reviewed by Marc Glassman
Capitalism: A Love Story
Michael Moore, director, writer and narrator. Documentary feature.
Love him or hate him, Michael Moore is one dude you can’t ignore. Much to the chagrin of documentary filmmakers around the world, he’s escaped the stigma of the “d” word and become a genuine cause célèbre. We may not like Moore’s disdain for due diligence and his odd digressions from the cause he’s attacking or supporting, but a large number of people enjoy going on his rant-filled journeys. Let’s face it: the man is really quite entertaining.
This time he’s taking on the big one, capitalism. And he’s calling it a love story. Ironic? One supposes so but let’s do a bit of diligence on Mr. MM.
This doc was produced by Overture Film, owned by none other than right wing Rush Limbaugh supporter John Malone who was fined over one million dollars by the US Justice Department last summer for illegal stock purchases. And one of Moore’s biggest targets for corporate “dirty tricks” in the film is Goldman, Sachs. As it happens, Goldman, Sachs is the majority stock holder in Alliance, the company that’s distributing Moore’s film in Canada.
Capitalism does produce some odd bed fellows. Don’t you just love it?
Moore’s film is just as much fun—and as contradictory–as its financing. There’s Moore the shameless entertainer. He takes great delight in wrapping yellow “crime scene” tape around some of the grand buildings of Wall Street, inviting capitalists to come out and confess their sins. He shows up at GM HQ, as he did 20 years ago when he was making Roger and Me, and once again is refused entrance to see the chairman by armed guards. And he arrives in an armoured truck to AIG HQ, demanding that they give back their bail out dollars.
The bailout last fall of companies like AIG by the US federal government shows Moore approaching the heart of the matter. He proposes that the bailout was the last gasp of the old Republican majority, whose pro-capitalist ideology has caused so much warfare and ecological damage over the past two decades. Moore suggests the crisis last fall was manufactured by Bush’s team bent on grabbing more cash for their corporate brethren on Wall Street and beyond. He even gets Democrat Representative Marcy Kaptur to state that she has no idea what’s happened to the money splashed into corporate headquarters across the US—and whether it has achieved any good in straightening out the economy.
But then he wanders, offering odd tales that are interesting but hardly revelatory. For example, it turns out that airplane pilots are underpaid although their jobs put other lives at risk. And there are non-governmental juvenile centres that have exploited their youthful offenders while bribing officials to keep their corrupt system alive and highly profitable. Bad stuff, no doubt, but hardly powerful enough to call for a complete investigation of capitalism.
Where Moore does strike a bell is in a section on US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Turns out that in the middle of World War Two, Roosevelt drafted a Worker’s Bill of Rights, ensuring pensions, education and health care for blue collar folks throughout the US. Roosevelt died and his second Bill of Rights perished with him.
A great opportunity was lost, says Moore, and who would disagree. Ultimately, Moore claims that the America he loves is pro-democracy, not pro-capitalist. Good for him; he’s made an important distinction.
Capitalism: A Love Story is a film that will divide audiences. Naturally. It’s a Michael Moore film. Despite its flaws, it is well worth seeing. Maybe you’ll get angry, maybe you’ll laugh—but you won’t be bored.