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Thursday, March 12, 2009

THE AMERICAN RULING CLASS

By D.E.Levine

Director: John Kirby
Writer: Lewis Lapham
Producer: Libby Handros
Cast: Robert Altman, James Baker III, Bill Bradley, Caton Burwell, Paul Cantagallo, Hodding Carter, William T. Coleman, Walter Cronkite, Barbara Ehrenreich, Martin Garbus, Victor Gregorian, Lewis Lapham, Mike Medavoy, Pete Seeger, Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., William Howard Taft IV, Kurt, Vonnegut
Running Time: 100 minutes
Genre: Documentary-Drama-Musical

Written by Lewis Lapham, an eloquent and well-known writer/editor for Harper's magazine, this film never casts doubt that America has a ruling class. Lapham states its existence at the beginning when his two fictional characters who graduate from Yale take different paths. One, Jack Bellamy, takes a job at a major brokerage house on Wall Street to make money and hob nob with the rich ruling class. The other, Mike Vanzetti gets a job as a waiter, settles down to write the great American novel or screenplay, and discovers that without the ruling class he's going nowhere.

While a genuine documentary-drama, written by Lapham as a literate, witty and provocative script, musical numbers are sung by charaacters from waiters and waitresses to Wall Street interns, enhancing the proceedings delightfully.

Both characters, Jack and Mike, get to ask questions about the existence of the American Ruling Class to the notables who Lapham and Kirby have induced to take part. It's obvious that Laphams intent is to establish the nature of the American Ruling Class by allowing his two main characters to ask questions about it of the other prominent, celebrated characters. The problem is that there's never a doubt that the Ruling Class exists. Laphams characters are two young men who have the opportunity to join the American Ruling Class while most of the viewers will never be able to gain access to the other characters appearing in the film or to other prominent members of the Ruling Class.

The film is about people who have elitist backgrounds and have the opportunities to choose what they want to do and where they want to do it. In today's economy, and even before the collapse of Wall Street and the stock market, the same opportunities don't present themselves to most people seated in the audience or elsewhere in the world.

Initially presented at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2005, the film is now available on DVD and is in limited distribution at theaters.