technologyfront. Rather it's the grainy, blown-out footage from Enron's own corporateevents that sell the movie.
Gibney sets upthese damning vignettes to show the psychological profiles of the company'sperpetrators, going through each executive's background and personalityprofile. He then juxtaposes these images against the behind-the-scenes eventsto contrast the public display with reality.
There is littlehere about the average Enron workers and how they were affected by the downfallof the company. Rather, audiences soon come to understand the corporate culturethat allowed the alleged abuses take place, as Enron chief Ken Lay and hislieutenants smile and vamp in front of employees and shareholders, telling themthat everything is just fine and not to sell their stock while at the same timeselling their own shares.
Even better isthe section dealing with California's energy crisis, which features a simpleaudio tape of Enron's brash energy brokers allegedly first joking about howthey are fleecing poor grandmothers, then allegedly calling power plants toshut down operations so as to artificially raise prices (the documentary saysthat the recording is one of the US government's primary exhibits in its caseagainst the company).
But despiteallusions to alleged collusion between Lay, the White House and California'snow-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the film-makers fail to produce the factsto back up their claims - and it is these portions which make for the film'sweakest segments.
Prod co: HDNet Films
Int'l sales: 2929International
Exec prods: MarkCuban, Todd Wagner, Joana Vicente
Prods: Alex Gibney, Jason Kliot,Susan Motamed
Scr: Alex Gibney thebook on which the film is based, by Fortune reporters Bethany McLean and PeterElkind
Cine: Maryse Alberti