Capitalism: A Love Story

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On the 20th anniversary of his groundbreaking documentary, "Roger & Me," Michael Moore’s "Capitalism: A Love Story" returns to the issues he has been examining throughout his career in his multiple capacities as agent provocateur, radical activist, author, and filmmaker: the disastrous impact of corporate dominance on the everyday lives of ordinary Americans.
 
Shrewdly, Moore has chosen a provocative title for his new work, "Capitalism: A Love Story," as if he was making a seductive date movie.  World premiere at the Venice Film Fest (in Competition) and showings at the Toronto Film Fest (in Special Presentations) were greeted with wide critical and popular acclaim; in some cases, even standing ovations. The entrepreneurial distributor Overture Films will bow the docu in major cities September 23, followed by a nationally wide release October 2.
 
Moore has made three of the top six highest-grossing documentaries: "Bowling for Columbine," the Oscar-winner "Fahrenheit 9/11," and "Sicko," in 2007. But it remains to be seen whether the docu will be embraced by viewers, who may or may not want to pay to see a feature about issues, which that have been dominating the news media for almost a year now.
 
Nonetheless, in going back to his populist roots, and exploring problems he cares about both emotionally and intellectually, Moore has made a strong and provocative work. And as we live in a global age, dominated by the U.S. as a super power, by extension, "Capitalism: A Love Story" also deals with the inevitable and drastic impact of American economy on the rest of the world.
 
Indeed, this time around, the scope–and the crime scene to use Moore's jargon–are wider than Flint, Michigan, the targeted subject and site of "Roger & Me." From Middle America, to the halls of power in Washington, to the global financial epicenter in Wall Street, Moore again takes filmgoers into a revelatory journey that's at once terrifying in its facts and entertaining in its absurdity.
 
Like his other works, "Capitalism" is based on populist philosophy, expressed by Moore in the following way: "It’s not the job of the artist or the filmmaker to follow the crowd. Politicians won’t change anything on their own. It doesn’t make any sense for them to be courageous, it’s too risky. It’s the people that need to make them change." And who better than Moore himself, as usual clad in sneakers and cap, as spokesperson for the people.
 
That said, it's hard not notice the respect that Moore shows for our new President, Barack Obama, who's spared some of the criticism that other politicians (both Republican and Democrat) get. Indeed, Obama's support for the workers who engaged in a sit-in demonstration at their factory is played vis-a-vis Franklin D. Roosevelt's call for a new bill of rights in his campaign for national health care. Needless to say, as Obama reminded us recently in his speech to Congress, Roosevelt's platform was never implemented.

Some context is in order: Production on "Capitalism" began in the spring of 2008. But the
film is not about a boom or a bust or a bailout.  Moore began working on it before the economy tanked and before he had any idea there would be a massive looting of the U.S. Treasury just one month prior to the November Presidential election.
 
You could argue that Moore has been involved in the process of making this picture for the past twenty years.  Ever since the 1989 "Roger & Me" (a docu that changed the status and power of the entire non-fiction genre), there have been common threads and ideas present in all of his projects. In this respect, "Capitalism is at once a continuation and culmination of a lifetime's work.

You don't go to a Moore's docu expecting rigorous discipline, critically detached, let alone objective perspective, and hard facts (show me the evidence) for the explosive charges his work makes. You go to be stimulated, provoked, and entertained, and in this respect, "Capitalism" more than just delivers the basic goods.

 
To put it bluntly, there is no mystery as to who’s behind this financial collapse and socio-economic meltdown. Moore's anger and call for reform are directed at the banks and financial institutions, which had hijacked our economy and gambled it away, and at the politicians who had allowed it to happen.

Smartly, instead of focusing one individual (the equivalent of Roger Moore in the 1989 docu), or one particular company, "Capitalism" takes on the entire American economic system that has methodically and deliberately encouraged–according to Moore guaranteed—the recent corporate corruption and greed, the massive exploitation and abuse of decent and ordinary working-class and middle-class Americans.

 
It's a tribute to Moore's alert intelligence and genuine concern that in discussing hot-button issues, he tries to beyond the customary political discourse, which is often reduced to liberals against conservatives and Democrat against Republican.  For him, such strategy represents a reductionism and degradation of, not to mention distraction from the real issue–the fact that the capitalist system as we know it today has shaped and "owned" political parties, liberals and conservatives.
 
Credits
 
An Overture Films release of a Paramount Vantage, Overture Films presentation in association with the Weinstein Co., of a Dog Eat Dog production. 
Produced by Michael Moore, Anne Moore.
Executive producers, Kathleen Glynn, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein. Co-producers, Rod Birleson, John Hardesty.
Directed, written by Michael Moore.
Editors, John Walter, Conor O’Neill; co-editors, Jessica Brunetto, Alex Meillier, Tanya Ager Meillier, Pablo Proenza, T. Woody Richman.
Music, Jeff Gibbs.
Sound, Francisco LaTorre, Mark Roy, Hillary Stewart.
 
Running time: 117 Minutes.