`Corporation': The bad side of business

July 23, 2004|By Gary Thompson | Gary Thompson,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

The Corporation isn't impressed much by the benefits of capitalism, and with a select panel of judges that includes Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky, you can guess how that goes (badly, for corporations like Monsanto).

Still, given the black eye corporations have given themselves over the past few years, you can hardly say that The Corporation isn't timely or overdue. The documentary starts with legal decisions in the 1800s that established incorporated bodies as "persons" with the right to buy, sell, borrow money and sue. Corporations attained these privileges but often undertook them without any moral framework.

The film's consideration of corporations as poor global citizens, in actual and philosophical terms, is consistently interesting. Problems come when it moves onto the grassy knoll, full of espionage and forms of subliminal mind control that take away our free will.

Efforts to make corporations synonymous with evil also overreach - there is a rather offensive section that suggests the Nazis couldn't have managed the Holocaust without the IBM punch-card system. This seems to vastly overestimate the punch-card system and vastly underestimate the Nazis.

Also underestimated are existing checks and balances. You can pick up the Wall Street Journal and take quick note of the list of formidable corporate enemies - trial lawyers, consumer advocates, Eliot Spitzer. They receive scant mention in The Corporation, wherein sinister institutions of capital dominate and control virtually all aspects of modern life.

Still, the movie scores points when it probes the grubbier regions of globalization, wherein the search for cheap labor exploits desperately poor people. And when it argues that today's corporation is much like Ebenezer Scrooge, miserly - but unvisited by ghosts of conscience.


Documentary directed by Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott

Released by Zeitgeist Films

Unrated (adult themes)

Time 145 minutes

Sun Score * * 1/2

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