NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Holding the "1%" accountable is all the rage these days, as evidenced by the Occupy Wall Street protest movement and its global offshoots.

The lack of any single demand or goal for the Occupy movement, though, speaks to an existential crisis even as the movement grows. Occupy backers say there is no such thing as fine-tuning its meaning -- that would go against its all-inclusive spirit.

It's not just the big banks or Wall Street or the connection between Wall Street and the government, and it's not a call for mere anarchy being loosed upon the world over reform of existing democratic institutions.

It's all of that, or one item from the list, or none of it -- you choose -- and so what if Occupy needs backing from labor unions, and the labor unions aren't out to change the world but merely influence the world of Washington, D.C., where they already have a firm place in the status quo?

Contradiction is inherent in the corruption and tax evasion charges that landed, and have kept, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former head of Yukos, behind bars in Siberia.

Contradictions are inherent in remaking a world where capitalist excess has led to mass upheaval and wide income inequality.

Indeed, a good example of contradictions within the global battle between the rich and poor and the remaking -- or dethroning -- of capitalism in the 21st century, can be found in the case of jailed Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the subject of a new documentary film, Khodorkovsky: How the Richest Man in Russia Became Its Most Famous Prisoner.

The best aspect of this film, in fact, is that it doesn't shy away from Khodorkovsky's flaws. Here is a man whose Greek hero's level of hubris led to his arrest even though he had been warned it was coming and was begged to leave Russia by confidantes. Here is the story of a company, oil giant Yukos, formed and fostered in corruption but ultimately transitioned by Khodorkovsky to a more transparent Western business model.

As reported last year when Khodorkovsky's prison sentence was extended by the Russian courts, the rationale given for his jailing -- as well as Western criticism of this selective use of the legal system -- are both part of the hypocrisy of global affairs as managed by the rich and politically powerful.

At that time, nasty comments were posted on TheStreet in response to the article, including comments that should have been flagged (even if they do represent a small but vocal part of the public in the West and an even more pervasive prejudice in Russia). Anti-Semitic rants like Khodorkovsky is a "Jew scum bag Rothschild associated robber baron who got what he had coming," competed for the loud-mouthed low ground with comments that I like to file under "relativism gotchas": China is even more corrupt than Russia, and the U.S. is the worst of all when it comes to selective use of the legal code, and on and on, ad infinitum.

All these comments prove is that any single view of the world -- especially among online commentors -- is doomed to expose the view as being more ignorant than enlightened.

The Khodorkovsky documentary operates above this fray. Promotional material for the film provided at last week's press screening included this statement: " The film shows us a man who embodies the paradox that is modern Russia -- condemning the very corruption that helped make his fortune." One could extend that to say that Khodorkovsky embodies the paradox that is global capitalism, both its adherents and its enemies.

The contradictions in the Khodorkovsky case are rampant. This is the story of a young chemist who modeled his view of the world on the protagonist of How the Steel Was Tempered, one of the principle works of Soviet realist fiction designed to show the superiority of the communist system.

In fact, the young Khodorkovsky's political connections within the communist system, to which he was a faithful devotee and leading member of the Komsomol youth party, were keys in his ability to navigate the post-Soviet period of capital formation.

Former Soviet ministers and a Western capitalist who helped Khodorkovsky during the privatization period explain that the Soviets had two choices: either hand over assets like oil and gas to Western companies for Western prices, or give them away for a song and dance to Soviet citizens who had the expertise to run them. Khodorkovsky didn't get Yukos for $300 million because he stole the company, but because the Soviet government knew that no Russian capitalist could afford to pay more, and they didn't want oil and gas assets becoming part of Exxon Mobil ( XOM).

A British capitalist who was an early partner to Khodorkovsky and his generation of young post-Soviet capitalists relays a telling anecdote in the film: The upstart Soviet capitalists rented a room in Moscow's fanciest hotel for their first meeting with him because they were too embarrassed to hold the meeting in their shabby bank offices.

It was shortly after Khodorkovsky held meetings with officials from Exxon Mobil and Chevron ( CVX) about potential ventures -- long after he had built Yukos into a giant -- that the government had him arrested.

It's interesting to note that Rosneft -- which is run by Russia's deputy prime minister, Igor Sechin, and took control of Yukos after Khodorkovsky's arrest -- at the end of this past summer announced a joint venture with Exxon Mobil. Long before that deal was announced, Rosneft head and Russian deputy prime minister Sechin and Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson were captured by news cameras hugging each other at the G20 meeting last January.

As for the political power brokers, the film shows all the right words being spoken by President Bush -- who sent personal greeting cards to Khodorkovsky -- and by Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. TheStreet detailed in an article last year all the right words spoken by Secretary of State Clinton when Khodorkovsky's jail term was extended, when she said the verdict would have a "negative impact on Russia's reputation," would raise questions about the "investment climate" in Russia and that it raised "serious questions about selective prosecution -- and about the rule of law being overshadowed by political considerations."

We're still waiting for any sign that any of those words really meant anything in terms of U.S. policy toward Russia apposite the deal between Rosneft and Exxon.

The most honest words spoken by a politician in the film come courtesy of former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer, who provides telling examples of how the political power brokers really dealt with the Khodorkovsky case. Fischer recalls one meeting on a yacht between former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Putin.

Schroeder was concerned about what seemed like insurmountable legal obstacles to putting Yukos under the control of Rosneft, and Putin was as giddy as a schoolboy listening to the German concerns, and told the German chancellor to just wait and see.

The next day, a merger of Rosneft and Yukos that was impossible to legally comprehend from the Germans' position was announced. There is video footage of a visibly uncomfortable Schroeder at a later date during a conference appearance as he tries to wiggle his way out of questions about the Khodorkovsky case.

Later, when new German chancellor Angela Merkel thought of speaking up about the case, a political ally asked her point blank if she was crazy, according to the film. Merkel was reminded that any idealism from Germany could receive a simple response from Russia: turning off Germany's access to Russian natural gas.

Contradiction is inherent in the corruption and tax-evasion charges that landed, and have kept, Khodorkovsky, in prison, too.

Some of the most telling footage in the film is of Khodorkovsky providing a report on corruption in Russian business -- a report he prepared at the request of the Kremlin and presented in the Kremlin at an annual audience of oligarchs with Vladimir Putin -- which Khodorkovsky's former head of security, also a former KGB officer, tells the filmmaker was the exact moment that he knew Yukos was finished as he watched the Russian news broadcast of the event.

The Kremlin asks Khodorkovksy to prepare a report on corruption, and then doesn't like how honest he actually decided to be in making the report: He mentioned Rosneft by name in his breakdown of corrupt businesses.

The film uses this anecdote from the former head of Khodorkovsky's security without pounding on it like a defendant's attorney might in a closing argument. Likewise, footage from the same annual get-together between Putin and the oligarchs shows Putin saying that Yukos had settled all of its outstanding tax issues with the Russian state, yet the film lets this comment reside within the larger context of the story without harping on the fact that Khodorkovsky remains jailed on tax- evasion charges.

Make no mistake, this is a film about the selective use of the legal code in Russia, and it makes the case for Khodorkovsky's imprisonment being a travesty of justice. But the film is at its best in detailing the context of Khodorkovsky's life and business, and that is a story about how capitalism is born and corrupted and maybe even bettered over time, if given the opportunity.

As one of America's great men of letters, Robert Penn Warren, said in his classic All the King's Men, "Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud. There is always something."

Khodorkovsky was conceived in the sin of the longest dictatorship of the last century and reborn as a capitalist by way of corruption, until he realized that his personal version of Penn Warren's "something" left him wanting something different, and maybe better, too.

Look, I often joke that it's easy to become a Buddhist after one has made his first few million, and you can argue that it was easy for Khodorkovsky to talk transparency and democracy once corruption had assured his standing as the richest man in Russia.

I say that's just one more irreducible contradiction, and that makes him a man for our times, as good a man as any for these times. He is in a better position than most to understand the task at hand today in places where power and wealth are concentrated, that is, he would be if he were't serving what will likely be endless sentences in a Siberian jail.

This film is no work of hagiography, and yet, Khodorkovsky's son Pavel, and his first wife Lena Khodorkovskaya both support the film and appeared at the press event. His son was asked during a Q&A after the film what he thought of the fact that it included many critical comments about his father.

One former Yukos lawyer furious at the way Khodorkovsky ignored warnings about his arrest tells the filmmaker he would spit on Khodorkovsky if given the chance today. A British business journalist who has lived in Russia for 15 years describes at length his "love-hate" view of Khodorkovsky.

Pavel Khodorkovsky says it is all part of allowing an audience to come to their own conclusions. Indeed, coming to conclusions as opposed to jumping to them -- whether one jumps to spout anti-oligarch, anti-Semitic or pro-human rights rhetoric, or any of the political doublespeak in between-- would be a good place for any person to begin.

Capitalism creates all kinds of monsters, from former Soviet chemists who rise from among the communist corpse to vampire squids who leech off the granddaddy of all economies -- or is the vampire squid the life blood of the best economic system ever created?

The problem is we make even more monsters in indicting the contradictions of capitalism, as opposed to exploring them. This film is not guilty of the selective use of information that comes to the lips of those who decry "corrupt Rothschild barons."

That's the best endorsement I can give to a documentary. Though the first half hour of the film drags a little -- after what is a beautiful opening shot of the Siberian town where Khodorkovsky remains in prison, panning from an ice field to a Russian orthodox onion dome to an oil rig on the frozen plane -- the film ultimately delivers: It transcends the reductive nature of rhetoric and propaganda and deals with the chaotic world as it actually is.

At the end of the film, when German filmmaker Cyril Tuschi is allowed a few minutes to interview Khodorkovsky as he sits in a glass cage within a Siberian court room (in June, after after his appeal regarding his second conviction was denied, Khodorkovsky was moved to a prison camp in Karelia, which is about 1,000 km north of Moscow, near the Finnish border) the filmmaker asks Khodorkovsky what he was thinking when he disregarded all the warnings that his arrest was imminent.

The jailed oil tycoon says he knew what was coming, and wasn't in any way being foolish by flying back to Russia (he was returning from a trip to the U.S. when his plane was stormed by Russian special forces on the tarmac).

With a smile on his face, Khodorkovsky tells the filmmaker that if he was naive, it was probably in his hopes for how the legal system in Russia would ultimately decide his case. That's a kind of naivete that places Khodorkovsky as close to Zuccotti Park as the White House, Kremlin or Goldman Sachs board room.

Khodorkovsky: How the Richest Man in Russia Became Its Most Famous Prisoner, which was stolen twice from the Berlin office of its filmmaker, will begin an exclusive engagement in New York at the Film Forum on Wednesday, Nov. 30. More information can be found on the Web site of the film's distributor, Kino Lorber.

-- Written by Eric Rosenbaum from New York.


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