Interview: Scout Tafoya | Video: Kurt Walker
Following the success of I Am Not Your Negro (2016), Haitian director Raoul Peck has ambitiously made a biopic of the early years of Karl Marx. Reviewing the film for the Notebook, Scout Tafoya writes:
The Young Karl Marx’s focus is on precious few people and incidents and the style in which it unfolds has already proved polarizing. Some find it too simple. (...) Peck could easily have turned Marx into spectacle, but what better gift than a romantic treatment of Marxism, the kind that only the cinema can provide? He’s made Marx into a figure liberal audiences will recognize from the dozens of torturous biopics they give money and prizes too every year. That’s a sly victory in and of itself. Make a film that behaves, in its structure, like a conventional story of an underdog inventor or movie-autistic genius. Give Marx back to the people, as it were. Try to make an end run around the last twenty years of dumbing down the popular film. Here’s a film in the shape of something awful (The Imitation Game or The Iron Lady) that co-opts the form and plants a dozen ideas about communism, something most audiences may misunderstand, some willfully. His form is like the lobster, proof that Peck, like his hero, is unafraid of the trappings of bourgeois society, knowing one can mingle with them and not lose oneself. I doubt it will work, but this was beyond a noble effort. It’s revolutionary.
For the film's New York release, the director generously sat with us to discuss getting a film about communism made in the West, how to work within the capitalist system of cinema, and how to approach the style of a film about a radical subject.