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The Corporation
featuring: Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, and Milton Friedman

directors: Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott

144 minutes (PG) 2003
widescreen ratio 16:9
Metrodome DVD Region 2 retail
[released 7 March]

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Emma French
The Corporation was released in 2003, and presumably gained its wide cinematic release in the US and UK on the back of the wave of interest in documentary film that we have seen in the last few years. A very serious and thorough film, it lacks the pace and humour of, say, Fahrenheit 9/11, but also excludes the mawkish sentiment, clumsy stunts and intrusive music of Moore's magnum opus. The clever use of archive footage and the strenuous attempts to set the scene in a macro context grant the film a sense of historical sweep and wide significance. It becomes, on one level, no less than a story of 20th century America.

A very impressive range of talking heads, including Milton Friedman and Noam Chomsky, are interviewed in the course of the film. There are some memorable moments and undoubtedly very important stories amongst the worthy observations but it all has a rather episodic feel to it, as there is no real driving narrative. It is also very repetitive, and is essentially polemic with no real plot or overarching structure. It must, however, be praised for its balanced view, which includes optimistic possibilities of change as well as very distressing evidence of the evil that corporations can do in the name of profit. There is no attempt to oversimplify the corporation as a satanic machine with a malevolent intent of its own as so often occurs in the Hollywood mainstream. The music throughout is subtle but effective. There is a stirring call to arms at the end by the ubiquitous Michael Moore, which raises the gratifying possibility of a genuinely politicised response to a film such as this.

Despite its undoubted ethical value, the film has its flaws. The decision to film all interviewees against a plain dark background sometimes creates the aura of an Open University educational film. Although the story of the three investigative reporters for Fox News having their story on milk additives suppressed is interesting, there is a sense that the murky Murdoch news agenda has been very well covered, not least in Robert Greenwald's excellent 2004 documentary Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War On Journalism. Given how much material must be available to the filmmakers, it is a shame to use content that is already very much in the public consciousness.

Disc one contains the film itself but also a chapter breakdown, a set-up with options including commentary by the directors, Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott, or by writer Joel Bakan, and special features which comprise: Q's And A's, deleted scenes, Majority Report, Katherine Dodds on grass roots marketing, DVD credits and trailers for The Corporation and for Manufacturing Consent (that trailer is voiced by Noah Chomsky). Of these special features, the Dodds piece is arguably the most interesting.

Disc two is split into two main sections: Hear More From... which provides further interview footage for every one of the contributors, and highlights again what an extraordinary array of talking heads have been assembled for the film. So, for example, if you want to 'hear more from' Naomi Klein, the author of No Logo, her contributions are usefully subdivided into different sections and you can click on each one. The other main feature on disc two is Topical Paradise, which has subsections on branding, capitalism, corporate crime, corporations and government, democracy, ethics and values, externalities and history. In Topical Paradise, the contributors featured in the film provide explanations of the various topics - for example, on externalities, CEO Sam Gibara, Dr Samuel Epstein and Milton Friedman all expand on relevant points made elsewhere. It is all quite dry and feels more like an additional forum for the speakers than anything more worthwhile. The extensive extras on the two disc DVD release highlight the sense created by the film of a scholarly product, keen to establish its intellectual rigour and credibility as a piece of research.
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