Cannes 2010: Oliver Stone: Financial system is suffering from congenital heart failure


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Few Hollywood figures are as polarizing as Oliver Stone. But few messages go down as smoothly as the one the “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” director offered about the financial sector, and the attempts to overhaul it, at the Cannes Film Festival on Friday.

“It was a triple bypass,” Stone said of the financial crash of 2008. “They put a stent in it but I don’t think they solved it.”


Like Michael Moore and other polemicists, Stone didn’t have all the answers for how to fix the financial system that has brought the economy low (while leaving many in the banking sector untouched) — a system that continues to vex and divide both Congress and the White House. But in his Cannes news conference, the filmmaker — who since his “Wall Street” came out back in 1987 has been a one-man chronicler of greed and the system’s ill-fated attempts to curb it — had an impressively level-headed assessment of what’s broken, drawing from the personal as well as the philosophical.

“My father was a real broker and he was a real economist,” said Stone of his father, Louis Stone, who worked as a stockbroker. “He believed in serving his clients. And that’s gone. There are no clients.”
Stone added that bankers were initially supposed to serve as intermediaries but wound up with too much power. He also spoke knowledgeably about a number of Wall Street issues, including the eroded firewall between research and investment divisions; love him or hate him, he’s a director who does his research. (In fact, the production sought access to, or conversations with, several major U.S. investment banks, including Goldman Sachs, but were turned down by all the biggies; only a smaller outfit north of the border, the Royal Bank of Canada, welcomed the production.)

In the from-the-hip session, Stone also spoke about his desire to make a documentary about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an effort that had gained some traction before negotiations with the Iranian president became “ridiculous.”

Stone wound up going on to make “South of the Border,” a film about Latin American leaders, instead — as well as, he revealed at his news conference, a third installment in his interview series with Fidel Castro, which he said found the Cuban president physically ailing but mentally lucid. But the taste of his previous effort lingers. “It’s an ugly situation,” Stone said of the discussions to shoot Ahmadinejad. “I don’t know who’s lying and who’s telling the truth.”— Steven Zeitchik


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