Capitalism: A Love Story (2009)

Capitalism: A Love Story

This time it’s the US economy on trial as Michael Moore takes on Wall Street in his latest documentary Capitalism A Love Story.

Capitalism A Love Story

Money Makes The World Burn Down by Mark Wilshin

CAUTION: Here be Spoilers

It’s hard not to watch Michael Moore‘s latest film, Capitalism: A Love Story without a certain queasy feeling of déjà vu. Archive footage, check. Jabs at George Dubya, check. One man’s prattle against the machine. Check. But Capitalism: A Love Story is also peculiarly beguiling, if not only because it strips the machiavellian machinations of the world’s most money-hungry superpower embarrassingly naked.

Goading capitalists, hectoring Democrats, comforting the disenfranchised, it’s a schtick we’ve seen somewhere else before. Bowling For Columbine won the Academy Award in 2002 and Fahrenheit 9/11 is still the highest grossing documentary ever. Moore’s star may be waning, yet still, his political influence can not be underestimated. Did Sicko give President Obama a glimmer of hope that the United States might be starting to think about wondering whether maybe health care reform might be a good idea?

But while the pro-Cuban Sicko took great pains to put the socialism into social medicine, Capitalism: A Love Story has only room for one ism – capitalism. (OK, so perhaps a dash of Moore-ism too along with the Angostura bitters.) References to socialism and communism are consistently avoided, as Moore studiously avoids ringing those Pavlovian bells. Instead, he concentrates on deconstructing modern American capitalism, and in particular, Wall Street’s brazen coup de vol, the feisty heist of 700 billion dollars. But, in case he should offend the good Christian folk back in Flint, Moore takes pains to take God out of the dollar (In God We Trust) by having a few local Catholic priests pronounce capitalism unchristian.

Yet, as Moore, the underdog provocateur, vainly takes on the world, crying for truth and justice for all (“Show me the money!”), scouring the Constitution for references to the great ism in the American dream, or celebrating with squatters taking back their foreclosed homes, it’s hard not to fall into line and denounce, in unison, the zealous greed of the multinational, the devotional faith in the greenback. Moore’s winning coup de grâce, the unveiling of business’s best kept secret – the Dead Peasants insurance policy (where employers take life insurance out on employees, gaining a small fortune should said employee be careless enough to die in their employ.)

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

And while Moore may oversimplify things at times, it’s hard not to agree. We are all witness to the watering down of democracy, humanity and creativity in the name of efficiency, competitiveness and profit. Everywhere, we see the grindstone grinding down rank and file.  But what perhaps disturbs me most in watching Capitalism: A Love Story is how easily we’re hoodwinked, how happily we knuckle under, and how quickly we forget.

If nothing else, Moore pricks our conscience, cajoles us into action. But there was no storming of the Bastille in the Paris auditorium where I saw Capitalism: A Love Story, more an indignant ruminating. Perhaps it’s the Moore brand that’s too familiar, the jokes too washed out, the bitter pill too happily consumed. Or maybe it’s us who fall short. Too self-conscious to prattle. Thus conscience does make cowards of us all.

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