Which is more pathetic, that this
dumb mishmash of narratives was Italy’s selection to the Academy Awards for
Best Foreign Language Film (it did not receive a nomination) or that the people
who pull the strings thought this trite ideological fable would appeal to the
string-pullers at the Academy? If Human Capital is the kind of thing
that’s supposed to pass for great foreign cinema these days, we’re all
assuredly fucked. (Remember when Amour won Best Foreign Film two years
ago? What happened to movies like that?)
Not that Human Capital doesn’t
have its pluses. It looks great, with handsome cinematography by Jérôme Alméras
(who shot the winter sequences) and Simon Beaufils (who took care of the warm
weather stuff), and smart art and set design work. There are also solid
performances by Matilde Gioli and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi. But it’s all for
naught, as this is a toothless version of Nicholas Jarecki’s Arbitrage, or
worse, a financial riff on Paul Haggis’ wretched Crash.
Like Crash, there are multiple
stories that come together in the end. (At least here, unlike in Crash,
there’s a legitimate reason these people may end up interacting.) But each
story is long, dull, and there’s no reason they couldn’t have been one
On Christmas Eve, someone driving an
SUV runs a cycling catering worker off the road. The SUV driver stops
momentarily and then takes off, leaving the cyclist injured and alone.
That’s the catalyst for the story, as
all the players we later meet are involved, at least tangentially. Human
Capital is the story of two families, one wealthy, one middle class, and
the way their lives are intertwined, but there are two narratives spread across
the four chapters that make up the film. One narrative: Rich people are
assholes. Other narrative: Middle class (and sometimes poor) people have
ambitions beyond their grasp and get into deep shit, financially and otherwise,
because of it.
That’s reductive, but Human
Capital thinks because it looks good it doesn’t have to provide pesky
things such as character or story (or maybe it thinks its paper-thin story can
stand on its own).
Fabrizio Bentivoglio is Dino Ossola,
a moderately successful real estate broker who makes a deal with big swingin’
financial dick Giovanni Bernaschi (Fabrizio Gifuni) to go in on a fund he can’t
afford. Dino’s daughter Serena (Gioli) is dating Giovanni’s son (Guglielmo
Pinelli); the son may have been driving the SUV. But it may also have been
Serena’s secret maybe-addict boyfriend Luca (Giovanni Anzaldo). I’d mention
Tedeschi’s character if she had anything to do with the plot in the larger
scheme of things, but she doesn’t.
Who ran over the cyclist? Will the fund
go belly up? Is Dino a moron? Do you even care? You probably won’t, if only
because Bentivoglio’s performance is so distasteful it leaves a pall over the
rest of the film. He feels like he should be in a Vinny Vedecci sketch on Saturday
Night Live with Bill Hader.
By the way, the answers to those
questions are, “Who cares?” “Who cares?” “Duh,” and “No, you shouldn’t.” But if
you made it this far and still plan on seeing Human Capital, pack a
lunch. It’s just shy of two hours, but feels like it’s five. Maybe that’s
because you’ll figure out what’s going on long before its characters do but
still have to sit through the whole mess.
Tedeschi, Bentivoglio and Gioli
Santa Fe Reporter