After delving into military coups, dictatorships and kidnapping in films such as “Z” and “Missing,” award-winning writer and director Costa-Gavras peers into the murky world of global finance in “Capital,” a fast-paced, high-stakes drama.
Based on the book “Le Capital” by Stephane Osmont, the French film opened in limited release this weekend. It centers on Marc Tourneuil, a young executive played by Moroccan-born Gad Elmaleh, who appeared in Woody Allen’s 2011 film “Midnight in Paris” and is best known as a stand-up comedian in France.
Tourneuil is appointed the head of a European investment bank after the chief executive collapses from a heart attack. He enters a privileged world of private jets and luxury yachts, populated by lanky, exotic models and ruthless businessmen.
Intelligent and calculating Tourneuil battles the board of directors, which underestimates his ambition and cunning, and an American hedge fund run by Dittmar Rigule, played by Gabriel Byrne of TV’s “In Treatment,” which is determined to gain control.
Gavras, 80, who was born in Greece and is a naturalized French citizen, has been described as one of the greatest political filmmakers for a string of movies such “State of Siege,” “Betrayed” and “Music Box,” made during a career spanning five decades.
He has won numerous awards, including a 1983 Oscar for best screenplay adaptation for “Missing.” The 1969 political thriller “Z” was awarded an Oscar for best foreign language film.
Why did you make a film about global finance?
It’s because we have a new kind of dictatorship, which is legal, completely legal, and accepted by almost everybody. It is very new, in my feeling, in our world. It’s the people who run the economy.
Most of the time, not all the time, they are much stronger than the people we elect to run the countries for one simple reason. The people who run the countries, who have control of the banks or the people who deal with the economy, don’t succeed in doing it (controlling them), here, in Europe and everywhere. They let them be completely free . . . and we have gotten to the point where we are now, which is a very difficult point.
What is the message of the film?
I’m speaking about the people who run the companies because the image they have is positive but behind that, by studying and meeting some of them, I discovered that there are two people. There is the one we see and the one behind, who doesn’t care much about other people. They only care about the stockholders and themselves.
“Capital” is also about a lack of ethics and corruption.
If you don’t respect the dignity of other people, you don’t have any ethics. There is no doubt it is about ethics. They (executives) understand very quickly that they belong to the stockholders and their position depends on them, and if they don’t do what the stockholders want they will lose their position.
So when they get up there, they are like kings. They have all the money and the power, the sex, and it is very difficult for most of them to lose all those things, so they prefer to stay and forget about ethics.
Gad Elmaleh, who plays Marc Tourneuil, is a comedian. Why did you pick him to play a dramatic role?
I have done it before and have had great results. When I did “Missing,” for example with Jack Lemmon, I remember people saying, “Are we doing a comedy?” I said, “No, look at movies like ‘Save the Tiger’ or ‘The Apartment’ (in which he starred) . . . ”
When someone, an actor essentially, wants to do something different and he accepts to work with the director to make a third person who doesn’t exist, then it can be a very, very interesting situation and result. I always have excellent results.
You have made many award-winning political films and thrillers. Are there any plans to make a different type of movie a love story, or a comedy?
If you have a good story for a musical, I’m ready to buy it. It’s a very old dream of mine: to do a musical.