An arrow through the heart of “Capitalism
October 9, 2009
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When a love story comes to mind, one might think about a tale of romance complete with a knight, some shiny armor, and a princess. Is “Capitalism: A Love Story” a documentary about love in the capitalistic work force? No, not really. Is it about two CEOs falling deeply in love and merging their companies into a massive conglomerate? Not even close.
“Capitalism: A Love Story” is a documentary about capitalism, its devoted followers, and their love of wealth. The film’s overarching focus is on the current economic crisis in the United States, illustrating themes of corruption and greed throughout.
Director, writer, and producer Michael Moore combines personal stories, interviews, historical background, video clips, and narration to articulate his message with spots of humor, sarcasm, and sadness.
Michael Moore is a critically acclaimed-and controversial-filmmaker, writer, and political commentator. Two of his documentaries, “Bowling for Columbine” and “Fahrenheit 9/11″ were record-breaking at the box office, grossing more than any other documentary of all time.
Moore’s films all share his unique style of documentary filmmaking. He is constantly present on camera, interviewing people or performing stunts in the public eye. He always illustrates his point of view at the onset of his films, leaving no surprises or room for the audience to wonder. The open subjectivity in his documentaries is often criticized, but Moore always presents his views with a myriad of facts and evidence.
“Capitalism” is no different. Moore’s style is engaging, and pieces of the film, like the video of a dog leaping for a steak on the edge of a table, add cultural context to his message.
Moore’s combination of archival footage demonstrating the positive portrayal of capitalism post-World War I and modern footage illustrating the current political and economic corruption provides a startling and effective contrast. It also highlights the manipulative tactics of wealthy politicians and companies in the political system.
Moore shows the outcome of these tactics through interviews with evicted families, examples of “dead peasant insurance,” in which companies make money off the deaths of their employees, and an example of a judge that was paid to send children to a corrective facility and extend their stay without any real hearing.
The film’s examples are not all sad or disheartening, though. One company’s employees, after getting laid off without all of their pay, sat in the building on strike until something was done about it. The employees received national recognition and became an example of how citizens of the U.S. should come together and fight for their rights.
“Capitalism,” like all of Moore’s films, demonstrates its point of view in an up close and personal way. While it is inventive, witty, and informative, “Capitalism” does have some negative moments.
Some of the scenes in the film are too lengthy, or just generally extraneous, and focus on Moore’s personal interests rather than the universal aspects of the film. Moore’s interview with friend, actor, and playwright Wallace Shawn gave little to the film and its purpose. Despite Shawn’s having studied economics at Oxford and having some sort of “credibility” for discussing the economic crisis, his commentary was needless within the film.
The film’s pacing is not particularly smooth, and while much of the film flows well, pieces of “Capitalism” drag on and on. The film would have benefited from a slight cut in length; the running time clocks-in at a little over two hours.
As a whole, the film encapsulates the overall mood of many average Americans during the economic crisis. Although some viewers might not agree with Moore’s political views or documentary style, he is still an important voice for contemporary issues.
Is “Capitalism” a love story as Moore proclaims? See the film for yourself and find out.