Late last week, Michael Moore's latest film, CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY debuted at the Venice Film Festival - and while a few critics were enthusiastic about the superstar doc director's new effort, most had a mixed response, often due to perceptions about Moore's tactics and style.
Of course, with Michael Moore, it's always about the messenger rather than the message, so some of this is to be expected. But you can sense film writers/critics wanting to immunize themselves from charges that they are "in the tank" for Moore and/or his liberal politics. Thus, the litany of complaints that have loomed over Moore since ROGER AND ME are trotted out, even if there's a sense that the overall film "works".
The review from Variety's Leslie Felperin is a case-in-point. While she calls CAPITALISM "one of his best films", she follows with:
Worse, at least for those of us who pay attention to theatrical box office, Felperin gives Moore's an impossible bench mark - one that is sure to be used by conservatives over the next few months:
The notion that SICKO underperformed was a right-wing staple then and now, as if being Moore's #2 film and the second-highest grossing political documentary of all time is some kind of disappointment.
But what happens if/when CAPITALISM fails to make SICKO numbers - and, possibly more likely, fails to pass Disneynature's EARTH as the top documentary of the year (which would be the first time a Michael Moore documentary doesn't end the year at number one)?
CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY has its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this Sunday night. More conflicted review excerpts from the Venice premiere after the jump.
Says Deborah Young of The Hollywood Reporter:
Mike Goodrich of Screen:
Less intelligent is the mandatory stunt – in which he attempts to make citizens’ arrests of the bank CEOs on Wall Street and surround their buildings with crime scene tape."
Shane Danielsen, covering Venice for indieWIRE:
Nothing if not simplistic, his technique is also in danger of becoming over-familiar: those scenes of him trying (in vain, naturally) to gain entrance to GM’s corporate headquarters, or the Goldman Sachs building, “to make a citizen’s arrest,” are looking mighty tired, these days. But re-voicing footage of Christ from a Biblical epic to praise the glories of capitalism instead of God? Playing on the facile ironies of 1950s public service films? Is this honestly the best he can manage?"
Feeling much more positively, Xan Brooks at the Guardian:
Crucially, Moore (or at least his researchers) has done a fine job in ferreting out the human stories behind the headlines. None of these is so horrifyingly absurd as the tale of the privatised youth detention centre in Pennsylvania, run with the help of a crooked local judge who railroaded kids through his court for a cut of the profits. Some 6,500 children were later found to have been wrongly convicted for such minor infractions as smoking pot and "throwing a piece of steak at my mom's boyfriend". The subsequent bill for their incarceration went directly to the taxpayer."
TIME's Mary Corliss: