“Perception was Reality”

Scott Macauley’s Filmmaker Magazine interview with director Alex Gibney and journalist Bethany McLean underlines much of what I found so effective about Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, specifically the difficulty of explaining what Enron actually did before it collapsed into bankruptcy. In the interview McLean comments, “You can make an interesting analogy between Enron and the 1990s stock market, because in a lot of ways perception was reality. If you created a buzz and a feeling that the stock would go up, that became its only form of reality, its own form of validation.”

As I left the theater, one impression that I had was that Enron seemed to be one of the first great “historical” films about the 1990s, that it captured that Alan Greenspan New Economy vibe better than anything I could remember seeing (side note: at one point in the film, Greenspan is in fact shown receiving an award from Enron for his public service). This sense of smoke and mirrors is also something that Gibney and director of photography Maryse Alberti, with Gibney noting that Enron was very much “like a movie studio, like a propaganda machine.” This notion of a “movie studio” is made explicit in one scene that was trimmed from the final film, in which Enron created a “fake” trading room floor, with secretaries masqeurading as traders to fool analysts into believing the trading floor was already running.

Macauley also reads the film as timely in the current political moment, with deregulation and Social Security privatization (still) on the table. The interview is also interesting to get a sense of how Gibney departed from the material in the book and in terms of the sountrack choices (thanks to Green Cine for the link).


  1. Diana Said,

    May 3, 2005 @ 11:12 am

    Apropos nothing, you might be amused by this Time Traveler Convention at MIT: http://web.mit.edu/adorai/timetraveler/

  2. Chuck Said,

    May 3, 2005 @ 11:32 am

    Funny, I was just about to store that link on my blog so that I could blog about it later.

    Thanks, Diana.

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