Monday, October 5, 2009

Thoughts on Michael Moore and Capitalism

I went to see the movie that Michael Moore calls his "magnum opus" yesterday. Capitalism: A Love Story is quite a film. I don't know whether to say I loved it or hated it, but I will say that it is well worth plonking down money for a ticket and a bucket of popcorn to see on the big screen.

I've seen every Michael Moore film since Roger and Me. I loved Bowling for Columbine, cheered Fahrenheit 9/11 with its condemnation of the Bush administration and the war in Iraq and approved of Sicko which took dead aim at health care in America.

Michael Moore has always been a champion of the little guy and not been afraid to criticize the powerful and greedy. I've laughed and cried with him and always enjoyed his pseudo documentary style. But this time I think he went too far. Or, perhaps I have just gotten tired of the Michael Moore formula the way I got tired of Woody Allen ( although I still think Annie Hall is one of the greatest movies ever made.)

A Combination of Karl and Groucho Marx

In Capitalism: A Love Story, Moore is a combination of Karl and Groucho Marx with a bit of Thomas Paine thrown in for good measure. These surely are the times that try men's souls and Michael Moore issues a stinging indictment not only of corporate excess( which I was expecting)but also of the entire system of free market capitalism (which kind of shocked me). The film opens with a wonderful visual comparison of the decline of America to the fall of ancient Rome and ends with a stern warning of revolution in the offing. As the credits roll, the background music playing is the Internationale( the socialist anthem) which left me thinking that Moore is expecting revolution from the left... from the downtrodden American workers with whom he so identifies and whose plight he outlines so brilliantly.

I'm not so sure. Perhaps that is what leaves me feeling so uncomfortable. I see in our current situation unfortunate parallels to Germany as the Nazis came to power. I think given the anger of the huddled Republican masses on the far right, that a Fascist revolution is equally possible.

Either way, I don't like the idea of revolution and that is the underlying theme of this film. It is not a documentary but a docu-drama and an impassioned plea for a fairer world. Like the pundits of the far Right, Moore aims at the heart and not at the mind-- a dangerous thing to do when times are tough and people are afraid. Revolutions, like wars, are unpredictable. You can start out going in one direction and end up somewhere else entirely. I have to say it scares me. Moore is sincere in his message and passionate about his point of view, but I am uneasy. It all seems a little too pat. The jokes and the irony sometimes seem a little inappropriate given the gravity of the subject....kind of like laughing at a funeral oration.

The build up to this movie has been big. I blogged an early promo some time ago. My friend Loup d'Argent has written three anticipatory posts about it on his blog Forward and Share. Internet and TV pundits have been buzzing about it like teenage girls at a sleepover for months.

I was excited too. But now I don't know. The actual film was like a shotgun blast that left me reeling. It inflamed my anger and expanded my fears. Did I love it or hate it? I really don't know,but I'm feeling scared and I'm humming the Internationale under my breath.


Philip said...

My big question is how much of the money that Moore will make on this film will he give to poor people? I think he's just a bully who found a bully pulpit to shout from.

JamaGenie said...

Don't worry about MM's latest film starting a revolution. Fahrenheit 411 didn't, Sicko didn't, and neither will Capitalism.

Amy said...

I haven't seen the film yet, but have always liked his work in the past.
He does have a way of pulling the heart strings with the "life is so unfair" plea. It's true. He's absolutely right. Life is so unfair in countless ways - a revolution can't change that.
I think our society is far to passive and self absorbed for such thing! I do wish people would take some kind of action (not a revolution) but something...people, get off the couch!

pinkpackrat said...

Thanks folks for the interesting comments. Michael Moore does at least get us all thinking-- and I guess that is what he is trying to do, but I do think this time his scattershot approach to deep issues is a bit over the top. said...

I like very much how Michael Moore brings light on situations that are critical. He has the nerds to go for it and I appreciate very much his style. Documentary with some punch and irony. He lets the facts speak for themselves. We need those wake up calls!

pinkpackrat said...

I agree, Marcome, we do need those wake- up calls. I only wish that Michael Moore had something other than manning the ramparts to offer. If we get rid of capitalism, what does he suggest we replace it with?

Flash said...

Ironic humor sometimes can make an uncomfortable subject more palatable so Michael Moore's usage of it doesn't put me off. His point of view sparks debate and mindfulness. While I don't buy into some of his solutions, I really appreciate his willingness to stick his neck out in order to draw attention to the subjects he is passionate about.