The Emperor’s New Clothes: Russell Brand’s howl of rage

Unless he voiced EB the drumming bunny in Hop purely for the love of percussion and adorable woodland creatures, there once was a time when Russell Brand liked capital.

In recent years, though, he’s elected to put his money where his anarchist mouth is, turning down millions in settlement payments after his divorce from Katy Perry and using the profits from last year’s political diatribe Revolution to set up a co-op cafe in Haggerston. The worst you can say about Brand now is that he likes the sound of his own voice – a voice he supplied gratis when he put the audiobook version of Revolution up for free download.

Director Michael Winterbottom is likewise not a man known for his commitment to the bottom line. Even his occasional successes (The Trip, to pick a recent example) feel like the fortuitous by-products of a career spent restlessly pursuing whatever tale or technique last piqued his interest. No wonder, then, that Winterbottom and Brand’s documentary-cum- state-of-the-nation address The Emperor’s New Clothes feels so sincere – it’s a howl of rage at a political and economic system that the two evidently find nauseous.

Such good intentions don’t always mask the flimsiness of the material. Brand can’t gatecrash a corporate head office as convincingly as Michael Moore, nor string together an essayistic political analysis as persuasively as Adam Curtis. And though Winterbottom does well to impose a consistent visual style that soothes the worst of Brand’s excesses, this is scattershot film-making from any angle.

Still, as a primer on inequality the film is undoubtedly more accessible than the handful of titles already on the market, and I suspect it could well galvanise the young audience it seeks to attract. The pricey Q&A screenings that constituted the film’s theatrical run probably didn’t do much to court that crowd, but the film may yet reach its target demographic on DVD – or that most anarchistic of platforms, BitTorrent.

Also out this week

Big Hero 6 Disney blockbuster with adorable blob thing.

Testament Of Youth Vera Brittain biopic with sexy young cast.

Cat People Bizarre 80s thriller with Bowie-penned theme song.

Powered by article was written by Charlie Lyne, for The Guardian on Saturday 30th May 2015 15.00 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010