Friday, 6 February 2015
a DVD helps me find the counter-poison in Cosmopolis
A couple of recent evenings out have created some music and film swapping moments. A few of us emailed quick lists of recent music we liked - it gave me some new ideas as a result.
Separately, a different group of us exchanged a single DVD with one another. I received Cosmopolis, which is the 2012 Cronenberg movie adaptation of the Delillo novel. Someone else got Lady and the Tramp.
I read Delillo's book a few years ago, which I remember as a sort of road-tripping life-loop compressed into a single journey.
I hadn't seen the movie, which stars Twilight's Robert Pattison playing Eric, a different kind of blood-sucker.
The focus is a 28 year old billionaire in a white stretched limousine crossing a road-blocked Manhattan to get a haircut. He's received a death threat. The soundproofed limo is configured like a gleaming space capsule and on his journey he meets his wife, lovers, his art advisor, a doctor and colleagues as well as going through the asteroid shower of an 'Occupy Wall Street' type demonstration.
Many of Eric's reactions appear as automaton-calculations, challenging the notion of richness and smartness being linked. A quarter second of a real shared glance could violate the agreements that made the city operate.
The immersive numbers soup echoes current global trading where markets are tweaked and debts offloaded to unwitting consumers.
“Look at those numbers running. Money makes time. It used to be the other way around. Clock time accelerated the rise of capitalism. People stopped thinking about eternity. They began to concentrate on hours...using labour more efficiently.”
As various brainiac accomplices of Eric briefly join him in the car, there's only a fuzzy understanding of the way the markets work. The machine algorithms rule the organic charts. No shoeshine story, but a 24 year old who briefly joins him has had enough and wants to get out of the markets.
From a book written in 2003, there's plenty for 2015. Take falling energy markets where oil slid from $130 to around $60 per barrel. Everyone trades with all the right software. Allegro, Openlink, Triple Point, Amphora. Roll out the names. Roll out the barrels. Yet be surprised.
US fracking increases oil availability, energy efficiency in cars improves, middle east conflicts fluctuate, China shops around, Russia creates embargoes and the Saudis keep production levels for market retention. A few events outrun the systems - halve the price. Now wait to see whether Saudis hold their nerve and American fracking becomes unprofitable.
The machines' trades win over the humans' comprehension with the capture of margins creating an ultra-minority wealth. Just like the 28-year old in the story.
"Money has lost its narrative quality the way painting did once upon a time. Money is talking to itself. as Delillo puts it.
Frankly, it's a tough movie to watch. Tight one-to-one interactions with Pattinson's character, dealing in whip cracks of Delillo thought. Eating and sleeping in the shadow of what these people do.