2 Audio commentary - - from writer Joel Bakan, and from directors Jennifer Abbott & Mark Achbar
AV Channel/AV Channel .
R4 . COLOR . 145 mins .
PG . PAL
“Everything will one day be owned by somebody.” – a scary notion, a price is now on everything. This seems to be heavily advocated by corporate leaders who claim it will stand as a solution to many humanitarian and biological problems. It is socialism? Not quite… is it fascism? Not quite… it is the corporation. Are we monopolising humanity for the purpose of power and privatisation? It sounds like 1984 all over again!
Hrmm... the Corporation
responsible for SARS too?
The Corporation is one of the first mainstream documentaries to surface since the rise of the unbalanced, Michael Moore inspired piece of political propaganda that some mistake for a documentary. The likes of the recent Fahrenheit 9/11 and Super-Size Me have presented a forced opinion on one facet of our ever degrading world, as if their comments come as a beacon of light to us all. The pretentious, contrived nature of these unbalanced ‘documentaries’ have sucked some in and spat out others. Now, as a breath of fresh air, The Corporation has come to help us all discover the 'documentary within'!
A Canadian-based team of three set out over eight years ago to essentially get their views on our corporate-driven world; and the grim, dystopian fascist future we are dwindling down to heard. I was surprised George Orwell wasn’t posthumously recognised in the credits of The Corporation, as if this piece had come a mere 50 years earlier it surely would have come from the mind of Orwell himself! After realising the incredible power of the documentary medium, Jennifer Abbot, Mark Achbar and Joel Bakan collaborated to script, film and edit this monumental piece of filmmaking. In early 2004 they achieved their goal, unmasking the corporation as the ‘darkness within’!
While The Corporation touches on many issues, it specifically focuses on the sophisticated and pervasive marketing techniques that are now used by corporations to manipulate consumers into using their particular service or product. The manipulation of the consumer has become an incredibly complex facet of the corporate marketing engine.
Are these practises ethically and morally correct? The answer is essentially a resounding ‘no’; however the aim of the corporation is to profit the shareholder, not to reside within moral boundaries – limiting their potential output. Money drives humanity. The now archetypal words of Tyler Durden perfectly encompass this pervasive facet of the corporation – “…advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need.” Real ultimate materialism™ is the currency of the corporation. The Corporation uses a variety of real and relevant examples of how manipulative the corporate empire can be, and does so extremely successfully. Two young college students acquired corporate sponsorship (paid tuition fees) in exchange for increasing this particular corporations advertising exposure. By the end of their campaign, these two students were convinced their path was ethically acceptable; and seemed to be ignorant to the fact they were completely manipulated by their corporate sponsor.
During The Corporation, brief scenes filmed in US money-printing factories are edited throughout key digressions – to subliminally demonstrate the influence money has over the corporation. It is very interesting (and also mildly ironic) that this footage is used so frequently, yet quite rarely referred to; as The Corporation places great emphasis on subliminal and manipulative marketing technique – and how it’s a terrible practice. However, considering the intelligence behind this entire piece, this is quite clearly a deliberate tool used to clue a specific region of the audience into a message presented.
Billboards of the future.
These elements surface the only real problem with The Corporation; and that is that it is no where near as accessible as the filmmakers intended it to be. Those who sit and watch The Corporation will no doubt already be keen political thinkers who have probably pondered the role of the corporation; questioning its influence on society. And those who aren’t up on their current affairs, and don’t have a basic awareness of how the political world works won’t find this documentary interesting or engaging.
The Corporation essentially boils down to the belief that money drives the world, and subsequently drives the corporation. An incredibly pessimistic philosophy that, while valid, leaves no room for the human spirit to flourish and prosper.
"These corporate leaders are the new high priests."
A fascist political ideology and the philosophy behind the corporation are then drawn into comparison, in order to accurately predict what the future may hold for humanity, as well as the corporation. Control vs. freedom; right vs. left; the corporation vs. mankind. It seems industry and government are in perfect allegiance and harmony.
We are consumers. Essentially, we drive corporation. Does this mean we have the power to boycott those we disagree with? Is this democracy? Democracy says that we control the election of the government, but we certainly don’t control the election of corporations who seem to now have far more influential power than a government can afford.
Considering the immense number of sources The Corporation draws from, it’s not surprising that a considerable about of the footage is of sub-par quality. Various news broadcasts and archive footage (particularly in the chapter on Nazi Germany) look very aged and tattered, but manage to convey the images with little effort. Jennifer Abbot, editor, has addressed this concern on a number of occasions by limiting the screen-size to a cropped 4:3 TV size which reduces the concern for this poor quality material.
However many of the interviews and field material were shot by the Corporation production team, and unfortunately aren’t quite as detailed as they should be. Movement during these scenes appears quite pixellated at times, lacking the extra detail that would normally be expected. Colours are perfect, as are shadows and the like.
English subtitles are accurate and effectively presented. Layer change around the 89min mark is perfectly placed.
The basic Dolby 2.0 stereo soundtrack is perfect. This type of film consists of speech and background music – nothing more. To include a 5.1 soundtrack would have been blatant propaganda, and something I’m sure that The Corporation team would disagree with!
All speech is perfectly audible, background music is conveyed with subtle depth and always manages to supplement the dialogue rather than become overwhelming. It seems that in the editorial process much of the news footage used was cleaned, resulting in remarkably clear audio from typically poor sources.
In a word; wow. No two discs (including the feature) have ever been so fully packed with extra features. The title ‘filmmakers edition’ has not been used lightly, as much of the knowledge imparted will help those future filmmakers get their message heard effectively. Go Madman!
I’ve highlighted and briefly assessed a few of the main features, but then simply listed those that may only appeal to a minority or are a standard extra. This review would last as long as a LOTR Extended Edition if I went through every extra, blow by blow!
It's good to see the Corporation out there promoting multiculturalism.
To begin, two audio-commentaries are presented alongside the feature on disc one. The first is essentially two commentaries edited together, one from editor/director Jennifer Abbot and another from Mark Achbar. Don’t be perturbed though, as they often refer to each other’s work behind the film, making a seemingly coherent commentary. While it’s not as good as a regular discussion, it still maintains very interesting and engaging. Abbot talks mainly about how the film was edited (exceptionally done), and making comments on various production aspects. Achbar adds his personal experiences behind different segments of the film, and well as some background information behind a number of different key figures interviewed in the film. Co-creator and writer Joel Bakan does a solo audio commentary, providing some background behind some of the founding of the film. This is the better of the two commentaries, and will especially warm to those who want to know a little more about the ideas and themes presented. For fans of modern history or politics will find this particular commentary fascinating (it was my favourite!). Unfortunately these two commentaries are not subtitled.
For those who are visually impaired, or for those who want to listen (but not watch) the film a valuable descriptive audio track, reading out names of interviewees, random newspaper headlines and chapter titles etc. For those like me who are constantly busy with work, this is invaluable – just throw it on in the background while writing an essay and you won’t lose anything. Those who have a visual disability will also be pleased with this audio track.
Eight Q & A sessions between a media audience and the three creators, Joel Bakan, Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbot are available for separate view or as one 18-odd minute featurette. These provide great insight into how this project began, and some of the inspiration behind the making of the film. All three creator/directors present themselves very well, articulating their thoughts perfectly – recommended viewing. These are unfortunately not 16:9 enhanced.
Writer/co-creator Joel Bakan’s interview with ‘Majority Report’ is on this first-disc, discussing aspects of the film and the book (written by Bakan) that spawned the film together. This is a radio panel-based discussion; we watch as three politically minded radio hosts pick Joel’s brain, examining Joel’s theories and assertions. At over 35 minutes this is quite heavy, however does provide some insight lost in the film. This is not 16:9 enhanced.
Nike have responded to security concerns with brute force.
This is not a big-budget film; meaning just about all money was poured into production/post-production and taken from the marketing budget. Grassroots marketing expert (who worked on marketing The Corporation) Katherine Dodds delves into some very simple but amazingly effective marketing techniques used to push the name of the The Corporation. This small featurette is an invaluable asset for small-time filmmakers, who often have major problems marketing their finalised film. At only seven minutes it’s a great little snippet, providing a few marketing tips for the under budgeted! This is not 16:9 enhanced.
Also on disc one: The Corporation theatrical trailer, DVD credits, Manufacturing Consent trailer (not 16:9) and eight deleted scenes. Nothing (bar the feature) on disc one is subtitled.
Disc-two is packed with promotional material including (extremely high) resolution pdf versions of the various international posters and marketing propaganda. A few quick links to some web resources and The Corporation online shop (oh! Irony!) are also available within the startup flash sequence.
The rest of disc-two is basically filled with additional material omitted from the film, coming from the vast amount of interviews recorded for the film. There is an insane amount of material here, from over forty professionals featured in The Corporation (including everyone’s favourite – Michael Moore!). You may either select to view the material via interviewee (ie, select a person to hear what they have to say); or select material under a topic – which edits this footage together for your convenience.
While watching the film it is clear that there are some highly intelligent professionals that aren’t quite getting the screen-time they may deserve. This allows you to hear what they have to say, in full, on the issues presented in The Corporation. Great stuff! Just over a whopping five hours of material makes it on this disc. Everything is 16:9 enhanced for the widescreen friendly.
If there was ever one documentary worth owning, it’s certainly this. It will serve as an excellent tool for those in the political or economical field, as well as for those studying or teaching contemporary history or political science. Unmask that corporation! Spread the word!
Presented with an outstanding set of extras, Madman’s release of The Corporation is stunning; one of the great releases of early ’05. More than worthy of DVDnet’s highly sought Gold Award is The Corporation; one of the finest documentaries presented in one of the finest two-disc sets!