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The American Ruling Class (2005)

Unrated  |   |  Comedy, Music  |  1 March 2007 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 300 users  
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In this first of its kind "dramatic-documentary-musical", Lewis Lapham takes two young Ivy-League graduates on a tour of the corridors of power. The novice careerists must decide: should they seek to rule the world, or to save it?



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In this first of its kind "dramatic-documentary-musical", Lewis Lapham takes two young Ivy-League graduates on a tour of the corridors of power. The novice careerists must decide: should they seek to rule the world, or to save it?

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


America Rules the World! But Who Rules America?


Comedy | Music







Release Date:

1 March 2007 (USA)  »

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[first lines]
Man: [singing] Here we are a sailing, adrift without a dream. We live for God and country, and yes our God is green. So put your arms around me, until the break of dawn. 'Cause late at night the great and mighty Wurlitzer plays on.
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User Reviews

deadly accurate and tactfully subversive
20 March 2008 | by (Finland) – See all my reviews

In this smoothly flowing semi-documentary, John Kirby and Lewis Lapham guide us through a believable but dramatized set of circumstances in the would-be lives of two well educated young men ready to embark on their promising careers in business, politics and whatever else.

Dreamlike, we are driven across landscapes and cityscapes, from the rectangular office spaces of Wall Street to the comfortably luxurious houses of the well-off. During the process, we are haunted, as the life-like main characters are, by the seductive promise of life on the leading edge of American power and money.

The choice of fictionalizing a documentary is, by itself, nothing new, but the WAY this has been done here is quite unique. It seems that all the fictive elements only serve the purpose of truth and accuracy, instead of obfuscating the realities involved. Even the graphical and musical interludes serve as surprisingly sympathetic material for further reflection. Unfortunately this strategy subjects the film to criticism from those who find such content offensive or unnecessary. This film is too "artsy" for some; others may find it "preachy", for much the same reasons. For me, the true achievement of the film is precisely its ability to toe that fine line between realism and idealism without ever falling overboard.

Thanks largely to Lewis Lapham and a wonderful "cast" of what in a lesser documentary would be called talking heads (including such giants as Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Altman, Howard Zinn and Walter Cronkite), the film delivers a cinematic equivalent of a journalistic exposition, both laid back and straight to the point. Indeed, this is Lapham's film as much as Kirby's, and for those who find his presence overbearing, this film might prove to be too much. But its subjectivity is perfectly honest and sincere, and should be applauded as such.

While this is clearly not a "pure" documentary in the traditional sense, I wouldn't call it either fiction or mockumentary - it's really one of a kind. For anybody with an interest in the way academicians, aspiring college graduates, business people and powerful politicians see the world and how they reflect on their own role in the functioning of the system, this film is a must see. Whether or not it is useful to talk of a "Ruling Class", the jarringly disparate perspectives of the very rich and powerful in contrast to the way more modestly earning wage workers see the world raises many questions - and, probably, the hair on your neck! It is not without its problems; the last half could probably have used re-editing. Still, it is a unique look - and certainly just one possible look - at the way power, money and ideology operate in today's society.

It is deadly accurate, mainly because it lets people speak for themselves. For this same reason, and underneath its cool and tact, it is surprisingly subversive and charming. Despite Lapham's grayer-than-gray attire, the film is anything but.

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