Review: The Emperor's New Clothes

The Emperor's New Clothes tackles a serious subject with wit, humility and humour.

The Emperor's New Clothes tackles a serious subject with wit, humility and humour.

THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES (M) Directed by Michael Winterbottom ★★★★½

I've never really been a fan of Russell Brand.

I've opined before that I think he's a prat, a phony and a self-satisfied tosser. That was two hours ago.

Having just watched Brand fronting The Emperor's New Clothes – the documentary he has co-created with director Michael Winterbottom (The TripTrishna, A Mighty Heart24 Hour Party People and many many other films) – I'm prepared to take it all back. I'll never be a fan of his stand-up, but as the narrator and court-jester here Brand is compelling, impassioned and convincing.

The Emperor's New Clothes is a quick trip over the Western world in the years since the Thatcher/Reagan/Milton Friedman-led "financial revolution" of the 1980s. And what Brand sees, he doesn't like one bit. Neither should we.

A few stats will never tell the whole story, but knowing that the average CEO salary in the 1970s was ten times the average worker's wage, but today it's more like 150 times that wage should give you at least a taste of what Brand wants you to ponder.

Or, as Brand says at the very beginning of this film, "You know this already". 

And he's right. We know that banks and bankers make profits that are by any sane definition of the word utterly obscene. We know it's wrong that the corporations we pay money to every day avoid paying every cent of tax they can. We know it's wrong that the global financial crisis didn't result in one single banker being prosecuted, when so much of what they had been up to had been – and continues to be – so blatantly dodgy.

We know all this, and yet we refuse to believe we can doing anything about it. Or worse, we dismiss the people who do protest as "activists" at best.

A few years back Inside Job laid out these basic facts, in an admirably serious and detailed way. The Emperor's New Clothes is the same story told with wit, humility and humour.

Please go and see it. You'll be as charmed and enraged as I was by the end.

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 - Stuff


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