After watching Where to Invade Next, and before writing this review, I decided to re-visit Michael Moore’s first big film, one of the most important AND entertaining documentaries ever, Roger & Me. In Roger & Me, Moore attempts to track down then GM of General Motors, Roger Smith, and tells the story of how his hometown, Flint, Michigan, went from a booming auto industry city to a closed down, laid off, crime-ridden, rat infested, hub of poverty and eviction. I wanted to watch this film again to see if it held up (released in 1989) or was completely outdated. It was startlingly “current”, and serves as an important part of Flint’s backstory for its contaminated water crisis. Roger & Me, at the time, was downright revolutionary, brutally and wryly humorous, pivotal in the world of documentaries, and Michael Moore was one of the standard-bearers for the Independent Film movement. Just ask John Pierson, whose book, Spike, Mike, Slackers and Dykes, gave us a “Guided Tour Through a Decade of American Independent Cinema”, with “Mike” in the title referring to Michael Moore. After watching Roger & Me in the theater, I promptly fell madly in love with him, based solely on his creative genius, and his ability to wow me with his particular style of transferring to the screen key points of American politics, social structure, and culture.
But, as usual, I diverge from the review at hand. I just wanted to make sure you knew what an outstanding filmmaker Moore was then, and that, as evidenced by Where to Invade Next, he absolutely has not lost his touch. Right off, I need to complain about the title. It has nothing to do with invading other countries, or military strategies. It’s unfortunate, I think, because some people might miss this film because of its misleading title.
Michael Moore culls some of the strengths and strategies of a number of countries, interviews the people responsible and involved, and gifts it to us in a lively, provocative, and entertaining way. We see different ways of living and what we might learn from them. For example, we learn that in Italy, the average citizens are given weeks and weeks of paid vacation for the sheer purpose of enriching their lives and increasing productiveness. In France, schoolchildren take an hour for lunch, and the fare is the antithesis of American “school lunch”. In Norway, the purpose of jail time is to rehabilitate, and inmates hold the keys to their rooms and are allowed to vote in elections. I could go on and on, but I don’t want to spoil for the viewer the pleasure of discovery.
I just want to say that this is one of the most important films to come around in a long time, and nobody should miss this. We get to see other folks’ spin on important issues, and how they are working with challenges and moving forward. Especially in the craziness of this election year and the rather loud voice of many, many people demanding change, Where to Invade Next made me continually wonder why we couldn’t implement some of those things here. Plus the movie is funny.
And if I was ever to buy a motorcycle, (which I wouldn’t, but if…), it would definitely be a Ducati. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 5/10/16