Money, Fascism, and Some Sort of Acid (Photo: Assembly Line Entertainment)

★★★ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Janek Ambros
STARS Steven Molony, Joe Riitano

An experimental odyssey that skips through various time periods in history yet applies all that’s shown to the here and now, 2020’s Money, Fascism, and Some Sort of Acid clocks in at 35 minutes yet could easily have run longer to add more fuel to the findings. Writer-director Janek Ambros (whose feature-length Mondo Hollywood was reviewed here) has brought together five of his shorts to show what a filmmaker’s righteous anger can look like. Here’s the quintet, complete with running times.

“Closing Bell” (3:26) could easily have been slipped into 2015’s Oscar-winning The Big Short, as a broker (Joe Riitano) discusses the 2008 housing bubble at Road Runner beep-beep speed while all sorts of images flash across the screen like bombs bursting in air. His conclusion is, of course, old news to attentive Americans: “Bottom line is, we’re all entirely fucked.”

“Le Quinze Mai à’ Paris (May Fifteenth in Paris)” (8:00) finds actress Nathalie Simille detailing how past French rulers such as King Louis Philippe and Napoléon Bonaparte slowly stripped away the voices of the poor and middle-class and ended up as fascist rulers; the footage shown throughout this segment is that of France not in the old days but in 2016. (Incidentally, this segment was produced by Barbara DeFina, ex-wife of Martin Scorsese and producer of many of his movies such as The Last Temptation of Christ, GoodFellas, and Hugo.)

“Red, Blue, and Purple” (3:45) is the most visually stunning of the shorts, as a seated young man (Steven Molony) is bombarded from all sides by vintage footage colored either red or blue but occasionally morphing into purple. Stalin, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Vietnam War are among some of the flashers-by; naturally, it all culminates with the dropping of a nuclear bomb, from which children tentatively rise.

“Son of Man” (13:41) takes its inspiration from “The Grand Inquisitor” portion of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brother Karamazov. Missing the visual flourishes and historical clips that mark the movie’s other chapters, this focuses on a conversation between a captured soldier (Molony) and his Nazi interrogator (Alexey Daikov). It becomes a tête-à-tête between a demonic emissary and his devout captive, and when the saintly soldier remarks that, “in the end, the destroyers will destroy themselves, and those with clear minds will rebuild society,” it’s a hopeful statement for our present day, with the true American patriots constantly forced to contend with bullying anti-vax imbeciles, MAGA-sanctioned white supremacists, and NRA-worshipping evildoers.

Finally, “Brexit” (3:50) employs footage of British commoners going about their lives (with some images of destruction occasionally tossed into the mix) as the soundtrack features a speech by Winston Churchill, at the time urging everyone to band together as a “United States of Europe.” The dichotomy between the segment’s title card and the voice-over speaks to the divisions soiling every corner of the globe.

(Money, Fascism, and Some Sort of Acid is available for streaming on Amazon Prime. It’s also available for purchase on Blu-ray and DVD.)

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