Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

CRASH, BANG, WALLOP; Michael Moore Pulls No Punches in His Documentary about the Global Economic Collapse - and His Polemic Is All the Better for It

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

CRASH, BANG, WALLOP; Michael Moore Pulls No Punches in His Documentary about the Global Economic Collapse - and His Polemic Is All the Better for It

Article excerpt

Byline: Andrew O'Hagan

FILM OF THE WEEK

CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY Cert 12A, 127 mins ****

ALTHOUGH satirists tend not to like governments, they should carry with them a government health warning: beware of enjoying your opponent's follies too much. Michael Moore has been skewering American greed, vanity and exploitation for more than 20 years now, and there are times when his art seems almost to feast on the very things he hates.

Four of his movies hold some of the top spots for the highest-grossing documentaries of all time, and to gain and hold those positions, he has opted for caricature and invective in place of subtle argument.

That said, the world of film, and the world at large, needs Michael Moore. He is there to remind us that a person with a camera and a sense of injustice can entertain an audience right out of its complacency.

He will never win any prizes for balance.

And he will never fail to enjoy his own vindication. But then, Moore has been very smart in defining what has gone wrong with American values. In that sense, he must have thought he'd died and gone to heaven when the credit crunch arrived, for he had predicted it all along. His films have shown how reckless it is to allow the free market to overrule everything. They have shown how dodgy it is to allow big business to strong-arm governments. You'd think he might now opt for an easy life on a co-operative farm somewhere in the Nicaraguan jungle but no, Michael's back, crowing and gloating in spectacular, justified style, aiming to show us what we might finally learn from the crunch.

Capitalism: A Love Story is actually best seen as a bookend project to his early triumph, Roger and Me. In this new one, he takes us back to his hometown of Flint, Michigan, where that earlier film was set, showing how General Motors' greed for profit destroyed not only a community but an idea of economic fairness that lies at the heart of the American Constitution.

Before we get there, though, we enjoy a satirical jaunt around ancient Rome and its parallels with modern America.

Moore has a talent for shocking revelations delivered with a tone of manic self-certainty. But he's seldom wrong. And Capitalism: A Love Story shows the extent to which he has become an icon of American plain-speaking, a kind of overweight, baseball-capped, redneck scourge of the illiberal, like the slacker grandson of a hero in Frank Capra. You can hear the sheer disbelief in his voice as he uncovers gross unfairness, but that is a disbelief now shared by tens of millions. At one point in the film, he spends time with the so-called Condovultures, real estate guys in Florida who scour the counties looking for coming house repossessions, where they scoop the properties up for a quiet sale and a killing. …

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