If anyone can make a political thriller good enough to make your hair stand up and your pulse speed up it, it’s acclaimed Greek-French director Costa-Gavras, but how did he get from Lambrakis to Varoufakis?
The man who transformed Vasssilis Vassilikos’ book Z into a brilliant metaphorical 1969 film starring French actors, but really about the assassination of Greek politician Grigoris Lambrakis in 1963, now has to try to make a petulant pouter, former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis seem like a screen hero instead of a zero.
Where Z – driven by the haunting, pedal-to-the-metal soundtrack by Mikis Theodorakis – was gripping, serious stuff about life and death, Costa-Gavras decided to take a flier and try to make a film out of Varoufakis’ book Adults in the Room.
From his point of view, which looks down on everyone else, including the late Einstein and physicist Stephen Hawking, Varoufakis takes us behind the scenes of the closed doors of his battle with the envoys of the European Union and bankers determined to smash democracy.
Well, that’s the way he sees it, and while he was, ironically, the principled one from the Greek side after Prime Minister and Looney Left leader Alexis “Che” Tsipras folded his tent in 2015 and bowed to the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM) to get a third bailout, this one for 86 billion euros ($95.84 billion), you can be sure the glory hound is going to put himself on a pedestal.
Maybe Costa-Gavras can make exciting a movie about rich, old white men locked in a room deciding how to pound workers, pensioners, and the poor with austerity before a lunch of caviar and champagne in Brussels and he’d better or the title of this one is going to be ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.
There’s potential here because there were sparks in the room the public wasn’t allowed to see because politicians believe laws and policies should be made in the dark.
Varoufakis was squared off against then German Finance Minister Wolfgang “Schadenfreude” Schaeuble, a mean curmudgeon who did everything to destroy Greece except raise his hand in a nazi salute like Peter Sellers’ character Dr. Strangelove in How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, which this movie might be in lesser hands.
You have to deal with Varoufakis’ vanity – he loved showing off taking his motorcycle to work and pretending to be a man of the people before a Paris Match magazine shoot showed him at a piano in a grand living room and dining in style with his wife on a rooftop terrace while he fought the good fight against austerity.
The jacket for his book is as breathless as that guy who does the voice over on just about every movie trailer that seem to start with…‘In a world gone mad...” In Varoufakis’ case, the publisher says, “In this fearless account, Varoufakis reveals all: an extraordinary tale of brinkmanship, hypocrisy, collusion, and betrayal that will shake the deep establishment to its foundations.” Move over Euripides, there’s a new Tragedian in town.
He was on the right side of a wrong argument – right not to bend principles for pragmatism even though as a well-schooled economist he should have known there was no way out of this trap he walked into, a fatal flaw for a self-styled game theorist and mathematical statistics expert who couldn’t see how the game would end.
You’d like to root for him because Tsipras rolled over like a dog shown a Milk Bone when push came to shove, but Varoufakis’ arrogance makes people who try to get close to him bounce off that invisible force field.
He makes Warren Beatty seem humble. Joe Namath has nothing on him and you know Varoufakis can’t wait until tomorrow because he gets smarter and better looking every day.
There could be some real drama in this, and a political thriller, or it could be a snore-a-thon about inside baseball and political insiders. But you know since he wrote the book who the hero is going to be about the battle to renegotiate Greece’s relationship with the European Union.
During that tumultuous summer of 2015, Tsipras called a referendum urging Greeks to join him in defying the Troika and more austerity – they did, he didn’t – capitulating after the ECB said it would turn off the emergency liquidity tap and making the Premier cave, closing the banks for three weeks and imposing capital controls still in place.
The SYRIZANs danced happily in the streets after the referendum result so maybe that’s where Costa-Gavras can put his camera when it’s not locked on Varoufakis’ face like a tractor beam where we undoubtedly will see his range of emotions, from quizzical to hubris and back again.
Costa-Gavras might be in the middle of a shoot and have to stop if Varoufakis jumps in to tell him how to direct a scene or tell the actor playing him, Christos Loulis, “No! No! No! I don’t feeeeeeel your pain when Schaeuble is ridiculing you!”
Too combative for the Troika to deal with, they made Tsipras squeeze him out – easy, since he’d throw anyone under the bus to stay in power, and back it up and run them over again and again.
Given Varoufakis and the antagonists though, the film should be retitled: Egos in the Room.