×

Collapse

It makes countless other political documentaries look like episodes of "Teletubbies."

With:
With: Michael Ruppert.

Less wake-up call than four-alarm fire, “Collapse” forces its audience to witness the testimony of Michael Ruppert, an independent writer and researcher who believes that everything — industrial civilization, at least — is falling apart, soon to vanish completely. In other words, it makes countless other political documentaries look like episodes of “Teletubbies.” Unnervingly persuasive much of the time, and merely riveting when it’s not, Ruppert’s talking-head analysis gets the Errol Morris treatment from director Chris Smith (“American Movie”), whose intellectual horror film ranks as another essential work, one well deserving of play in major cities — provided they’re still around.

To the extent that Smith’s apocalyptic docu doubles as a subtle character study of a flawed, if not tragic, individual, it isn’t necessary for one to buy all of Ruppert’s arguments in order to fall for “Collapse.” Neither does the film inevitably stand to divide an audience along typical party lines. Ruppert, a former LAPD officer who accused the CIA of involvement in ’80s-era drug-running, spreads his mistrust and disdain past the Bush administration into that of President Obama, whom he views as “imprisoned” by an archaic and doomed system of global capitalism.

The crux of Ruppert’s argument is that, in a world of rapidly depleting resources, market capital’s requisite promise of infinite growth has become a lie, particularly in the realm of oil, for which there’s no replenishing and no viable substitute. (“Clean” coal is a contradiction in terms, Ruppert says, and ethanol is a “joke.” Electricity, he says, requires oil.)

Ruppert, whose self-published newsletter predicted the current economic crisis more than four years ago, anticipates that when oil prices spike to the point that no one can afford to buy gas for the 800 million internal combustion-powered engines on Earth, “everything” will shut down — including mail delivery, air traffic control, highway maintenance, food production and distribution, and law enforcement. The insolvency of FDIC and the Federal Reserve Bank will follow close behind, he says.

In the marketplace of ideas, Ruppert sells his relentlessly bleak predictions to the viewer through darkly humorous metaphor. Survival of the fittest, he says, doesn’t require a tent-pitching camper to run faster than a marauding bear; it only requires him to run faster than the slowest camper.

That Ruppert, who lives with his beloved dog in Culver City, Calif., is currently behind on his rent and facing eviction is a haunting irony observed with characteristic calm by Smith in the closing credits. The documaker also catches his subject contradicting an earlier claim that his only responsibility is to himself. Eventually, the middle-aged, chain-smoking Ruppert — whose long drags on cigarettes amount to another picture of imminent collapse — concedes that he means to help humanity prepare for an event he predicts to be as cataclysmic as the asteroid crash that killed the dinosaurs. (The short version of his advice: Learn to grow your own food in clean soil.)

Smith, whose focus on the iconoclastic philosophies of eccentric workers goes back to his brilliant 1996 mock docu “American Job,” here adopts the style of Morris’ “The Fog of War,” interspersing Ruppert’s testimony with quirkily illustrative archival footage and layering on a swirling musical score (by Didier Leplae and Joe Wong) to help keep the viewer’s wheels turning. Andrew Reznik’s art direction places Ruppert in what looks like a cross between an art gallery and a bomb shelter, while the camerawork of Ed Lachman and Max Malkin performs a downward spiral around the subject as he talks and smokes.

Off-camera, Smith can be heard asking questions such as, “Aren’t you leaving out the possibility of human ingenuity?” What the director himself leaves out — to the benefit of Ruppert’s larger argument, perhaps — is mention of the man’s 9/11 conspiracy theories, not counting a brief shot of the author’s article, “9/11 and Insider Trading.”

The pic is credited as being based on Ruppert’s book “A Presidential Energy Policy,” whose commercial failure contributed to the author’s current economic collapse.

Popular on Variety

Collapse

Production: A Bluemark presentation. (Sales: Cinetic Media, New York.) Produced by Kate Noble. Directed by Chris Smith.

Crew: Camera (color, DV), Max Malkin, Ed Lachman; editor, Barry Poltermann; music, Didier Leplae, Joe Wong; music supervisor, Sara Matarazzo; art director, Andrew Reznik; sound, Hunter Crowley. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Real to Reel), Sept. 13, 2009. Running time: 80 MIN.

With: With: Michael Ruppert.

More Film

  • Bob IgerSimon Weisenthal Gala honoring Bob

    Bob Iger Would Have Combined Disney With Apple if Steve Jobs Were Still Alive

    Disney and Apple are both launching their own streaming services come November, but Disney CEO Bob Iger says the two companies weren’t always on competing paths. In an excerpt from his autobiography published Wednesday in “Vanity Fair,” Iger revealed that Disney and Apple likely would have merged if Steve Jobs hadn’t died in 2011. “I [...]

  • Aaron Janus Lionsgate

    Lionsgate Hires 'A Quiet Place' Producer Aaron Janus as Senior VP of Production

    Lionsgate has hired Aaron Janus as its new senior vice president of production and promoted Meredith Wieck to the post of vice president of production.  Prior to Lionsgate, Janus served as Platinum Dunes’ head of development, where he oversaw filmmakers Brad Fuller, Andrew Form and Michael Bane. There, he brought in “A Quiet Place,” on [...]

  • Ang Lee Reveals First Look at

    Ang Lee on 'Gemini Man' and De-Aging Will Smith

    On paper, Ang Lee’s “Gemini Man” is a standard-issue, shoot ’em up with Will Smith playing a deadly assassin who must battle a younger clone of himself. The explosions and gun battles aren’t what drew Lee to the project, even if they’re the reason that most people will show up at theaters when it opens [...]

  • Hopper Reserve

    Dennis Hopper's Dying Wish: His Own Strain of Marijuana

    Even as celebrity brands are starting to flood the emerging Cannabis market, Hopper Reserve stands out. The brand was launched by Marin Hopper, Dennis Hopper’s daughter from his marriage to Brooke Hayward. Hopper Reserve is a gram of California indoor-grown flower, two packs of rolling papers, a pair of matches and a trading card either [...]

  • Sean Clarke Aardman Staff Photography Bristol.Pic

    Aardman Appoints Sean Clarke as New Managing Director

    Aardman, the Oscar-winning animation studio behind “Chicken Run” and “Early Man,” has appointed Sean Clarke as its new managing director, replacing co-founder David Sproxton, who is stepping down after 43 years. Clarke has worked at the British studio for more than 20 years, including heading the international rights and marketing department for over a decade. [...]

  • The Antenna

    Toronto Film Review: 'The Antenna'

    Jump scares, creepy noises and the tease of hidden-from-view dangers are all fine. But a truly frightening horror film unsettles with more than its crafts, but instead through the vulnerability of defenseless people stuck with bad options only. First-time writer-director Orçun Behram’s highly stylized and mildly disturbing “The Antenna,” a metaphor on Turkey’s current ruling [...]

  • Ad Astra Box Office

    Box Office Battle: 'Ad Astra' Takes on 'Rambo: Last Blood' and 'Downton Abbey'

    “Hustlers” and “Good Boys” proved that even in the age of Marvel dominance and remake mania, movies that don’t exist within an established franchise can still be box office draws. Can “Ad Astra” continue that trend? The space drama — starring Brad Pitt and directed by James Gray — arrives on the big screen this [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content