Wednesday, March 31, 2010

CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY (Michael Moore, 2009)

***½
USA



I’m wary of persuasive essays in any form, including film form. Even when I am presented with an urgent, conscience-based, plausibly developed commonsense argument, I want to hear the counter-argument. In these situations I am always asked to take up one position and forcefully renounce the other. So, before I’m going to renounce anything, I want to know what it is I’m renouncing and specifically why I should.

Because I have a soul I am naturally more inclined to trust a heated left-wing argument over a heated right-wing one. But all the same, before I make up my mind, I want to know precisely what it is the other side is arguing and – particularly in cases where it seems wildly misguided and immoral – why they persist in this.

By habit Michael Moore goes into painstaking (and occasionally slightly duplicitous) detail to argue his cause, while denouncing the opposing party with a heated, casually sweeping “they’re all just greedy bastards” generalisation along with some cartoon jingles. His films do have a value in that they engagingly present one important perspective on a massive, vital issue. But his failing is that he paints each well-meaning rant as a thorough and comprehensive assessment of said issue, which it is very obviously not.

That said, if you have a left-wing bias (and since you are watching his film, you’re bound to), it’s creepily easy to become absorbed in his anger and even share in it. If you are a discerning moviegoer, part of your anger will be oriented at him for what he does with plaintive violins on the soundtrack as well as what he is willing to put some orphans through for the sake of dramatic effect. But this anger will ultimately pale next to the venomous rage bound to overtake you when you watch murky organisations go out of their way to profit off the death of an employee or the incarceration of an innocent minor.

One egregious strand however, sets this Michael Moore joint apart from the usual leftist harangue that revels in preaching to the converted: repeatedly and overtly, he courts the Christians. In other words, he actively works at seducing the core Republican base (towards socialism, no less!) with an assortment of biblical allusions and community priests (who happen to be sons of conveyor belt workers and such). It was probably never going to work, but it’s interesting to watch him try it in the first place.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

WELCOME (Philippe Lioret, 2009)

*
France



A mildly surly Frenchman with intimacy issues befriends a pillow-lipped, saucer-eyed, English-speaking, hairless Iraqi teen stuck in a Calais detention centre. One of them is transformed, the other is only there for topicality, for decoration. In terms of good intentions, worthy themes, plot construction, character stakes, acting, colour grading, continuity – the film is irreproachable. But in terms of meaning, insight, perspective, ideas – it’s worthless.

On a somewhat related note, I intend to start a petition: I demand that no more sweet-faced migrants lose their lives purely for an alienated Westerner to achieve redemption to the tune of a tinkly piano.

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