Sunday 9 January 2005

Roger & Me (1989) - ickleReview (DVD)

Michael Moore's first feature film documenary, in which he investigates the effect that the closures of the GM Motor Company car manufacturing plants have on his home town of Flint, Michigan. The title comes from his attempts to arrange a meeting with the Chairman of GM Motors, Roger Smith, who repeated dodges Moore and his questions throughout the movie. It's striking to see prosperity and poverty in such close proximity in parts of America: while the residents of plush suburbs such as Grosse Pointe are having their annual Great Gatsby party, across town poor black families are being evicted by Fred Ross, the local Sheriff's Deputy. Moore finds some moving stories, such as the rather sorry attempt to turn Flint into a tourist hub: within six months, the luxury Hyatt Regency Hotel has gone bust, the new mall is full of empty lots, and Autoworld is closing from lack of visitors. There's also a colour consultant who calls up Moore after their initial shoot and apologizes for having been mistaken about her own colour season.

Moore has a brilliant editing technique in which he juxtaposes images of run down and abandoned neighbourhoods with upbeat comments by the wealthy, making them seem heartless and hypocritical. He really brings out the ruthlessness of industrial capitalism; but it's the nature of corporations not to hold anyone responsible for their actions. Moore tries to portray Roger Smith as a baddie, but it isn't really his fault. His main responsibilities are to the profit-hungry shareholders, who are actually just you and me, or anyone with pensions and mortgages.

Nugget: worthwhile watching, despite its datedness, just to remind you that things haven't changed all that much in fifteen years; and to see how Moore's directing career started out.

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