Capitalism: A Love Story
US, 2009, 2h 7min.
Capitalism: A Love Story is about the disastrous impact of corporate dominance on the everyday lives of Americans (and by default, the rest of the world). From Middle America, to the halls of power in Washington, to the global financial epicenter in Manhattan, Moore once again takes film viewers into uncharted territory. What is the price that America pays for its love of capitalism? Today the American dream is looking more like a nightmare as families pay the price with their jobs, their homes and their savings. Moore takes us into the homes of ordinary people whose lives have been turned upside down. What he finds are the all- too-familiar symptoms of a love a air gone astray: lies, abuse, betrayal … and 14,000 jobs being lost every day. Capitalism: A Love Story is both a culmination of Moore’s previous works and a look into what a more hopeful future could look like. It’s Moore’s ultimate quest to answer: Who are we and why do we behave the way that we do?
Michael Moore’s New Capitalism: A Love Story starts with a combination of heavyrock soundtrack and fast-track video surveillance from bank robberies – young boys move around, jump behind the barriers, grab money, threaten people with their guns, and then disappear. As an expression it is an attack on the whole banking system.
The music changes through the two hours of the film: After the rock sequences we hear a slightly comical soundtrack of school band music, before later culminating with classical tragic music – when the end of the American empire is the topic. The film’s birds-eye view flies over the area of New Orleans that was devastated as the result of hurrican Katrina. Usually really poor people are the victims of natural catastrophe – but as the film reminds us: they are also the victims of the nancial crises.
This is the film about the rich and greedy in a united states of prot. For example, when confronted with one of the last tools of capitalism – the derivatives – no one can explain properly: A former vice-president of Lehman Brothers repeatedly stumbles when he sits together with Moore in a park near Wall Street. Another professor from Harvard does the same. Nobody understands, not Moore, not you or me. But derivatives have been one of the main instruments for speculators to work with, and their complicated structure is hard to tax, according to the film.
Moore himself lls nearly every screen as the people’s inquisitor. He gets the theatre audience to rejoice as he – the little man against the big powers – comes with a armed security van to collect the tax payers money robbed from them, or to make civil arrests of corporate board members who benefitted from an apparently corrupt or favourising government that supported old “friends”.
The film is entertaining, but its experts are somewhat general in their explanations – whether it is a priest, a former bank employee, or a public official: “The economy stood on sand”,“wererotten from inside”, or “like a dam with a crack”. These statements can be, and are, cut creatively together within what, it becomes obvious, is a floundering bank environment.
COMPANIES LIKE Wal-Mart and Citibank are disclosed as ‘big corporate greed’. These companies speculate on the likelihood of their employees dying by providing insurance only for lower level workers. Many of these employees will die indeed before their full working life is over, in which case their families will not get any of the one and a half million dollars insurance. The workers suddenly become worth more dead than alive.
Another example: Would you choose to fly with the regular pilots who have had their salary reduced by 40 percent, and as a result have had to work extra hours in coffee-shops or depend on food coupons? Worn-out pilots have been a reason for aeroplane crashes lately, as Moore shows us.
Another important aspect of Moore’s film is that of home loans, which a lot of people were persuaded to take up – their “most valuable asset” as central bank chief Alan Greenspan told them. Subsequently these people could not keep up with the loan interest payments, and they ended up on the streets – with a 1000-dollar bill in their pocket for cleaning of their former homes.
«The rich are made fun of and presented as greedy, with their private jets and cabin-cruisers»
Moore plays with your feelings in this documentary. His film is characteristically creatively edited. The rich are made fun of, and presented as downright greedy, with their private jets and cabin cruisers: One episode shows us the boat named “Real Justice” owned by a judge. This judge got around two million dollars from closing down a public juvenile care institution and selling it on to his creative business friend to be “refreshed”. His friend suddenly seems to be getting paid five million dollars a year in rent from the community, for the same property. The young inmates tell Moore in the film that they were imprisoned for complete trivialities.The youngsters became a commodity, and the corrupt judge and his business friend got rich.
Moore’s film is edited like a music video, encouraging people to stand up and fight. Which some Americans do: In some states people did move back into their former houses. The police cars arrive, but then turn around a er the local police deputy says: “We are not the third World!”
In some workplaces where people were red, they stayed in their offices until they were paid the outstanding salary owed to them. As President Obama encouraged them to.
Is there a change of climate in the US? Capitalism ends by citing former President Roosevelt’s speech from the 1940s, where he suggests new laws for universal health care, protection against unemployment, homelessness and poverty. The film rounds up with the president’s funeral procession the following year, and a reminder that his radical suggestions were buried a er the Second World War. The United States never became a welfare state, as Europe or Japan did – Moore mentions this with regret.
Amen. As Moore explained to us in the Venice press conference, his main ambition is to “entertain, give us information, and sometimes get someone to think”.
Why must you pay for an interview with the maker of an anti-capitalist film?
BUT LET ME REMIND you, the reader, that there is a limit to how much creative editing a director can exercise: In Bowling for Columbine (2002) Moore comes out of a bank with a rifle on his shoulder. Opening a bank account entitled him to a free rifle from the vault, but the fact that this vault was “50 miles from here” was cut out from the film. Similarly Moore’s assistant in Roger and Me (1989) has confirmed that Roger, the GM-boss, was in fact ready to meet for an interview, and was not impossible to catch, which was the premise of the whole film.
It is not easy to get an interview with Moore himself either: In Venice a Norwegian journalist confronted Moore with the fact that he had been asked for considerable amounts of money in order to get an interview with the director – the man behind the anti-capitalist film. Moore answered by maintaining that this accusation was not true – but several other journalists in the audience confirmed this corrupt practice; some distributors are informed us that they also required to pay the public relations people. A choked Moore asked for names so he could terminate contracts. He had never heard about this before, he tells us. A laconic comment from another journalist tells us that Moore was previously told about this practice in relation to his Fahrenheit 9/11 documentary – which sold for US$ 200 million. Is Moore good at pretending when it is to his advantage?
Moore answered by maintaining that this accusation was not true – but several others in the audience could confirm this corrupt practice.
I LEFT THE MAIN screening with the speech of congress representative Mary Captur in the back of my head. Former President Bush got acceptance – what she calls a nancial coup d’etat – to distribute 700 billion dollars to corporations “worth preserving”. Originally turned down by congress, this later got through as an advanced intelligence operation – only possible thanks to the corrupt activity of many congressmen, as Captur tells us. Moore’s film describes the nepotistic network of Wall Street, and mentions the previous chairman of Goldman Sachs who later became a prime government official, only to channel money back to this network. One of the companies saved through this nancial injection from the state, Goldman Sachs, later paid out bonuses using this same money. Is there any control of where the tax-payers’ money ends up? No, extended auditing was not an established routine, although several public officials have asked for it.
The nepotistic networks of the state and corporations are very alive in the US. Michael Moore is the only one who can still get these disclosing facts out to a large audience – outside the church of the left, as he calls the already convinced. We can only appreciate this.